It was December 8, 1980, and just another Monday. There was labor unrest in Poland. The American hostages in Iran were spending their 401st day in captivity. The newly-elected president, Ronald Reagan, was planning his transition. When the radio newscasts were over, rock stations were playing new songs and albums by [lastfm link_type=”artist_info”]Queen[/lastfm], [lastfm link_type=”artist_info”]Jackson Browne[/lastfm], [lastfm link_type=”artist_info”]Bruce Springsteen[/lastfm], [lastfm link_type=”artist_info”]John Lennon[/lastfm], [lastfm link_type=”artist_info”]the Police[/lastfm], and [lastfm link_type=”artist_info”]Rod Stewart[/lastfm], among others.

When Vin Scelsa checked in for the 10PM to 2AM shift on WNEW-FM in New York, there was little reason to believe this night would be different from any other — but as we all know now, it was. For on that night, John Lennon was shot dead.

Here’s how it sounded on WNEW that night, as Scelsa tried to find words to describe the tragedy. At first, he could not.

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As a veteran radio jock myself, I feel for Vin Scelsa as I listen, 31 years later. He knows he’s got to keep it together — he knows it’s his job to report what has happened — but he struggles with every sentence. “I didn’t wanna go on the air and say this,” he remembered. “I had gone on the air other times in my life and announced that people had died. John Lennon, I knew right away, that this was something that went beyond just a pop star murder or a pop star death. That this was truly a significant moment in our cultural history.”

Experience more Rock Flashbacks.

Remembering John Lennon on >

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