Today marks 40 years since the untimely passing one of the most influential musicians of all time, John Lennon.
The year was 1980, John had won his legal cases against the United States Government to stay in the country four years prior. A 40-year-old John Lennon had just celebrated his birthday in the October, with his 5-year-old son Sean who shared the same birth date.
He and wife Yoko had spent the day in a photo shoot and interview with Rolling Stone at their Dakota Apartment residence on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. The couple had begun to record a new album and so left their home to head to the studio. It was outside his apartment that John first came into contact with his eventual killer, Mark David Chapman,
Chapman had bought the album from a New York record store, two days before the deed was done, and stood outside the Dakota, awaiting John Lennon. The couple left their home and stood curb side, awaiting a vehicle to take them to the studio, when a timid Chapman allegedly held out the album, and John asked; “do you want me to sign that for you?” Chapman nodded in silence. Amateur photographer Paul Goresh got a shot of Lennon in the process, this is alleged to be the last living image of John Lennon, and it happens to feature the man that ended his life.
At around 10:30pm, John and Yoko returned home from the studio, and John passed Chapman, who had waited with the album in hand for their return. As he passed, Chapman pulled out a 38-caliber revolver. He unleashed five shots at the back of Lennon, landing four of them.
John was announced dead upon arrival at the Roosevelt Hospital, 11:00pm, December 8th, 1980.
In the wake of john Lennon’s death, mass vigils were held around the world and are still held annually to this day, mourning the loss of a symbol of hope and peace. For all of his faults, John Lennon was an inspiration, seldom is it seen that one man could be the soundtrack to so many people’s lives, and the tradition still continues with each new generation of Beatles fans.
I myself was introduced to The Beatles via my Dad, who was introduced to the band by his ‘Beatle-maniac’ mother. We’d listen to Rubber Soul in his van on the way to football training, and I’d always ask him to replay ‘In My Life’, on account of the piano solo sounding like something of an old Super Mario game. This is the first song I ever remember hearing, it was also played at my grandmother’s funeral, and its message has stuck with my entire life. Musical tastes fluctuate as one travels through their life, but Lennon was and still is a constant, as I began to grow through my adolescence and I began to understand my identity songs like ‘Working Class Hero’, suddenly sounded brand new to me, Lennon’s music was helping me to learn about and understand the world around me, as well as describe those emotions and frustrations that I was feeling without being able to find the words. Lennon’s five-year stint away from recording between 1975 and 1980 was one that saw him work on himself, becoming a full-time father for his new son, Sean. When he returned for his final work with Yoko Ono, Double Fantasy, Johns writing had changed to a reflective, celebratory stance about life, like he’d found a new reason to live. It hadn’t ever stuck with me, until I was sixteen and my nephew was born. After holding him proud in my arms in the hospital, I got home and listened to ‘Beautiful Boy (Darling Boy)’ by chance, and it filled me with an unexplainable warmth, I finally understood. That’s the thing with Lennon, his music is for birth, and it his music is for death, along with everything in between, it stands the test of time, his music is forever.
In this vein, I argue, the world is not over the death of John Lennon, and I firmly believe that it never will be. It’s with a heavy heart that I write this article, it’s been 40 years. It would be another 20 years before I came into the world, and this story still hurts as if I was there for the initial breaking of the news. The world was robbed of a person more human than anyone on this day, 40 years ago, leaving behind a legacy that very few can compare to, as well as one of the biggest “what-ifs” in history.