“I read the news today, oh boy”

If you’re old enough to remember December 8, 1980, then you probably remember where you were when you got word that John Lennon had been murdered outside his apartment building in New York City.

I'll never forget seeing The New York Post headline in a subway kiosk the next morning: “JOHN LENNON SHOT DEAD.”

Lennon was, most famously, “the head Beatle.” He also was an immigrant to the United States who had been threatened with deportation because of his political activism. At the time of his death, Lennon had just released a comeback album, Double Fantasy.

This year, the “Fab Four” are back in the spotlight with a documentary by Ron Howard: The Beatles: Eight Days a Week—The Touring Years. The film chronicles the group’s musical escapades from Liverpool in 1962 to San Francisco in 1966, with a few stops on The Ed Sullivan Show along the way.

Scholastic News Kid Reporter Maxwell Surprenant recently spoke with journalist Larry Kane, who covered the Beatles during their U.S. tours in 1964 and ’65. Kane’s recollections make for a great read, especially the part about Paul McCartney never meeting “a comb, microphone, or mirror that he didn’t like.”

Superstar rocker Bruce Springsteen confesses to his own narcissistic tendencies in his best-selling new memoir, Born to Run. As a shy kid growing up in a troubled household in New Jersey, Springsteen greeted the arrival of the Beatles with an elation bordering on ecstacy:

The Beatles. I first laid ears on them while driving with my mom up South Street, the radio burning brighter before my eyes as it strained to contain the sound, the harmonies of “I Want to Hold Your Hand.” Why did it sound so different? Why was it so good? Why was I this excited? My mom dropped me off at home but I ran straight to the bowling alley on Main Street, where I always spent my first after-school hours hunched over the pool tables sipping a Coke and eating a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup. I slammed myself into the phone booth and called my girlfriend, Jan Seamen. “Have you heard the Beatles?”

Springsteen’s future E Street Band guitarist, Stevie Van Zandt, had a similar reaction in his hometown several miles up the road, as did countless kids across the country.

In addition to earning fame as an E Streeter, Van Zandt also fronted his own band along the way, Little Steven and the Disciples of Soul (whose music my older brother loved), and memorably played mobster Silvio Dante in HBO's The Sopranos.

Van Zandt is now passionate about sharing his love of music—and its ability to redeem us—with today's kids. In 2007, he launched the Rock and Roll Forever Foundation. The nonprofit group, which has teamed up with Scholastic, offers free online resources to help students learn about the history of music and the many ways it has shaped our world. 

“There is nothing better than music,” Van Zandt recently told Scholastic News Kid Reporter Adedayo Perkovich. “It is truly the universal common language.” If you’ve ever been to a Springsteen concert, you know what he’s talking about.


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