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Week in Rock History: Jerry Garcia Dies

Plus: Janis Joplin performs in concert for the last time

August 8, 2011 2:55 PM ET
Jerry garcia grateful dead rip
Jerry Garcia performing with the Grateful Dead in Oakland, California.
Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic

This week in rock history, John Lennon apologized for "blasphemy," Janis Joplin performed live for the last time, Simon Le Bon of Duran Duran almost drowned, fans rioted after a disastrous Guns N'Roses/Metallica show and Jerry Garcia passed away. 

Aug 11, 1966: John Lennon apologizes for his controversial "the Beatles are more popular than Jesus" remark
For their first U.S. tour, the Beatles were greeted by throngs of shrieking girls and eager television crews. For their last one, they were forced to deliver a very public mea culpa.

"I'm sorry I opened my mouth," said John Lennon stiffly, addressing reporters at the Astor Towers Hotel in Chicago. "I'm not anti-God anti-Christ, or anti-religion. I wouldn't knock it. I didn't mean we were greater or better."

He was apologizing for his infamous interview about the Beatles that appeared in the London Evening Standard in March of that year. In it, he told journalist Maureen Cleave, "Christianity will go, it will vanish and shrink . . . We're more popular than Jesus now. I don't know which will go first, rock and roll or Christianity." 

The droll line made no impact when it was published in Britain, but it provoked quite a different reaction in the United States when reprinted in the teen magazine Datebook. Beatles records were destroyed in bonfires, radio stations accused Lennon of blasphemy and the Ku Klux Klan burned the group in effigy. The backlash against the Fab Four was so aggressive, manager Brian Epstein made an 11th-hour flight to the States to decide if the Beatles' tour should be cancelled; he decided that it could go on, but only if Lennon ate his words first. So Lennon did, sullenly, and the tour carried on. Yet after the tour concluded, the Beatles receded from public concerts almost entirely.

 

August 12, 1970: Janis Joplin performs live for the last time
At what would become her final live performance, Janis Joplin caused a stampede at Harvard University.

For her performance at Harvard Stadium in Boston, capacity was strictly enforced at 10,000 fans. However, almost 40,000 people appeared that evening, clamoring to see the 27-year-old soul belter, jostling and arguing at the gates. 

Joplin's final show was less than seamless: she was extremely drunk and slurred her lyrics. Also, her backers, the Full Tilt Boogie Band, played through inferior and hastily assembled sound equipment; their amplifiers had recently been stolen.

Joplin died less than two months later, on October 4th, from a heroin overdose. She was 27.

Aug 10, 1985: Simon Le Bon of Duran Duran is rescued at sea after his boat capsizes
A watery grave almost claimed the life of Duran Duran's lead singer, Simon Le Bon.

In the 1980s, the New Wave pop star was quite the nautical enthusiast – he owned a multi-million dollar yacht, which he named Drum, and entered it occasionally in sailing races off the coast of England. While competing in the prestigious Fastnet race, his boat capsized off the shores of Cornwall, leaving the singer and his crew trapped in the vessel for approximately 40 minutes as the hull flooded. The crew was rescued without fatalities and the accident did not deter Le Bon from participating in another race shortly afterward, though he later sold Drum.

Le Bon's seafaring ways, as well as his brush with death, were captured in the 1989 film Drum – The Journey of a Lifetime. In 2005, he borrowed back his original vessel and entered it in the Fastnet race – this time, finishing the journey.

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Song Stories

“Whoomp! (There It Is)”

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Cecil Glenn — a.k.a., "D.C." — was a cook at Magic City, a nude dance club in Atlanta, when he first heard women shout "Whoomp — there it is!" Inspired by the party chant, he and partner Steve "Roll'n" Gibson wrote a song around it. Undaunted by label rejections, they borrowed $2,500 from Glenn's parents and pressed 800 singles, which quickly sold out in the Atlanta area. A record deal came soon after. Glenn said the song was meant for positive partying. "If you're going to say 'Whoomp there it is,' and you're doing something negative, we'd rather it not have come out of your mouth."

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