Book Review: A Higher Call by Adam Makos

This is a review I wrote more than five years ago, in January 2013.  It was one of the best books by a first-time author I have ever read, and for some odd reason, I awakened this morning with this book on my mind.  When I wrote the review, it received exactly one view, one like on WordPress, though it fared somewhat better on Amazon and GoodReads.  But then, that was 2013 when this blog had only about 30 followers!  So, I decided today would be a good day to re-run this review in hopes that somebody will be intrigued enough to read the book!  (Plus, we all need a little break from all things trumpian.)

Every now and then I cross paths with a book that strikes a chord somewhere deep within me, a book that shares my waking hours and my sleep. This is one of those books, as was Laura Hillenbrand’s Unbroken. Coincidentally, both tell a true story from World War II … Unbroken tells of Louis Zamperini who survived to tell about his adventures as a US pilot in the Pacific, subsequent capture and imprisonment by the Japanese.  A Higher Call: An Incredible True Story of Combat and Chivalry in the War-Torn Skies of World War II  tells of two pilots, one German and one American who meet high in the skies over Germany on December 20th, 1943. Both of these books will stay with me, I am sure, for a lifetime. A Higher Call grabbed me and simply won’t let go.

December 20, 1943, in the skies over Bremen, Germany. Charlie Brown is the pilot of a B17 bomber, just finishing a raid on an aircraft production facility. His plane has been hit multiple times by German flak. It was missing a rudder and had sustained serious damage to its hydraulic and electrical systems, not to mention that only one engine out of four was functioning at peak, one crew member was dead and several others seriously injured, and now Charlie faces flying through enemy flak to get north of Germany over the North Sea and back to Great Britain, a feat beyond all imaginings. Suddenly from behind he spots a German fighter plane and Charlie knows he and his crew have no chance to survive if the fighter shoots so much as a rock launched from a slingshot at their plane. This edge-of-the-seat action enhances, but does not dominate the story. The pilot in the German Bf109 is Franz Stigler, a man who joined the German Air Force (Luftwaffe) to avenge his brother’s death. One look at the B17 and Stigler knew it didn’t stand a chance. He remembered the words of his former leader and mentor, Gustav Roedel, who had once told Franz, “You score victories, not kills … you shoot at a machine not a man”, and decided in less time than it took the thought to form that he not only couldn’t shoot down that crippled bomber but that he would do everything he could to save the men inside. There were two dangers to this, but Stigler barely registered them. The first, of course, was that the bomber would fire on him first and knock him out of the sky (he didn’t know that the bomber’s guns were frozen, all but the turret gun whose range was so limited that he was never really in any danger from that). But the other, perhaps greater danger was that if the German command ever found out that he had the chance to dispatch this bomber and didn’t, he could be court-martialed and sentenced to death. On Stigler’s mind at that moment in time, however, was how he could keep the crew on this bomber from either being sent to a fiery death by German flak or an icy death in the North Sea. Ultimately, he led them through the German flak and left them over the North Sea with a salute and a prayer that they could stay safe. And it is in this one episode that Franz Stigler became a hero in my book. He would go on to fight some 487 missions in the war and is now in history books as a German flying ace, but for me it was that one act of human kindness, of human compassion, that made him a hero.

Though the book centers around the heroic acts of Charlie Brown and Franz Stigler in the air over Germany that day, the event itself actually occupies less than 4% (15 pages out of 368) of the book. Had I realized this in the beginning, I might never have bought the book and that would have been my loss. The bulk of the book follows Stigler’s career and rise as a flying ace throughout the war and it is from this that I, who have nursed a hatred of all things pertaining to the German military almost since my birth, came to realize that not every soldier in Germany was a Nazi and not every soldier in Germany lacked a heart. The Luftwaffe, or German Air Force, in this book is shown to be no less human than any man in the USAF or any other branch of the Allied military. Overwhelmingly, the Luftwaffe were NOT members of the Nazi Party and did NOT support Hitler and his programs. They were simply there to do their jobs and defend their nation and its people. In fact, most were not aware of Hitler’s “Final Solution” (the extermination of Jews) and the death camps until near the end of the war. For the most part Germans, including the Luftwaffe, were as afraid of the SS (Gestapo) as were we.

