Today is the 35th anniversary of the death of John Lennon. On December 8, 1980, John Lennon and his wife Yoko Ono were at their home in New York City with Annie Leibovitz. Leibovitz was a photographer for Rolling Stone magazine. She wanted to get a picture of John Lennon for the cover of the magazine. Lennon wanted to have his wife in the picture with him. Leibovitz finally agreed to John’s terms and took the picture of the couple. At around 6:00 p.m., Lennon and Ono left their apartment to go to a music studio to do some work on a song that the duo made. As Lennon and Ono returned home, groups of fans were waiting outside their apartment hoping to get an autograph from John. One of those people was Mark David Chapman, John Lennon’s assassin.
Mark David Chapman had been waiting for Lennon for most of the afternoon and evening on December 8. When Lennon and Ono finally arrived home, Lennon met with some fans to sign autographs. Chapman screamed out John’s name to get his attention, took a combat stance, and fired his gun five times at John. Four of the five shots penetrated Lennon’s body. John was able to get to security at his apartment and said, “I’m shot. I’m shot.” The security guard called for help.
While Lennon was bleeding out, Chapman calmly stayed at the scene to wait for police to arrest him. When police arrived, Chapman was arrested without any incident. While in custody he told police, “I acted alone. Lennon had to die.” Chapman was found guilty and sentenced to 20 years to life in prison. In 2000, Chapman was denied parole. The prison officials who denied him parole said in a statement to Chapman that his “vicious and violent act was apparently fueled by your need to be acknowledged.”
John Lennon died at the hospital, 25 minutes after he was shot.
Howard Cosell was the first person to break the news to the world that John Lennon had been killed. Cosell made the announcement during the Monday Night Football game that was airing on ABC.
“One of the great figures of the entire world, one of the great artists, was shot to death, horribly, at the Dakota Apartments, 72nd Street and Central Park West, in New York City. John Lennon is dead. He was the most important member of the Beatles, and the Beatles, led by John Lennon, created music that touched the whole of civilization. Not just people in Liverpool, where the group was born, but the people of the world.”
John Lennon was considered to be a voice for an entire generation. Marin Lewis is a Beatles scholar. Lewis put into perspective just how much of a cultural icon Lennon was.
“That’s what John Lennon is, more than a musician. He’s like Martin Luther King: a flawed human being who rose above his own flaws to inspire other people. And you can’t ask more of a human being than that.”
The death of John Lennon triggered a grief and mourning period that circled the Earth. For weeks after his death, fans kept a vigil outside of his apartment where the assassination took place. Some fans were so consumed with grief that they actually took their own lives, not being able to live in a world where John Lennon was murdered.
A memorial to John Lennon exists in a part of Central Park that is across from Lennon and Ono’s apartment. The “Strawberry Fields” section was landscaped by Yoko Ono.
Do you remember when John Lennon died? What can you remember most during the aftermath of Lennon’s murder?
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[Image Via AP Photo/Kathy Willens]