I know that I am a day late on this, but that is because every year I forget just how much has happened in music history on December 8th. It is a day that, for many, represents one of the greatest tragedies in music history, filling them with soul-striking emotion in a day of mourning, while for others, it has birthed some of the most beloved musicians in music history, bringing about a host of music that changed people’s lives.
There are four core musicians who always come to mind when December 8th comes up:
- First, on December 8, 1980, John Lennon was shot five times by Mark Chapman in New York City. Chapman had been waiting for Lennon outside the Dakota apartments, where John and Yoko lived, since mid-morning and had asked for an autograph earlier in the day. Lennon was pronounced dead from a massive loss of blood at 11.30 pm. Lennon represented many different things to many different people in our world. He was a founding member of arguably the best rock band in history, The Beatles, but he also had a very successful solo career. He was a prolific songwriter, but he was also a voice of peace during times of turmoil in the world. RIP John Lennon.
- Second, on December 8, 1943, Jim Morrison singer and lyricist with The Doors was born. Due to his wild personality and performances, he is regarded by some people as one of the most iconic, charismatic and pioneering frontmen in rock music history. While many to this day question his arrogance and antics during a time in our country filled with messages of peace and love, it is undeniable that Jim Morrison played an integral part in The Doors’ success, which has brought us innumerable hits that are passed down through generations. Morrison died of heart failure in a bathtub in a Paris hotel room on 3rd July 1971. Happy birthday Jim Morrison!
- Third, on December 8, 1947, Gregg Allman, keyboardist, guitarist and singer of the Allman Brothers Band, was born. Many people outside of the ABB family tend to leave out Gregg’s contribution to the band. Everyone focuses on his brother Duane. Duane Allman was the undoubted leader of the band in its early days, before his untimely death, but he was by no means to musical mastermind. He played the guitar like nobody else in the world, but his brother Gregg wrote all of the songs! Without Duane’s influence and encouragement, he may never have become as prolific as he did, but in the end, it was always Gregg. Gregg Allman is one of four remaining original Allman Brothers still alive today, and he continues to tour with his own band.
- Fourth, on December 8, 2004, original Pantera guitarist Dimebag Darrell was one of five people killed after a man stormed the stage during a Damageplan show at the Alrosa Villa Club in Columbus. Nathan Gale, aged 25, began firing at the band and crowd, was then shot and killed by a police officer who arrived shortly after the first shots were fired. I know that many people will shun me for ever including Dimebag Darrell in the presence of those mentioned above, but his contributions to music are undeniable. Pantera changed the game among early metal bands, breaking away from the popular “hair metal” of the day that wreaked of over-glamorized party culture. Pantera paved the way for an entire generation of metal and shredding rock & roll that is still potent in music today, and Dimebag Darrell was among the men who made it all possible. RIP Dimebag Darrell.
Many other interesting things happened on December 8th in music history, as well. For example, on December 8, 1969, Graham Nash left The Hollies and started work with David Crosby and Stephen Stills who went on to form Crosby, Stills & Nash. On December 8, 1963, Frank Sinatra, Jr. was kidnapped at gunpoint from a hotel in Lake Tahoe. He was released two days later after his father paid out the $240,000 ransom demanded by the kidnappers, who were later captured, and sentenced to long prison terms.
There are also a few more well-known birthdays in music on December 8: Sammy Davis, Jr. (1925); Ray Sulman (1949 – Gentle Giant); Phil Collen (1957 – Def Leppard); Marty Friedman (1962 – Megadeath); Sinaed O’Connor (1966).
So, whatever December 8th means to you, there can be no doubt that it can provide us with an epic roller coaster ride through the recent history of music and beyond.