Hard Rock International When the plane carrying Buddy Holly, the Big Bopper…
- Posted on Oct 7th 2010 5:30PM by Charley Rogulewski
From 1972's 'Some Time in New York City
The lyrics of 'Attica State' are seldom considered among John Lennon's finest, but it's the unspoken part of this song off Lennon's third solo album, 'Some Time in New York City,' that deserves attention.
On Sept. 9, 1972, at approximately 8:20AM, a riot broke out at the Attica Correctional Facility in upstate New York. Unhappy with the prison's living conditions -- originally built for a 1,200 capacity but housing double the occupancy -- inmates commandeered the institution, taking 33 staff members hostage. After four days of mayhem, the riot ended with 10 officers and 29 inmates dead.
"What a waste of human power
What a waste of human lives,
Shoot the prisoners in the towers
Forty-three poor widowed wives"
Since we are on the subject of birthdays, legend has it that Lennon penned those lyrics a month later when he rang in his 31st. On that same day, the opening of the Yoko Ono art exhibit 'This Is Not Here' in Syracuse, N.Y. led to late-night revelry at a nearby hotel with Lennon and his guitar, Allen Ginsberg, Eric Clapton, Ringo Starr and many others in attendance. And while the facts are debatable in the song (43 widowed wives did not comply with media reports), it's Lennon's frenzied guitar work on the chorus that does all the talking, channeling that imaginable chaos within the Attica State prison walls. The term "Attica" has since come to describe any sort of destruction or bedlam, past or present.
Lennon helped raise money for the families of the slain inmates two months later at a fundraiser in New York's Harlem neighborhood. But the most uncanny part of Lennon writing this song and paying tribute to this precise uprising is that eight years later Attica State would be the same prison Mark David Chapman would be sent to serve a 20-years-to-life prison sentence for the murder of John Lennon.
I just got the chills writing that. Lennon bizarrely penned his own destiny.