Many years after the end of the war, both Brown and Stigler wondered what had become of one another. Neither knew the other’s name, yet neither had forgotten that strange encounter in the skies over Germany. Eventually they would have their reunion and become brothers not of shared blood, but of shared life. Notably, though more than seventy years had passed since the end of WWII, once this story became public, Franz Stigler began receiving hate mail, presumably from Germans who felt that he should have blown Charlie and his crew out of the sky. I guess hatred is in no danger of becoming extinct any time soon.

This is Adam Makos’ first published book, though he has been editor of the military magazine Valor, for some fifteen years, and frankly I was intrigued when I read a synopsis of the storyline, but was not expecting great writing from this first-time author. I was wrong. The writing is as seamless and spell-binding as almost any I have read. This is a heart-warming, yet edge-of-the-seat true story that reads like a novel and leaves the reader wanting much more. Sadly, both Charlie Brown and Franz Stigler died in 2008. However there are photos and video clips of their reunion some 50 years later on the author’s website.  If you read no other non-fiction book this year, do yourself a favor and read this one. It will stay in your mind and in your heart for a good long time, maybe forever.

Robert Kennedy’s Final Farewell to MLK

Fifty years ago tonight, moments before he boarded a plane in Muncie, Ind., Robert Kennedy learned that the Dr. Martin Luther King had just been shot in Memphis. He somehow knew in his heart that Dr. King would not survive. Kennedy was heading to Indianapolis where he was scheduled to give a speech that night, and on landing, he learned that Dr. King had died.  Kennedy’s aides advised him to cancel his speech, for they knew tensions would be at an all-time high, but Kennedy refused.

Although Bobby Kennedy and Dr. King had an often contentious relationship, disagreeing on a number of issues, Robert Kennedy stepped up to the plate that night.  Rather than his prepared speech, Kennedy gave an impromptu eulogy for Dr. King that became to be considered his most memorable speech.  When he arrived, it was raining, the crowd, predominantly black, was tense and angry.  But Kennedy reached out anyway, and by the end of his speech, one of the gang members who was present said, “They kill Martin Luther, and we was ready to move. After he spoke we couldn’t get nowhere.”

Andrew Young later remembered, “He was in the middle of a totally black community, and he stood there without fear and with great confidence and empathy, and he literally poured his soul out talking about his brother.  The amazing thing to us was that the crowd listened. He reached them.”

Kennedy spoke that night for only around six minutes. But unlike so many other American cities, Indianapolis didn’t burn that night or over the next few days, as did Washington, Chicago, Baltimore and scores of other American cities.

Robert F. Kennedy’s Speech on the night of Dr. Martin Luther King’s Death:

I have bad news for you, for all of our fellow citizens, and people who love peace all over the world, and that is that Martin Luther King was shot and killed tonight.

Martin Luther King dedicated his life to love and to justice for his fellow human beings, and he died because of that effort.

In this difficult day, in this difficult time for the United States, it is perhaps well to ask what kind of a nation we are and what direction we want to move in. For those of you who are black–considering the evidence there evidently is that there were white people who were responsible–you can be filled with bitterness, with hatred, and a desire for revenge. We can move in that direction as a country, in great polarization–black people amongst black, white people amongst white, filled with hatred toward one another.

Or we can make an effort, as Martin Luther King did, to understand and to comprehend, and to replace that violence, that stain of bloodshed that has spread across our land, with an effort to understand with compassion and love.

For those of you who are black and are tempted to be filled with hatred and distrust at the injustice of such an act, against all white people, I can only say that I feel in my own heart the same kind of feeling. I had a member of my family killed, but he was killed by a white man. But we have to make an effort in the United States, we have to make an effort to understand, to go beyond these rather difficult times.

My favorite poet was Aeschylus. He wrote: “In our sleep, pain which cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart until, in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom through the awful grace of God.”

