I can clearly remember the tears running down my Mother’s face as she listened to the report of John Lennon’s death on the news. I quickly came down the stairs as I heard her grief, wondering what had happened, and when she told me I couldn’t really understand why this was so important to her. But then, I was only eight years old, and too young to realise the relevance that certain people, particular those as iconic as Lennon, take on in the eyes of regular mortal beings. I went to my Mother and she hugged me tightly, weeping as if one of the members of our family had passed. Sometime later, as she played a song called ’Woman’ over and over again, I was still confused. How could she be so affected by the death of someone she had never met, someone she had never even spoken to? Years later, as I wiped away my own tears after hearing that Kurt Cobain had taken his life, I finally understood. Just because you never met someone doesn’t mean that they didn’t speak to you. And with John Lennon, that was the voice of a generation.

Lennon died 31 years ago this past week, senselessly gunned down by a fan. Mark David Chapman had travelled to New York City with the express intention of murdering his idol. A voice in his head was allegedly driving him to do it. On the evening of December 8th, 1980 Lennon and Yoko Ono had been in the recording studio, putting the final mix to a track for a new album, and they returned to the Dakota Building, situated on Central Park West at around ten-thirty. Their car dropped them in front of the building on the avenue. Chapman was waiting for them, although this wasn’t unusual as fans often waited outside the building, hoping for a picture or word with Lennon, who was always happy to oblige. He’d obliged Chapman already that evening; a couple of hours previously, as they’d left, Chapman had approached Lennon and asked him to sign his copy of the Double Fantasy album. The moment is captured in the picture above, taken by fan and photographer Paul Goresh. Upon doing so, Lennon asked him, “Is that all you want?” Chapman nodded.
It wasn’t all he wanted. As the couple exited the car and climbed the steps to the lobby of the Dakota Chapman stepped behind them and fired five shots from a .38 special revolver. The bullets were hollow-points and four of them hit Lennon, tearing into his back and shoulder. While the concierge rushed to help Lennon, at first trying to apply a tourniquet and then simply removing his glasses and covering him with a jacket when he realised his injuries were so severe, Chapman took off his hat and coat and sat crossed-legged on the steps of the building, waiting for the police to arrive. When the concierge screamed at him, asked him if he knew what he’d done, Chapman calmly replied, “Yeah, I’ve just shot John Lennon.” Minutes later the first police on the scene arrested him, while colleagues carried Lennon to their squad car and rushed him to the emergency room at Roosevelt hospital. However, despite doctors opening his chest and manually massaging his heart the injuries to his internal organs were too great. Lennon had lost over eighty percent of his blood, and at 11.15pm was officially pronounced dead.
In the days following his murder there was worldwide shock, anger and sadness. Yoko appealed for calm after several fans committed suicide, and led a mass gathering of people in Central Park who mourned her husband. Lennon was cremated but no formal funeral was held, with Yoko stating that “he loved and prayed for the Human race, please do the same for him.” Chapman was charged with murder and convicted to twenty years in June 1981, after pleading guilty to the crime. He became eligible for parole in 2000, but despite repeated hearings remains behind bars.
It’s easy to speculate what Lennon would have become had he lived. Certainly he had already attained the status of legend through his incredible solo output and with The Beatles, and was without doubt one of the finest songwriters and musicians the world had ever seen. Following the break-up of The Beatles in 1970 he moved to New York with Ono the following year, and it was here he embraced spiritualism and emotional cleansing, partly through therapy and the intensity of his relationship with Yoko, and partly through music. His first post-Beatles release, John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band was a raw and brilliant record; Mother was a plain cry for a twisted and broken childhood, Working Class Hero a stark reminder that despite his success his roots were still very obvious, and with the album closing track, God, Lennon reminded us once again that he truly believed in himself and Ono as a guiding force, renouncing external saviours. Nothing he recorded through the rest of his life would be as essential or as critically well-received. It was a record that threw off the heavy shackles of the last few Beatles years and that moved Lennon into the artist he wanted to be. And with Yoko as his constant companion and muse, he became the man he wanted to be. Many accuse Ono of destroying the Beatles. Few give her credit for saving Lennon.
