Ex-Beatle John Lennon Murdered in NYC
For one generation, the tragedy of Nov. 22, 1963, is an indelible memory—they will always remember exactly where they were when they first heard the news that President Kennedy had been assassinated. For many people in the following generation, the date of Dec. 8, 1980, has the same impact—that awful moment when they first heard that John Lennon had been shot to death.
As shocking as the loss of President Kennedy was, the mind can at least grasp that, as a powerful political figure, it is not surprising that he had enemies. Whether Kennedy was killed by a lone gunman or his death was part of a complicated conspiracy—as many believe—history teaches us that influential world leaders always have opponents.
What makes the loss of John Lennon so hard to comprehend and accept—even 31 years later—is that his murder was so senseless. The craziness of Beatlemania, and the fury provoked by his remark that the Beatles were more popular than Jesus, was long behind him. In fact, for the five years before his murder, Lennon had basically dropped out of sight, retiring from the frantic pace of the music business in 1975 to enjoy ordinary daily pleasures most of us take for granted: taking care of the house, raising his son, baking bread, chatting with his wife Yoko Ono over dinner…for five years John Lennon was a contented househusband.
Then in 1980, he went back into the recording studio to make music again. He and Ono’s album Double Fantasy was released on November 17, and its first single, “(Just Like) Starting Over,” was on the airwaves. The album’s tone and Lennon’s outlook in recent interviews were optimistic and upbeat. Just three weeks later he was murdered.
When Lennon and Ono left their apartment building “the Dakota” to go to the recording studio around 5:00 p.m. on Dec. 8, 1980, a fan named Mark David Chapman shook Lennon’s hand and asked his idol to sign his copy of Double Fantasy. Lennon obliged him. Chapman then hung around the entrance to the Dakota and waited.
Lennon and Ono returned at 10:49 that night. After they got out of the car, Chapman fired four bullets into Lennon’s back. Although police rushed the mortally wounded singer to a nearby hospital, John Lennon was pronounced dead at 11:07 p.m. Killed by a deranged fan… just as he was making his comeback…just as he was about to step into the security of his own home…it was, and is, too much to comprehend.
The following four newspaper articles are about John Lennon’s murder, and a tribute/criticism/history of the man and his music. These copyrighted articles were printed by the Dallas Morning News (Dallas, Texas) on Dec. 9, 1980:
‘Screwball’ Kills John Lennon
New York (AP)—Former Beatle John Lennon, who with the long-haired British rock group was catapulted to stardom in the 1960s, was shot to death late Monday outside his luxury apartment building on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, police said.
Authorities said Lennon, 40, was rushed in a police car to Roosevelt Hospital, where he was pronounced dead shortly after arrival.
Police said the shooting occurred outside the Dakota, the century-old luxury apartment house where Lennon and his wife, Yoko Ono, lived across the street from Central Park.
Police said they had a suspect and described him as “a local screwball” with no apparent motive for shooting Lennon.
Jack Douglas, Lennon’s producer, said he and the Lennons had been at a studio called the Record Plant in midtown earlier in the evening and that Lennon left at 10:30 p.m. Lennon said he was going to get a bite to eat and go home, Douglas said.
A bystander, Sean Strub, said he was walking south near 72nd Street when he heard four shots. He said he came around the corner to Central Park West and saw Lennon being put into the back of a police car.
“Some people [said] they heard six shots and said John was hit twice,” Strub said. “Police said he was hit in the back.”
He said others on the street told him the assailant had been “crouching in the archway of the Dakota…Lennon arrived in the company of his wife and the assailant fired.”
He said the suspect, a “pudgy kind of man” 35 to 40 years old with brown hair, was put into another police car.
“He had a smirk on his face” when police took him away, Strub said.
Lennon rocketed to fame in the early 1960s when he and fellow Britons Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr introduced a new sound that changed the course of rock and roll.
Lennon, who turned 40 Oct. 9, was responsible for writing many of the group’s songs.
In an interview earlier this year—his first major interview in five years—Lennon said he had wanted to leave the Beatles as early as 1966 but did not make the move until four years later because he “just didn’t have the guts.”
After the Beatles broke up in 1970, Lennon continued writing songs and recording. But in 1975, he dropped out for five years, saying he wanted to be with his son, Sean, and his wife.
It was not until last summer that he returned to music, and his 14-song album, Double Fantasy, was released last month. The album, which includes songs by Miss Ono, is based on Lennon’s experiences over the five years, during which he kept house, cooked, and cared for their son.