What we need in the United States is not division; what we need in the United States is not hatred; what we need in the United States is not violence or lawlessness; but love and wisdom, and compassion toward one another, and a feeling of justice toward those who still suffer within our country, whether they be white or they be black.

So I shall ask you tonight to return home, to say a prayer for the family of Martin Luther King, that’s true, but more importantly to say a prayer for our own country, which all of us love–a prayer for understanding and that compassion of which I spoke.

We can do well in this country. We will have difficult times; we’ve had difficult times in the past; we will have difficult times in the future. It is not the end of violence; it is not the end of lawlessness; it is not the end of disorder.

But the vast majority of white people and the vast majority of black people in this country want to live together, want to improve the quality of our life, and want justice for all human beings who abide in our land.

Let us dedicate ourselves to what the Greeks wrote so many years ago: to tame the savageness of man and make gentle the life of this world.

Let us dedicate ourselves to that, and say a prayer for our country and for our people.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. – 50 Years Later

In February, in honour of Black History Month, friend and fellow-blogger John Fioravanti of Words To Captivate, graciously accepted my offer to do a series of guest posts on Filosofa’s Word. Last month, John honoured me by asking me to write a guest post – any topic of my choosing – for his blog. I was thrilled, and readily accepted, but with my eye surgeries and subsequent chronic exhaustion, I was forced to delay. A few nights ago, however, I realized that we were fast approaching the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, and I thought it might make a perfect topic for my guest post. Long story short, John agreed and has honoured me by presenting my post and prefacing it with a very gracious and kind introduction. He has also given me permission to re-blog it on my own blog. I must admit it feels rather strange to be re-blogging my own work! Many thanks to you, John, for your many kindnesses and for sharing my work!

Words To Captivate ~ by John Fioravanti

Doctor Martin Luther King Jr. was a giant among men. He led by his words, his actions, and the way he lived his life. Today, I have the distinct privilege to welcome one of the most gifted bloggers I know and my very good friend, Jill Dennison, to Words To Captivate. Jill has taught college courses in the USA on Black History in America and is an ardent fan of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. On this 50th anniversary of MLK’s assassination, it is fitting that Jill shares with us how important this leader was in his own day and continues to be in the present because his work is not yet done. Thank you, Jill, for agreeing to be my guest today.

Every now and then an individual passes through this world who leaves behind an indelible mark, who is credited, deservingly, with having changed the world. Such an individual…

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Black History Month In Canada… Richard Pierpoint – by John Fioravanti

I have fallen behind in my goal to share as many of John Fioravanti’s Black History in Canada series as possible this month.  In part that is because I was hoping for a return of the missing ‘re-blog’ button, and in part it is simply because it is my nature to fall behind.  It isn’t that I am inept or inefficient, simply that I sometimes bite off more than I can chew.  But a look at the calendar shows me that Black History Month is winding down and will soon be over, so I want to share at least one of John’s fascinating posts today.  This one highlights Richard Pierpoint, a former African slave who fought in the Revolutionary War and later, at age 68, fought in the War of 1812.  His story is one of courage in the face of the evils of slavery and bigotry, of hard work and storytelling.  Please read about this persona from Canada’s Black History archives.  Thank you, John, for this post and permission to share with my friends.Text dividers

Richard Pierpoint – Former Slave, Loyalist, Soldier, Community Leader, and Storyteller

Richard Pierpoint (also Pawpine, Parepoint; Captain Pierpoint, Captain Dick; Black Dick), loyalist, soldier, community leader, storyteller (born c. 1744 in Bondu [now Senegal]; died c. 1838, near present-day Fergus, ON). Pierpoint was an early leader in Canada’s Black community. Taken from West Africa as a teenager and sold into slavery, Pierpoint regained his freedom during the American Revolution. He settled in Niagara, Upper Canada, and attempted to live communally with other Black Canadians. In the War of 1812, he petitioned for an all-Black unit to fight for the British and fought with the Coloured Corps.