In these modern times of Bono and Chris Martin rubbing shoulders with the Dalai Lama and Kofi Annan it’s nothing new to see rock stars entering the field of political activism. In the early seventies though, it was unheard of. Dylan may have had years of protest in song but it was Lennon who realised that through his intense following and global fame his voice would be heard and listened to. America was heavily into the full horror of Vietnam, the happiness kick of the sixties had died post-Woodstock, and a new young generation took a look around and didn’t like what they saw. Kids were coming home in body bags from a war that few understood. Late in 1971 he released a single, Happy Xmas (War Is Over), and in support had a dozen billboards placed in cities around the world that declared “War Is Over - If You Want It.” This was to be the start of a four year investigation into Lennon from the FBI and the Government; Richard Nixon himself wanted Lennon deported for his political views, but despite countless attempts Lennon stayed in America, although he was denied full residency until 1976. Lennon became involved with Abbie Hoffman, and sang at a rally protesting the innocence of White Panther leader and poet John Sinclair. As the death toll in Vietnam escalated, all Lennon asked us to do was “Give Peace A Chance.” People listened, and politicians were frightened of his anti-war stance. With more fame and money than he could have ever imagined Lennon only needed to make music for pleasure. His views and opinions on life were what now defined him, and he became as influential as those who tried to censor him.
But it wasn’t all good. Alcohol and drugs consumed him, and during the recording of Mind Games in 1973 he and Ono separated for eighteen months, a period which he called his ‘lost weekend’. He had a brief relationship with an assistant, and appeared several times in the press due to his drunken exploits. He still made autobiographical music in this period; Cold Turkey concerning his efforts to get clean from heroin and Whatever Gets You Through The Night a plaintive call for Ono’s help, but the albums of this period were muddled affairs, much like Lennon’s mind. In 1975 he and Yoko resumed their love affair and released an album of covers, Rock And Roll, which was a return to his roots. Single Stand By Me would the last thing he would release for five years. The same year his second son, Sean, was born, and he retreated from public life and imposed a self-styled hiatus on the music industry, devoting his time to family life and his young child. During the next few years he would paint and write constantly, with many of these pieces being released posthumously. He spent his time getting sober, helping friends with recordings, sharing his love with his family. In the October of 1980 he finally released a new single, Just Like (Starting Over), and Double Fantasy arrived a month later. It was not particularly well received in the press, although the sessions had yielded enough material for a follow-up, titled Milk And Honey, which he planned to release the following year. It was following a session mixing this record that he was killed.
So it is easy to speculate what Lennon would have become, and like all speculation it’s easy to see it through rose-tinted glasses. But out of all the casualties from rock and pop music - Morrison, Hendrix, Joplin, Cobain, Bonham etc. - you feel it’s Lennon who may have survived the best. Would The Beatles have played together again? Paul McCartney and Lennon had their share of arguments and public disagreements throughout the seventies, but time is a great healer in music, and perhaps Live Aid in 1985 would have been the place, certainly a cause that Lennon would have felt strongly about. You could even see it being Lennon that led the fight against African famine instead of Geldof. Certainly he would have moved onto the global stage - United Nations, Greenpeace - in the same way that the aforementioned Bono has successfully done. From the earliest days of The Beatles he understood the power of image, of statement, of press manipulation; in these modern times of instant worldwide communication, his voice would be more powerful than ever. Personally, I feel he would have moved fully into politics, perhaps returning to his beloved England and even leading a party. Lennon was the last person to slip quietly into the night. But then, that’s the trouble with speculation. We can never know. He may have died in 1984 of a heroin overdose. But I hope not.
His ashes were scattered by Ono over an area of Central Park opposite the Dakota Building, in an area he loved to sit and watch the world go by. These days the Strawberry Fields memorial stands there. I stood there once, looked at the immaculate flower beds and messages left by fans, then went and stood near the entrance to the Dakota. Across the street a young kid was busking, doing justice to Lennon’s most famous solo song, Imagine. I stayed and listened and remembered the tears on my Mom’s face years before. Here are simple truths: Music is important. Musicians are important. Icons are important. They become our friends and our families, understand when we are lonely and rage with us during our anger, and are constant lights in the darkness of our lives. And they do not deserve to be extinguished.