The seed for the Beatles band dates back to 1955 when Lennon met McCartney at a Liverpool, England, church social. The two started performing as a duo, called the Quarrymen, and were joined three years later by Harrison.
Starr did not come into the band until 1962—a year before the Beatles hit the top of the charts.
“Beatlemania” did not cross the ocean to the United States until 1964, when I Want to Hold Your Hand was released and the late Ed Sullivan invited the Beatles to appear on his weekly television show.
Meet the Beatles became the best selling record album in history to that date.
John Screamed Love in Many Tunes
By Pete Oppel
John Lennon, the most complex of the four Beatles, vented his anger in his music. Only Lennon, who died Monday night after being gunned down outside his Manhattan apartment, could scream a lyric such as “give peace a chance.”
This contradiction—his desire to please his audience one minute and attack it the next—was at the heart of Lennon’s music. While still a member of the Beatles, he composed a violent song called Helter Skelter [note: Paul McCartney actually wrote this song—ed.], which mass-murderer Charles Manson said contained a secret message that propelled him to kill. Yet Lennon also could compose the peaceful Imagine.
Lennon kept out of the public eye for most of the last half of the ’70s. Before this year, his last album, a greatest hits collection, was released in 1975. But he resurfaced a couple of months ago, entering a New York recording studio with his wife, Yoko Ono, to record an album called Double Fantasy, which was released last month.
That album entered Billboard magazine’s Top 200 chart at the No. 25 position this week. And the single taken from that album, called (Just Like) Starting Over, was the country’s No. 6 song, the trade magazine said.
The new album was—typically like everything Lennon touched—marked by desperation, smugness and confusion.
Although Paul McCartney was the first to leave the Beatles, Lennon was the first of the four to release records on his own, using the guise of the Plastic Ono Band. Three albums, Unfinished Music No. 1—Two Virgins (1968), Unfinished Music No. 2—Life with the Lions (1969) and The Wedding Album (1969) came out of this period.
All three albums were influenced heavily by Lennon’s involvement with Miss Ono, whom he married in Gibraltar in 1969.
Two Virgins featured the scandalous cover on which they appeared stark naked, Lions commemorated Yoko’s 1969 miscarriage, and The Wedding Album marked the start of the pair’s worldwide crusade for peace, which produced their fourth album, Live Peace in Toronto 1969.
That album featured one side of Lennon’s raving style of rock with a band that included guitarist Eric Clapton and one side of Miss Ono’s avant-garde chants. But this period also produced three of Lennon’s most well-regarded singles: Give Peace a Chance, Cold Turkey and Instant Karma.
In 1970 Lennon produced the work that marked him as one of the most important composers in the field of rock music. That album was called John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band. And it showed Lennon as a man liberated by the demise of the Beatles. It was a statement of fury, resentment and self-pity, but in its starkness it revealed the darkest corners of Lennon’s soul and his singing on the last verse of God’s Song was his finest performance on disc. John Lennon, like many artists before and after, was publicly licking his wounds on this record, but no one has ever done it more compellingly than Lennon did.
If the theme of that album was “the dream is over,” Lennon became more optimistic with his next release Imagine. Although it contained a devastating attack on McCartney in a song called How Do You Sleep, this 1971 release was far more romantic in nature than its predecessor.
But Lennon seemed to lose his sense of musical direction after that. His albums since leaving the Beatles never lived up to the expectations raised by John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band and Imagine.
Some Time in New York City, released in 1972, was a total disaster.
It was a collaboration of John, Yoko and a leftist rock band called Elephant’s Memory, whose main claim to fame before this was contributing much of the music to the soundtrack of the film Midnight Cowboy. This album contained pointless protest songs and mindless live recordings, some with Frank Zappa. It was difficult to take either Lennon or his music seriously.
Mind Games, released in 1973, and Walls and Bridges, in 1974, were improvements. At least Lennon was experimenting with melodies again, but the songs lacked any point of view. It appeared Lennon could no longer relate to his audience and was substituting lush production techniques for soul. It was another in a long line of Lennon contradictions, as the title of the 1974 album indicated.
He was attempting to bridge the gap between himself and his audience, but he was building the wall around himself ever higher.
But part of the problem could be attributed to his separation from Yoko.
In 1975, apparently at a loss about how to communicate, he tried what many others had attempted—to return to his roots by recording an album of “oldies.” The LP, Rock ’n’ Roll, began as a collaboration with noted producer Phil Spector, but neither the partnership nor the album worked out well. After that defeat, Lennon seemed to retire from the music world.