Finish reading the story …

A Tribute to the Victims …

Wednesday’s tragic mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, has left a dark cloud over this nation.  While I will have more to say about how avoidable this could have been, and how sad that we, as a nation, place the value of our steel toys above the lives of our children, for today I find it more appropriate to honour the victims.  I cannot possibly do any better job than ThinkProgress has done with their tribute that includes pictures of 14 of the 17 victims, as well as a brief bio and some comments from friends.  And so with that, I ask you to please click the link below to learn a little bit about each victim in order to make this senseless tragedy a bit more personal, a bit more real.  And please keep the community and the families of these victims, many of them children, in your hearts and thoughts.

The Victims of the Parkland Shooting

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Black History Month In Canada… Mary Ann Shadd Cary – by John Fioravanti

Alright, who made off with the re-blog button? 

reblog

This is how it’s supposed to look!

I have fallen behind on sharing John’s wonderful, enlightening posts about Black History Month in Canada, and I was planning to share two of his today.  But there was no re-blog button to be found.  Yes, I know I’m half blind and not seeing quite right, but I checked several other fellow bloggers posts, and … no button.  Checked my own … still no button.  So, sigh, I am forced to use “Press This” to share John’s post.  The main reason I prefer ‘re-blog’ is that it shows the first part of the author’s post, enough to grab the reader’s interest and  makes them want more. Other reasons I prefer ‘re-blog’ include that it is quicker, and it also notifies the original author.  In the interest of doing that, I will take the liberty of providing a brief snippet here, and ask you to please click the link to read the rest, for this lady in the annals of history is truly remarkable!

Text dividersMary Ann Shadd Cary – Educator, Publisher, and Abolitionist

 

Mary Ann Camberton Shadd Cary, educator, publisher, abolitionist (born 9 October 1823 in Wilmington, Delaware; died 5 June 1893 in Washington, DC). The first Black female newspaper publisher in Canada, Shadd founded and edited The Provincial Freeman. She also established a racially integrated school for Black refugees in Windsor, Canada West. In 1994, Shadd was designated a Person of National Historic Significance in Canada.

via Black History Month In Canada… Mary Ann Shadd Cary

On Black History Month

It is easy to lose sight of many things with all the hoopla that comes out of Washington, D.C. these days.  Things that might otherwise be front-page news, are relegated to a paragraph of small print somewhere in the clutter.  February is Black History Month in the U.S. and Canada, and it deserves attention, rather than being stuck in a dark corner filled with the smoke left by Washington politics.

black history quoe1The History:

The origins of Black History Month date back to 1926 when Harvard historian Carter G. Woodson declared the second week in February ‘Negro History Week’.  February was chosen as it coincided with the birthdates of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln.

Black History Month was first proposed by black educators and the Black United Students at Kent State University in February 1969. The first celebration of Black History Month took place at Kent State one year later, in February 1970.

In 1976, during America’s bicentennial, President Gerald Ford officially recognized Black History Month, urging Americans to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history”.

black history quote2The Purpose:

Some question the need for a special month during which to celebrate black history, but I would argue that historically in this nation, the contributions of African-Americans have been minimalized,  swept under the rug.  I grew up during the Civil Rights era, and I cannot recall during my primary or secondary education learning about the contributions of Frederick Douglass, Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman, C.J. Walker, Bessie Coleman or others.  Yet, their lives contributed to what our nation has become just as much as any others.

This nation was founded on diversity, yet that concept seems to have gotten lost somewhere along the way. No single race or its culture can define this nation, and to fully understand our history and who we are today, we need to be able to look at our past from a variety of perspectives.  And yet, we often fail to do that, we fail to recognize the contributions by Asians, Hispanics, Native Americans, and African-Americans.

Black history (just like Hispanic, Asian, European, and Native history) belongs to all of us — black and white, men and women, young and old.  The impact African Americans have made on this country is part of our collective consciousness. Contemplating Black history draws people of every race into the grand and diverse story of this nation.

98f/42/hgmp/12704/tep039In 1964, author James Baldwin reflected on the shortcomings of his education. “When I was going to school, I began to be bugged by the teaching of American history because it seemed that that history had been taught without cognizance of my presence.”