I can clearly remember the tears running down my Mother’s face as she listened to the report of John Lennon’s death on the news. I quickly came down the stairs as I heard her grief, wondering what had happened, and when she told me I couldn’t really understand why this was so important to her. But then, I was only eight years old, and too young to realise the relevance that certain people, particular those as iconic as Lennon, take on in the eyes of regular mortal beings. I went to my Mother and she hugged me tightly, weeping as if one of the members of our family had passed. Sometime later, as she played a song called ’Woman’ over and over again, I was still confused. How could she be so affected by the death of someone she had never met, someone she had never even spoken to? Years later, as I wiped away my own tears after hearing that Kurt Cobain had taken his life, I finally understood. Just because you never met someone doesn’t mean that they didn’t speak to you. And with John Lennon, that was the voice of a generation.

Lennon died 31 years ago this past week, senselessly gunned down by a fan. Mark David Chapman had travelled to New York City with the express intention of murdering his idol. A voice in his head was allegedly driving him to do it. On the evening of December 8th, 1980 Lennon and Yoko Ono had been in the recording studio, putting the final mix to a track for a new album, and they returned to the Dakota Building, situated on Central Park West at around ten-thirty. Their car dropped them in front of the building on the avenue. Chapman was waiting for them, although this wasn’t unusual as fans often waited outside the building, hoping for a picture or word with Lennon, who was always happy to oblige. He’d obliged Chapman already that evening; a couple of hours previously, as they’d left, Chapman had approached Lennon and asked him to sign his copy of the Double Fantasy album. The moment is captured in the picture above, taken by fan and photographer Paul Goresh. Upon doing so, Lennon asked him, “Is that all you want?” Chapman nodded.

It wasn’t all he wanted. As the couple exited the car and climbed the steps to the lobby of the Dakota Chapman stepped behind them and fired five shots from a .38 special revolver. The bullets were hollow-points and four of them hit Lennon, tearing into his back and shoulder. While the concierge rushed to help Lennon, at first trying to apply a tourniquet and then simply removing his glasses and covering him with a jacket when he realised his injuries were so severe, Chapman took off his hat and coat and sat crossed-legged on the steps of the building, waiting for the police to arrive. When the concierge screamed at him, asked him if he knew what he’d done, Chapman calmly replied, “Yeah, I’ve just shot John Lennon.” Minutes later the first police on the scene arrested him, while colleagues carried Lennon to their squad car and rushed him to the emergency room at Roosevelt hospital. However, despite doctors opening his chest and manually massaging his heart the injuries to his internal organs were too great. Lennon had lost over eighty percent of his blood, and at 11.15pm was officially pronounced dead.

In the days following his murder there was worldwide shock, anger and sadness. Yoko appealed for calm after several fans committed suicide, and led a mass gathering of people in Central Park who mourned her husband. Lennon was cremated but no formal funeral was held, with Yoko stating that “he loved and prayed for the Human race, please do the same for him.” Chapman was charged with murder and convicted to twenty years in June 1981, after pleading guilty to the crime. He became eligible for parole in 2000, but despite repeated hearings remains behind bars.

It’s easy to speculate what Lennon would have become had he lived. Certainly he had already attained the status of legend through his incredible solo output and with The Beatles, and was without doubt one of the finest songwriters and musicians the world had ever seen. Following the break-up of The Beatles in 1970 he moved to New York with Ono the following year, and it was here he embraced spiritualism and emotional cleansing, partly through therapy and the intensity of his relationship with Yoko, and partly through music. His first post-Beatles release, John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band was a raw and brilliant record; Mother was a plain cry for a twisted and broken childhood, Working Class Hero a stark reminder that despite his success his roots were still very obvious, and with the album closing track, God, Lennon reminded us once again that he truly believed in himself and Ono as a guiding force, renouncing external saviours. Nothing he recorded through the rest of his life would be as essential or as critically well-received. It was a record that threw off the heavy shackles of the last few Beatles years and that moved Lennon into the artist he wanted to be. And with Yoko as his constant companion and muse, he became the man he wanted to be. Many accuse Ono of destroying the Beatles. Few give her credit for saving Lennon.