But his personal life improved. He and Yoko were reunited in 1975, and she bore him a son. His 5-year battle with the U.S. Immigration Department ended that year when the U.S. Supreme Court granted him a green card, which allowed him to work and live in the country.
Lennon began work on his latest project last year in Bermuda, where he was living with his son, Sean, 5. He wrote the songs, called Yoko in New York and sang them to her. She wrote her songs in reply.
It could have been a romantic plea to Yoko or a request from an artist, gone from the public spotlight for five years, to begin a musical romance anew.
But the plea died with Lennon Monday night on a Manhattan street. In the final contradiction, the man who said: “Give peace a chance” died in a blaze of violence.
John Lennon: Intellectual Rock Rebel
(copyright New York Times News Service, 1980)
New York—The Beatles united a generation of young people with their songs, their attitudes, and their sense of style, and John Lennon was the Thinking Man’s Beatle.
He was the Beatle who wrote books, the Beatle who brought the group to the brink of disaster by suggesting in an interview that they were more popular than Jesus, the Beatle who embraced the poetic innovations of Bob Dylan in the mid-60s and the Beatle who shocked fans by jumping into performance art, happenings and political protests in the late ’60s and early ’70s.
He was the Beatle who announced, in one of his first post-Beatles solo albums, that “The Dream Is Over”—the dream of community through peace, love, mysticism and psychedelic drugs the Beatles had encouraged and advertised.
And yet, paradoxically, Lennon never lost sight of that dream. “The media are saying that the ’60s were stupid and naïve,” he remarked in an interview only a month ago. “But look at how much of what was sniggered about in the ’60s has become mainstream—health food, therapies, and all the rest. And love and peace weren’t invented in the ’60s. What about Ghandi, what about Christ? The naivete is to buy the idea that the ’60s were naïve.”
Lennon’s first new single in five years, which is now in the national top 10, is optimistically titled Starting Over.
John Lennon was born Oct. 9, 1940, in Liverpool, England, and when he was in his early teens he felt the full force of Elvis Presley, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis—the earliest American rock and roll.
He organized his first rock and roll group, the Quarrymen, when he was 15, continuing it after he entered art school and enlisting the services of Paul McCartney and George Harrison.
Between 1958 and 1962 the group worked steadily in the port cities of Liverpool and Hamburg, playing loud, raucous, heavily black-influenced rock and roll for loud, raucous audiences.
In 1961 they came to the attention of Brian Epstein, who secured them a recording contract, plotted and then executed their conquest of England and Europe, and arranged for them to tour America early in 1964.
Lennon and Paul McCartney were the group’s lead vocalists and songwriters, and as the Beatles grew more and more popular worldwide, their songs grew more complex. The early songs had been of the moon-June-spoon variety, but by the mid-60s the Beatles were leaders of a worldwide rock movement that believed music with a beat could and should be intelligent and innovative as well.
The Beatles were the first popular rock and roll band to write their own material, to address a whole range of serious subjects and to embrace influences that ranged from Dylan’s folk poetry to Indian classical music to Karlheinz Stockhausen’s electronic sound collages.
John and Paul Penned Path of Lasting Magic
New York (AP)—The songwriting team of John Lennon and Paul McCartney was the most important new entry on the popular music scene during the last 20 years.
Elvis Presley is the father of rock ’n’ roll, but his pelvic gyrations and raw secularizing from gospel music roots appalled middle and older generations. The first time the Beatles came to America, to perform on the Ed Sullivan Show, conductor Leonard Bernstein took his three children and praised the music.
Less erudite musically liked them, too. The “mop-top Liverpudlians” looked clean and wholesome and their songs were nice, I Want to Hold Your Hand and I Saw Her Standing There.
The Beatles, with Lennon and McCartney standing out because they wrote the songs, brought such strength to rock ’n’ roll that for a time all other music was out. Jazz went under the tidal wave and so did previously hit crooners like Eddie Fisher.
The Beatles sang with a U.S. Southern accent when they began, although they talked with the Liverpool accents they grew up speaking. They had been listening to American records.
Anyone would expect that the Beatles would be innovators and then fade away, as Bill Haley and the Comets had done after their Rock around the Clock spoke so strongly to teenagers in 1955. But they didn’t. Lennon and McCartney remained innovators and excellent songwriters, of songs that continued to grab the teen, and older, public.
But the Beatles, performing the Lennon-McCartney songs and only occasionally a song by George Harrison and Ringo Starr, remained the top pop music group in the world from their first album in 1964 [note: U.S. release; their first two albums were actually released in Great Britain in 1963—ed.] to their last in 1970.