This year, perhaps more than any in the past five decades, bigotry and racism are raising their ugly faces.  White supremacism is seemingly on the rise, and bigotry flows down from the highest office in the nation.  I think that now, more than at any time in our recent history, it is important for us to stop a minute, turn our attentions away from the three-ring circus in Washington, and remind ourselves of the contributions and achievements of our brothers and sisters who have given so much to this country.

Another year, I might have committed to a daily post to honour the contributions of African-Americans throughout this nation’s history.  This year, due to the toxic environment on which I feel compelled to opine, and with my limited visual acuity, I am unable to do so, but I plan at least a few posts about people who I think made special and interesting contributions, and I will include some trivia at the end of some of my other posts.  It is little enough, but hopefully you will learn at least one thing you didn’t already know about our history, our culture.

black history quoet3

 

In Honour Of A Great Man: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness: Only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: Only love can do that.” 

“That old law about ‘an eye for an eye’ leaves everybody blind. The time is always right to do the right thing.”

 

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Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was born on 15 January 1929.  He would have been 89 years old today, had he lived. Today, we celebrate not only his birthday, but also his life and legacy. Martin Luther King Day celebrates not only Dr. King, but the movement he inspired and all those who helped move forward the notion of equal rights for ALL races, all those who worked tirelessly during the civil rights era of the 1960s, as well as those who are continuing the good fight even in this, the year 2018.

Dr. King, along with President John F. Kennedy, was the most moving speaker I have ever heard.  To this day, I cannot listen to his ‘I Have A Dream’ speech without tears filling my eyes.  If you haven’t heard it for a while, take a few minutes to watch/listen … I promise it will be worth it.

This post is both a commemoration and a plea for us to carry on the work that was only begun, not yet finished, five decades ago.  Today we should remember some of the great heroes of the civil rights movement, those who worked tirelessly, some who gave their lives, that we could all live in peace and harmony someday: Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth, Nelson Mandela, Nina Simone, Mary McLeod Bethune, Lena Horne, Marva Collins, Rosa Parks, W.E.B. Du Bois, Malcolm X, Roy Innes, Medgar Evers, Booker T. Washington, John Lewis, Percy Julian, Marcus Garvey, Desmond Tutu, E.D. Nixon, James Meredith, and so many more.  I am willing to bet there are some on this list of whom you’ve never heard, or perhaps recognize the name but not the accomplishments. If you’re interested, you can find brief biographies of each of these and more at Biography.com .

Yet, while we celebrate the achievements of Dr. King and the others, there is still much to be done. Just look around you, read the news each day. Think about these statistics:

  • More than one in five black families live in households that are food insecure, compared to one in ten white families
  • Almost four in ten black children live in a household in poverty, nearly twice the rate of other racial groups
  • Among prime-age adults (ages 25 to 54), about one in five black men are not in the labor force, nearly twice the rate of other racial groups
  • Although blacks and whites use marijuana at approximately the same rate, blacks are over 3 and a half times more likely to get arrested for marijuana possession
  • For every dollar earned by a white worker, a black worker only makes 74 cents
  • Black families are twice as likely as whites to live in substandard housing conditions
  • Black college graduates now have twice the amount of debt as white college graduates
  • The likelihood of a black woman born in 2001 being imprisoned over the course of her lifetime is one in 18, compared to 1 in 111 for a white woman
  • Similarly, the likelihood of a black man being imprisoned is 1 in 3, compared to 1 in 17 for a white man
  • Of black children born into the bottom 20 percent of the income distribution, about half of them will still be there as adults, compared to less than one-quarter of white children

Data courtesy of the Brookings Institute – for charts and supporting details of above date, please click on link. 

And of course the above data does not even touch upon the recent spate of hate crimes, racial profiling, and police shootings against African-Americans.  There is still much of Dr. King’s work to be accomplished. But who is left to do this work?  Most of the leaders of yore are long since gone. There are still noble and courageous people out there carrying on the programs and works of Dr. King and the others, but their voices are perhaps not as loud, and there are none so charismatic as the late Dr. King.