In these modern times of Bono and Chris Martin rubbing shoulders with the Dalai Lama and Kofi Annan it’s nothing new to see rock stars entering the field of political activism. In the early seventies though, it was unheard of. Dylan may have had years of protest in song but it was Lennon who realised that through his intense following and global fame his voice would be heard and listened to. America was heavily into the full horror of Vietnam, the happiness kick of the sixties had died post-Woodstock, and a new young generation took a look around and didn’t like what they saw. Kids were coming home in body bags from a war that few understood. Late in 1971 he released a single, Happy Xmas (War Is Over), and in support had a dozen billboards placed in cities around the world that declared “War Is Over - If You Want It.” This was to be the start of a four year investigation into Lennon from the FBI and the Government; Richard Nixon himself wanted Lennon deported for his political views, but despite countless attempts Lennon stayed in America, although he was denied full residency until 1976. Lennon became involved with Abbie Hoffman, and sang at a rally protesting the innocence of White Panther leader and poet John Sinclair. As the death toll in Vietnam escalated, all Lennon asked us to do was “Give Peace A Chance.” People listened, and politicians were frightened of his anti-war stance. With more fame and money than he could have ever imagined Lennon only needed to make music for pleasure. His views and opinions on life were what now defined him, and he became as influential as those who tried to censor him.

But it wasn’t all good. Alcohol and drugs consumed him, and during the recording of Mind Games in 1973 he and Ono separated for eighteen months, a period which he called his ‘lost weekend’. He had a brief relationship with an assistant, and appeared several times in the press due to his drunken exploits. He still made autobiographical music in this period; Cold Turkey concerning his efforts to get clean from heroin and Whatever Gets You Through The Night a plaintive call for Ono’s help, but the albums of this period were muddled affairs, much like Lennon’s mind. In 1975 he and Yoko resumed their love affair and released an album of covers, Rock And Roll, which was a return to his roots. Single Stand By Me would the last thing he would release for five years. The same year his second son, Sean, was born, and he retreated from public life and imposed a self-styled hiatus on the music industry, devoting his time to family life and his young child. During the next few years he would paint and write constantly, with many of these pieces being released posthumously. He spent his time getting sober, helping friends with recordings, sharing his love with his family. In the October of 1980 he finally released a new single, Just Like (Starting Over), and Double Fantasy arrived a month later. It was not particularly well received in the press, although the sessions had yielded enough material for a follow-up, titled Milk And Honey, which he planned to release the following year. It was following a session mixing this record that he was killed.

So it is easy to speculate what Lennon would have become, and like all speculation it’s easy to see it through rose-tinted glasses. But out of all the casualties from rock and pop music - Morrison, Hendrix, Joplin, Cobain, Bonham etc. - you feel it’s Lennon who may have survived the best. Would The Beatles have played together again? Paul McCartney and Lennon had their share of arguments and public disagreements throughout the seventies, but time is a great healer in music, and perhaps Live Aid in 1985 would have been the place, certainly a cause that Lennon would have felt strongly about. You could even see it being Lennon that led the fight against African famine instead of Geldof. Certainly he would have moved onto the global stage - United Nations, Greenpeace - in the same way that the aforementioned Bono has successfully done. From the earliest days of The Beatles he understood the power of image, of statement, of press manipulation; in these modern times of instant worldwide communication, his voice would be more powerful than ever. Personally, I feel he would have moved fully into politics, perhaps returning to his beloved England and even leading a party. Lennon was the last person to slip quietly into the night. But then, that’s the trouble with speculation. We can never know. He may have died in 1984 of a heroin overdose. But I hope not.

His ashes were scattered by Ono over an area of Central Park opposite the Dakota Building, in an area he loved to sit and watch the world go by. These days the Strawberry Fields memorial stands there. I stood there once, looked at the immaculate flower beds and messages left by fans, then went and stood near the entrance to the Dakota. Across the street a young kid was busking, doing justice to Lennon’s most famous solo song, Imagine. I stayed and listened and remembered the tears on my Mom’s face years before. Here are simple truths: Music is important. Musicians are important. Icons are important. They become our friends and our families, understand when we are lonely and rage with us during our anger, and are constant lights in the darkness of our lives. And they do not deserve to be extinguished.

  1. cocoatai reblogged this from therealrichwilson
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  5. bluegrassbeauty reblogged this from h-hiddleston and added:
    alton—brown: So that’s the guy who killed John Lennon? Freaky…
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  16. buddies-and-pals reblogged this from johnlemon-pie and added:
    This made me cry. Thinking about John still alive makes me sad, because I know he would become all this and more. He...
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  18. h-hiddleston reblogged this from stewco and added:
    I never knew that’s what that picture was from.
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    never read anything better
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