On December 8, 1980
the world lost John Lennon and twenty-four years later, Dimebag Darrell, guitarist for the legendary metal group Pantera. What makes the loss of these two musicians so inconceivable is the violent way they left this world. Everyone should meet their maker one day, but not this way. Both men performed their jobs with blissful conviction and brought ecstasy to those who listened to their music. Their loss can never be appropriately express into words. For this reason alone, we seek out music to make sense of acts whose definition can not bring understanding or meaning.
Twenty-seven years ago tonight, December 9th 1980, music tributes flowed in from across the world as everyone reeled in the shock of John Lennon's death, however one of these tributes, to this day, stands above them. What's so ironic about it is that it wasn't on TV or radio, but took place in front of 18,000 at the Philadelphia Spectrum. Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band were two-months into their tour in support of The River' and call it synchronicity, but Bruce was in his true home away from home, Philadelphia. No one would have blamed Springsteen for delaying the show or cancelling it all together, but he rose above it all in the City of Brotherly Love on this particular night and did the memory of John Lennon and rock n' roll justice.
The lights dimmed and the E Street Band strode onto stage and instead of surging right into the show, Springsteen walked sheepishly up to the microphone and said, "I'd just like to say one thing, I appreciate it and it's a hard night to come out and play tonight when so much's been lost. The first record...the first record that I ever learned was a record called Twist and Shout' (cheers), and if it wasn't....if it wasn't for John Lennon, we'd all be in some place very different tonight (cheers). It's....it's an unreasonable world and you have to live with a lot of things that are just unlivable, and it's a hard thing to come out and play but there's just nothing else you can do...1,2,3,4
" and the band soared into "Born To Run" for a performance of the ages that would last well over three-hours.
I was an infant when this show took place but through the power and magic of bootlegs, I've heard this show dozens of times and it is probably my favorite show of The River' tour. Music is a separate language for many of us, especially those who visit this page. We seek it out during troubling times to help us make sense in a world where the math does not add up the way it should. John Lennon and his three friends changed the world, there's no other way to put it. There were those who came before them, but they pushed the music template further than anyone ever would and our world is different as a result. The vibrations of the quake they created can still be felt today by anyone who hits play on an iPod, turns on a radio dial, goes to a live concert or picks up a guitar. In terms of influence, they're untouchable.
Dimebag Darrell, through the sheer power of his fingers, gave angst ridden teens an outlet for their anger and aggression. When Dimebag lifted his guitar their world was a better place for a few hours and to this day when they listen to his records, they find reason and an outlet for their antagonism and fury and hopefully once they've excised those demons, they find a glimmering ray of hope. Metal often gets a bad rap, but Dimebag was an artist with no ego, we loved him because he was one of us. He's the type of guy we would meet at the bar for a drink, and who would proceed to buy drinks for everyone in sight. He was one of us.
While on paper it appears there was very little that Dimebag and Lennon had in common, the truth is they both felt a purpose to transform people with music. They merely had something to say and did so with their guitars. Another musician who has made an art of making his guitar talk is Bruce Springsteen. His live performances have proven to be momentous over the last few decades. Just like Dimebag and Lennon, his goal is to take his music and literally blow open doors and transform your impressions of the world. For 18,000 on December 9th, 1980, the world made a little more sense because of Springsteen and the mighty E Street Band. As the three-plus hour concert came to a close, Bruce simply said
"I wanna thank everybody, thanks for coming down to the show (cheers) It's always nice to come back to Philadelphia.....let's go...." and the band launched into "Twist and Shout". The rousing performance brought not just the show, but the emotional roller coaster ride everyone was on full circle. A little over a year later, Springsteen would write the lyric; "Everything dies, baby that's a fact, but maybe everything that dies, someday comes back". As long as there are people who continue to do honor to the legacy of John Lennon and Dimebag Darrell, rock n' roll and most importantly, their spirits, will never die. We all shine on indeed.
Anthony Kuzminski is a Chicago based writer and can be found at The Screen Door