In the current environment of racial divisiveness, we need more than ever to carry on what Dr. King only started. A year ago we ushered in a new president, a new administration, most of whom are not fighters for equality, many of whom actually support the tenets of white supremacy. There are already signs that the U.S. is headed backward down the path from which we have come. Trump himself has made racist statements and his father was affiliated with the KKK, even being arrested as he participated in a Klan rally in 1927.  Jeff Sessions, the U.S. Attorney General, is a proven racist.  And in cities all around the U.S., racial incidents are on the rise.

Martin Luther King believed that the path to his dream was a path of peaceful protest rather than violent protest, of love rather than hate, of understanding rather than aggression … not through violence.  This is why he is, and will always be, a hero.  Today, we have a president who encourages violence, who refers to white supremacists as “very fine people”, and whose rhetoric has widened the gap of divisiveness in this nation.  We need another Martin Luther King, but would anybody even listen?

In a speech on April 12th, 1850, then-Senator and future President of the Confederacy, Jefferson Davis said:

“This Government was not founded by negroes nor for negroes, but by white men for white men.” [1]

That was wrong then, it is wrong today, and it will always be wrong.  That is what Dr. Martin Luther King fought against, that is what I rail and sometimes rant against, that is why we need activists and groups dedicated to fighting for equality for all people … today, tomorrow, and forever. Dr. King fought and ultimately gave his life for the values I believe in, the values that should define this nation, though they often do not.  Dr. Martin Luther King was a hero of his time … thank you, Dr. King, for all you did, for the values you gave this nation, and for the hope you instilled in us all that your dream will someday come true.

[1] (Kendi, 2016)   stamped

Saturday Surprise — John Lennon, A Tribute of Sorts

Welcome to Saturday Surprise and a cold beginning to the weekend.  I hadn’t given much thought to what to do for my Saturday Surprise post yesterday evening, for I was on a tear about my Friday pm topic, when an item plunked into my inbox and I thought, hmmmmm …. Maybe.  And so, while I was rolling smokes and baking cookies, I gave it some thought and decided it might be fun to take another glance at the past.  What was the item, you ask?  Well, yesterday, as it happens, was the 37th anniversary of the murder of John Lennon.  Some readers of this column may be too young to remember, but they still know who John Lennon and the Beatles were, no doubt, and anyway, most of my regular readers and myself remember quite well.  So, let us take a brief walk down memory lane and meet up again with Mr. John Lennon and by association, the Beatles.

Who Was John Lennon?

“John Lennon was born on October 9, 1940, in Liverpool, England. He met Paul McCartney in 1957 and invited McCartney to join his music group. They eventually formed the most successful songwriting partnership in musical history. Lennon left the Beatles in 1969 and later released albums with his wife, Yoko Ono, among others. On December 8, 1980, he was killed by a crazed fan named Mark David Chapman.”  – Biography.com

But that doesn’t really tell us much about him, does it?  Let’s dig a bit deeper. Lennon’s first band was actually called The Quarrymen, and was composed of Lennon and several school friends from Quarry Bank High School, which they attended. The name morphed from The Blackjacks to Johnny and the Moondogs to Japage 3, before finally becoming The Beatles in 1960. Lennon’s mother, Julia, taught her son to play the banjo and then showed Lennon how to tune his guitar in a similar way to the banjo, and taught him simple chords and songs.

Lennon and McCartney first met when The Quarrymen played St. Peter’s Church Rose Queen garden fête in Woolton on Saturday, July 6th, 1957, and McCartney was invited to join the band soon thereafter. Although he had practiced endlessly for his debut, McCartney played horribly at his debut performance on Friday, 18 October 1957, missing his opening cue and playing all the wrong notes!  Nerves? Everyone expected Lennon to say something sarcastic, but the sight of the always overconfident McCartney looking so crestfallen made Lennon laugh out loud instead.

