The night John Lennon died, I was in the Columbus Ohio Airport Rodeway Inn playing in a bar band for about three patrons and two bar staff. There was snow on the ground outside and no one, included us, wanted to be there.
We took a break, our last one of the night, and headed back up to our rooms, flipped on the TV and that was when I heard the news. It shook me up so badly, the thought of going back to that empty club and playing another set was more than I could bear. Since almost no one was in the gloomy club anyway, the band members asked me if I'd just get on the piano and play out the time.
It wasn't until I sat down behind the keyboard that it hit me that I'd be making the public announcement to whoever was that John Lennon had been assassinated. I wasn't even sure I could say the words out loud.
Still in shock, I took the mic and said, "I have some news. John Lennon was just shot and killed."
And then I did something I had never done in my life.
I played the song "Imagine" all the way through without a single mistake.
I had never rehearsed it. Never sung it before. Wasn't even sure what key it was in. But something gripped me that night, some spirit of sadness and strength, and I just sang the song. The words tumbled out of me. A verse would be approaching and though I had no idea what the lyrics were before I sang them, I'd open my mouth and they'd be there.
Today is May 8th, the anniversary of the day Bill Clayton took his own life. On this day, John Lennon's piano will be carried to his home, and without ceremony, without a plan, without any kind of marching band or hoopla, the IMAGINE piano will sit in this place where violence occurred and they will take a photo and, just as I did on that cold, December day in Columbus, Ohio, I will get to play "Imagine" once again. And the reason I'm there, as Caroline True said last night in Gabi's living room, is because Gabi wants me there.
UPDATE: Covered in the press by Earthtimes.org and The Olympian, and at Box Turtle Bulletin.