December 8th marks a haunting anniversary—the day the music died a tragic death, echoing across the world with a poignant crescendo. Forty-three years ago today, the vibrant spirit of John Lennon, a luminary in the realm of music, was extinguished in a senseless act of violence.
John Lennon, the visionary, the troubadour of peace, whose melodies breathed hope into the hearts of millions, was abruptly silenced on that fateful day. His life, marked by the pursuit of harmony and a fervent belief in the power of love, met a tragic end at the hands of an assassin’s bullet.
It was the night of December 8, 1980, when John Lennon was shot and killed in the archway of the Dakota Building, his home in New York City. The killer was Mark David Chapman, a Beatles fan who had traveled to New York from Hawaii. Chapman explained that he resented Lennon and his public statements, particularly his statement about the Beatles being “more popular than Jesus” and the lyrics of their songs “God” and “Imagine.”
Chapman also said Holden Caulfield inspired him from JD Salinger’s 1951 novel “The Catcher in the Rye.” He planned the assassination for several months and waited for Lennon at the Dakota. That morning, he even got Lennon to sign his copy of the “Double Fantasy” album at one point.
Later that night, Lennon and his wife, Yoko Ono, returned, and as they walked toward the entrance, Chapman fired five shots, four of which struck Lennon in the back. Chapman remained at the scene, reading “Catcher in the Rye,” until police arrested him. Paramedics rushed Lennon to Roosevelt Hospital, where he was pronounced dead on arrival at 11:15 pm.
Alan J. Weiss, news producer of WABC-TV, was in the waiting room at Roosevelt Hospital after being injured in a motorcycle accident earlier that evening. He said he had seen the ambulance carrying Lennon arrive at the hospital, guarded by police officers. After discovering what happened, he called ABC News president Roone Arledge, who oversaw ABC’s coverage of Monday Night Football.
When Arledge discovered that Lennon had died, he suspended the broadcast of the New England Patriots-Miami Dolphins game with less than a minute remaining. Cosell interviewed Lennon in 1974 and told viewers: “Remember, this is just a game, no matter who wins or loses. An unspeakable tragedy confirmed by ABC News in New York City has occurred. John Lennon, outside his apartment building on the West Side of New York City, was shot several times in the back. He was rushed to the hospital but was pronounced dead on arrival. It’s hard to get back in the game after that news, which, by obligation, we have to spread”.
Yoko Ono said the day after Lennon’s death: “There is no funeral for John. John loved and prayed for the human race. Please do the same for him. Yoko and Sean.” His remains were cremated at Ferncliff Cemetery in Hartsdale, Westchester County, New York”.
Reactions from the other Beatles
The phone rang at Paul’s house while he was alone. Linda, his wife, had taken the children to school, allowing him a late breakfast before his scheduled departure for the studio. As he answered the call, the words from his agent didn’t immediately register. He either couldn’t grasp or didn’t want to accept what he was hearing: “John is dead,” the voice on the other end conveyed. McCartney stood there, stunned and motionless, beside the phone. Uncertain of what to do, he remained in that state until he heard the familiar sound of Linda’s car pulling up. Rushing outside to meet her, she caught sight of his expression and sensed something dreadful had occurred. It was a side of Paul she had never witnessed before—disconnected and shattered.
Paul decided to go to the studio and dull his pain and confusion with his best work: music. The session, though less smooth than usual, progressed. He worked on a track called “Rain Clouds.” At the studio door, many journalists awaited him: the flashbulbs, the microphones, the urgent questions. “I can’t take it. I don’t know what to say,” Paul said, looking down and hurrying to get lost in the building.
When Paul left the studio, it was already dark. The journalists were still waiting. With a blank look, he answered some questions without energy. He said he was in the studio listening to some things he didn’t want to sit at home. When he tried to go on his way, he was asked for some last words: “It’s a drag”. He answered on the fly. McCartney himself later regretted the comment. He later said he meant no disrespect and could not express his emotions due to his shock and sadness.
The day after the murder, his bandmate George Harrison told the press, “After everything we went through together, I have great love and respect for him. I am shocked. To take a life is the greatest theft of life. It’s terrible that people can take other people’s lives when they don’t have their lives in order.”
Harrison later privately told friends, “I just wanted to be in a band. Here we are, 20 years later, and a madman has shot my mate. He just wanted to play guitar in a band.”
On December 8, 1980, Ringo enjoyed himself in the Bahamas until the phone rang. It was his wife Barbara’s daughter. The girl told him that John had been shot. He began to cry uncontrollably. Got over the shock in a few minutes and called Maureen, his ex-wife. She knew that at their home in the English countryside, Cinthya Lennon, John’s first wife, was a few minutes away.
He called Maureen, his ex-wife. He knew that at his home in the English countryside, Cinthya Lennon, John’s first wife, was spending a few days with her. Ringo told Maureen, who passed the phone to her friend without looking her in the eye. “Ringo wants to tell you something.” Cynthia knew what was happening when she heard Ringo crying on the other end of the line; she started screaming desperately.
Ringo didn’t know what to do. As was her habit, she decided to follow her heart. Without consulting anyone, he left the Bahamas and flew to New York. He was the only three who went to the Big Apple in those hours. Upon arrival, he made his way to the Dakota Building. He crossed the tide of curious and heartbroken fans and hugged Yoko Ono. “What can I do?” he asked her. “We have to distract Sean,” Yoko said, and Ringo, heartbroken by the death of his friend, spent the whole afternoon playing with the four-year-old and making him laugh. “Anyone would have done it. That’s what friends do,” Ringo said years later.
The week following his death, Lennon’s new single ‘(Just Like) Starting Over’ climbed to number one in the UK singles chart. His famous festive song ‘Happy Xmas (War is Over)’ was re-released and went to number 4 the following week, and in the first week of January 1981, a re-release of ‘Imagine’ reached number one for five weeks. It was replaced at number one with the new single ‘Woman.’
What happened to Mark David Chapman?
Chapman pleaded guilty in 1981 to the murder of Lennon. He was sentenced to “20 years to life”. Twenty years later, in 2000, Chapman became automatically eligible for parole. Since then, he has been denied parole 11 times and remains incarcerated in an upstate New York prison. In 2020, he was quoted saying he was “very sorry” for killing Lennon and that he was “seeking attention.”
On December 14, 1980, millions worldwide paused for ten minutes of silence to remember Lennon. Thirty thousand gathered in his hometown of Liverpool, and the largest group – more than 225,000 people – gathered in New York’s Central Park. All radio stations in New York City stopped broadcasting during those ten minutes.
Lennon wasn’t just a musical prodigy; he was a symbol of an era, an apostle of change. His artistry transcended mere lyrics and chords, becoming a beacon of inspiration for a generation seeking liberation and social transformation. With the Beatles, he crafted symphonies that resonated with the pulse of a changing world, offering solace and solidarity during turbulent times.
Today, as we remember John Lennon, let us not only mourn his untimely departure but also celebrate the legacy he left behind. Let us carry forward his message of love, empathy, and harmony, striving to create a world where his vision of peace becomes a reality—a world where his timeless words, “Imagine all the people living life in peace,” are not just lyrics but a lived reality. John Lennon may have departed, but his spirit lives on, resonating eternally in the hearts of those who continue to love his music and believe in his dream.
For Times Media Mexico / The Yucatan Times
José E. Urioste Palomeque