Lennon and McCartney both started writing songs influenced by Buddy Holly, and both were impressed with each other’s efforts. The two began writing together, and their writing partnership would become very successful throughout the 1960s. As they began leaning more toward rock ‘n roll, many of the original band members left the band, and it became clear that they would need an additional guitar player. Enter George Harrison.

QuarrymenMcCartney recommended his school friend George Harrison, who first saw the group perform on February 6th, 1958 at Wilson Hall, where McCartney introduced him to Lennon. Harrison was only 14 at the time, and Lennon initially thought him too young.  McCartney, however, didn’t give up and set up various opportunities for Harrison to perform for Lennon.  Once Harrison turned 15, Lennon finally capitulated.  Later that year, with only the three of them left in the band, they changed their name to Japage 3 (combining letters from each of the member’s names: John, Paul, and George), but the name change lasted less than a year, and they went back to being The Quarrymen.

By March 1960, struggling to get gigs, the group changed their name once again, and this time the name would stick: the Beatles. In August of 1962, Richard Starkey, known professionally as Ringo Starr, left the band he was with, Rory Storm and the Hurricanes, and joined the Beatles as drummer, completing the band that would ultimately go on to fame and fortune. The group continued to perform around Liverpool and in Hamburg, Germany, before being signed to Parlophone Records in 1962. After their signing, the Beatles achieved worldwide fame and became one of the most popular and successful musical artists of all time, before breaking up in 1970.

The Beatles achieved mainstream success in the UK early in 1963. Lennon was on tour when his first son, Julian, was born in April. During their Royal Variety Show performance that was attended by the Queen Mother and other British royalty, Lennon poked fun at his audience: “For our next song, I’d like to ask for your help. For the people in the cheaper seats, clap your hands … and the rest of you, if you’ll just rattle your jewelery.”

After a year of Beatlemania in the UK, the group’s historic February 1964 US debut appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show marked their breakthrough to international stardom. A two-year period of constant touring, moviemaking, and songwriting followed, during which Lennon wrote two books, In His Own Write and A Spaniard in the Works.

Lennon grew concerned that fans who attended Beatles concerts were unable to hear the music above the screaming of fans, and that the band’s musicianship was beginning to suffer as a result. Lennon’s “Help!” expressed his own feelings in 1965: “I meant it … It was me singing ‘help'”

In March 1970 he was unknowingly introduced to LSD when a dentist, hosting a dinner party attended by Lennon, Harrison and their wives, spiked the guests’ coffee with the drug. When they wanted to leave, their host revealed what they had taken, and strongly advised them not to leave the house because of the likely effects. Later, in an elevator at a nightclub, they all believed it was on fire: “We were all screaming … hot and hysterical.”

In an interview in 1966, Lennon made a comment that would cause quite a stir in the U.S., but barely a blink in the UK …

“Christianity will go. It will vanish and shrink … We’re more popular than Jesus now—I don’t know which will go first, rock and roll or Christianity.”

The furore that followed—burning of Beatles records, Ku Klux Klan activity and threats against Lennon—contributed to the band’s decision to stop touring. Their final commercial concert was on 29 August 1966, and Lennon missed touring so much that he considered leaving the band then. He was almost constantly under the influence of LSD throughout most of 1967.

Lennon left the Beatles in September 1969, and agreed not to inform the media while the group renegotiated their recording contract, but he was outraged that McCartney publicised his own departure on releasing his debut solo album in April 1970. Lennon’s reaction was, “Jesus Christ! He gets all the credit for it!” He later wrote, “I started the band. I disbanded it. It’s as simple as that.”

Lennon went on with his solo career, but I have neither time, space, nor inclination to chronicle at this time.  Fast forward to that historic day, December 8th, 1980.

Lennon and his wife, Yoko Ono, and their young son, Sean, were living in New York City at the Dakota, an old Gothic fortress at 1 W. 72nd Street. John and Yoko, returning home from a photo shoot, were greeted by fans begging for autographs.  One of those fans was a man named Mark David Chapman, who handed over his copy of “Double Fantasy” for Lennon to sign.

