Like millions of others, I am a Beatles fan, a product of the '60s/'70s and, as a musician, I was always heavily influenced by them. In late 1981, almost exactly a year after John Lennon was killed, I was sitting at the piano, and inspiration hit me with a focused power that I had never felt before, with any other song I have ever written. The chord progression for the song poured out of me as a whole; there was very little (if any) modifying to be done. It had no lyrics yet, but I knew it was going to be my "John" song.
Four years later, in September of 1985, I was at CCNY (taking evening classes), sitting in the dining hall, when inspiration hit me again and lyrics started "writing themselves" on a page of my notebook. I knew they were perfect, and I couldn't wait, so I left (cutting class), went home, and put the lyrics to the music. It was a perfect fit.
I knew I had to record it immediately, and do…something with it. Since I play piano and drums and sing, I knew I would need a bass player and a guitarist. I got my friend Josh to play bass (and sing -- it is his voice on the first verse) and my brother, Eric, to play the guitar, including the solo (which has an amazing side story in itself). I also got a couple of additional friends, Amy Bachrach and Deborah Culmer, to help with harmony vocals, as did our engineer, Dina Alexander. (Sadly, Josh, my best friend in high school and for several years after, succumbed to Covid in 2020.)
We went into the studio in November 1985, and the recording process was nothing short of magical. Even the studio owner/engineer, Dina, felt something special happening, and not only gave me a significant discount, but extra studio time. To this day, I owe her more than I can say.
As the recording was coming together, I was coming up with ideas for what to do with it. After all, it was the 5th anniversary of John's death. Earlier that year, "We Are the World" had taken the world by storm. Because it was Michael Jackson and other major stars, they were able to get "We Are the World" played simultaneously on hundreds of radio stations around the world at exactly the same time. In my excitement, I figured "I can do that" -- on a MUCH smaller scale.
I created PR packages that included a reel-to-reel copy of the song (yup, those were still being used), a lyric sheet, an info sheet, and even a pre-airing intro that DJs could use if they wished. I also included a postcard of John Lennon. I sent these packages to a dozen radio stations in NYC, Philly and DC, requesting that they all play the song at exactly 11 pm on December 8th.
The song was in fact played simultaneously at 11 pm on December 8th on at least five stations (that I know of): one in DC, one in Philly, and 3 in NYC -- including WPLJ, which aired it twice: first as the "intro" to Casey Kasem's Top 40 that morning, and then as the intro to their John Lennon memorial program that night. I was interviewed on air on WPLJ immediately after the song played. (Another amazing side story, including that Yoko apparently heard the song -- and loved it.) The song and myself were also part of WCBS-TV's 5-minute segment on the anniversary of John's death on the CBS Evening News that night. (Yet another amazing side story.) WBAI played it every year on December 8th for several years. WLIR played it each year until they changed formats a few years later.
Needless to say, this was among the most extraordinary events of my life. I hope you enjoy the song.
"We all love you, John. And we WILL carry on, even now that you're gone."