Reflections on the 30th anniversary of John Lennon's death (videos)

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Like many people in America, I first learned that John Lennon had been assassinated from Howard Cosell on a Monday night on December 8, 1980.  It was at 8:38 P.M. Pacific time, 11:38 on the east coast when Cosell told the nation.  As has been reported by others, there was no Internet and barely cable news at that time to provide the wall-to-wall coverage of a celebrity that we've become used to. (It was only 17 months ago that Michael Jackson died, so we don't have to pretend to think about what the coverage could have been like.)

But the mourning was very real, and lasted a long time.  Yes, Elvis Presley had died in the middle of the summer of 1977, but he was of a different generation.  Lennon wasn't a relic — his Double Fantasy release, his first major record in five years, had just been released, and the country was stunned.  He was the first Beatle to die, and his death revived the massive love that the world still had for that pop rock band from the 1960s that, yes, really did change the world.

Lennon was also a political activist, and was targeted by the Nixon administration for that activism.  Immediately after his death UC-Irvine Professor Jon Wiener filed a FOIA request for the FBI's files on him.  In 1981, Wiener published, Come Together: John Lennon in his Time.

But the FBI held on to most of those files, leading Wiener to sue.  In 1997, most of those files were finally released to him, leading to the publication of the 2000 book,   Gimme Some Truth: The John Lennon FBI Files.

This past Sunday, Wiener was a guest of Candy Crowley on CNN's State of the Union:

Wiener's book was then adapted into a 2006 documentary, The U.S. vs. John Lennon.

Of course, plenty of people love the music of John Lennon without giving a whit about his politics.  And the fascination with him continues to this day.

One of the best films released this year was Nowhere Boy, a 2009 English production that was just released in the U.S.  The story chronicles Lennon's teenage years, and specifically his relationship with his estranged mother, and his aunt, who was the woman who actually raised him.  And it depicts his first meeting up with Paul McCartney and basically how the Beatles formed.  It's extremely moving at times.

There's an interesting piece in the current Newsweek on Lennon's celebrity, "still large and lucrative enough to inspire such a frenzy of 'commemorabilia.'"

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