After a busy day of recording, John and Yoko headed home that evening arriving at 10:45 p.m. Just as they were about to enter their home, Chapman, who had been hanging outside the Dakota all day, pulled out a gun and fired five times, hitting John Lennon four out of the five in the back and shoulder.  John Lennon was pronounced dead on arrival at Roosevelt Hospital at 11:07 p.m. After shooting Lennon, Chapman put down his gun, sat down and waited for police to arrive while reading J.D. Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye.

And that was 37 years ago yesterday.  A legacy?  Sure, but also a human being who was subject to the same temptations and human frailties as we all are.  The man created some great music, though, and I share with you perhaps his most famous solo from the album of the same name, Imagine.

 

Imagine there’s no heaven

It’s easy if you try

No hell below us

Above us only sky

Imagine all the people living for today

Imagine there’s no countries

It isn’t hard to do

Nothing to kill or die for

And no religion too

Imagine all the people living life in peace, you

You may say I’m a dreamer

But I’m not the only one

I hope some day you’ll join us

And the world will be as one

Imagine no possessions

I wonder if you can

No need for greed or hunger

A brotherhood of man

Imagine all the people sharing all the world, you

You may say I’m a dreamer

But I’m not the only one

I hope some day you’ll join us

And the world will be as one

Have a great weekend, my friends!

Roger’s Book Launch — CONGRATULATIONS!

Our friend Roger Llewellyn (woebegonebuthopeful) has just published a new book available on Amazon, Of Patchwork Warriors: (Being Vol.1 of the Precipice Dominions).  While I would love to be able to write a review to include in this post, I cannot, for while I have read a few chapters here and there, as Roger posted them on his blog, my own schedule was such that I missed more than I read.  So, here is the introduction from the Amazon page:

Patchwork Warriors

“There came an era when the threat of incursion from the infernal other world realm of the Zerstorung was strong, placing the survival of entire unsettled Oakhostian Empire at risk and thus disparate forces began to marshal, to take up any cause or seize any opportunity.

There in the background The Ethereal, The Stommigheid or The Astatheia just a few names for the force which had arrived upon The World in Ages faded from record. Viewed either as a pernicious creature seeking to control, a power for good, an aspect of Nature to be treated with caution or a means to an end, it remained a constant. With an oft forgotten tendency to engage with the unwilling, the unassuming and the unruly from the ranks of lesser folk whose consequential and various struggles would unsettle many a careful plan.

This is the tale of three such, an innocent housemaid, a dutiful soldier and a self-appointed scourge of evil quite unaware the safety of an Empire would soon be resting on them.

They did not take uniformly or conventionally to the task, for that was the way of things, when involved with The Ethereal, The Stommigheid or The Astatheia.”

Though I cannot review the book as yet, I can tell you from the bits I have read that this tale is fun and the characters whimsical and delightful.  I found one who reminds me much of me … I will not tell you who … you can figure it out as you read the book.

Roger likes to make up words … he sometimes makes up words for me to use in lieu of others in my somewhat … colourful vocabulary.  For this book, he has almost invented a whole new vocabulary, words for which he helpfully provides brief explanations at the beginning.  Some are so much fun that I may take to using them on occasion, for example “Twonk – Elidian term of insult.  Means ‘fool’” (Surely I can think of a few people to call twonks!).  Or one of my very favourites “Kerfluffeg – A Karlyn word for confusion or confused” (I can use that one on myself most often!)

Roger also designed his own cover for this one, and I think he deserves kudos for both a book well-written and a charming cover.  Now, obviously, I wish all my readers would hop straight over to Amazon  and buy this book.  It is only $0.99 USD … c’mon guys, that’s less than a bottle of water!  But if you prefer, at least download the free sample and read that … at which time you will know that you must buy the book!  Or at the very least, pop over to Roger’s blog, heroicallybadwriter,  and congratulate him, for I know that he has worked long and hard on this book.

Congratulations, Roger … beautiful cover, beautiful book, and a job well done!  I will read and review as soon as humanly possible.  And thank you, my friend, for the mention on the dedication page … you brought a huge smile to my face with that!

Now readers … go check out the book!!!