Magazine article Canadian Dimension

The Night John Lennon Died

Magazine article Canadian Dimension

The Night John Lennon Died

Article excerpt

I DIDN'T HAVE any Native heroes when I grew up. When they took me from my people and dropped me into the non-Native world of foster homes and adoption the influence of Native people was lost in the sudden cascade of mainstream influences. I grew up in non-Native surroundings, immersed in non-Native culture, and the heroes I claimed were never Indians. Life made that impossible.

Instead, the baseball players I cheered for, the musicians, poets, novelists, movie stars, and artists I embraced as icons were all non-Native. But they shaped my world nonetheless, framed my intellect, defined my tastes and allowed me to become the person I am today. Heroes, after all, assume heroic proportions beyond color, caste, and community. They are heroes, sublime and timeless.

In my early twenties I was a record collector. Not merely someone who bought the hits and the new and trendy for display and ego, I was one of those rabid LP buying fools who waded through the bins in thrift shops, garage sales, and record stores looking for the one great lost album or collector's edition. I read collector's magazines, price guides, and was on the hunt always for the classic album from the great artist. My shelves bulged with reggae, ska, jazz, country, blues, and rock'n roll.

My down time was spent with all that music. I made a lot of mix tapes on my cassette deck and each one was a marvel of styles. Otis Redding to Bob Wills, Billie Holiday to Blondie, Miles Davis to The Doors, each one of those tapes allowed me to travel musical highways that took me away from my world and its troubles or woes. I never thought much about the racial origin of any of those musicians, only about the feel of the music and its ability to transport me.

I was a loner for the most part and music was my constant companion. Along with books there never seemed to be anywhere important to go or anyone important to see. My heroes were on my shelves and they never disappointed me or jilted me in favor of brighter more ebullient companions.

John Lennon was an old hero to me. He'd always perpetuated the whole rock and roll ethos--a revolutionary poet with soul who could either scream or cajole you into hearing his message. I'd been getting the message since 1970 when I heard "Working Class Hero" for the first time. It was on the album John Lennon and the Plastic Ono Band and even though I hadn't grown up in working class Britain I knew something about being pressed into the shape society wanted you in and about the pain that drove Lennon's primal screams on that record. He was the first singer who felt like an Indian to me and I'd been a fan ever since.

It was December 8, 1978. Lennon's album Double Fantasy had come out in November of that year and I listened to that record that night. …

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