In his life: A tribute to John Lennon
December 8th, 2010
12:08 PM ET

In his life: A tribute to John Lennon

John Lennon wanted us to imagine many things.

There was one thing, however, he never could have imagined: how the world would come together, distraught, while learning the news of his death. In fact, in his last interview before his murder, his comments were tragically ironic. In a December 5, 1980, interview for Rolling Stone, he complained about critics who he said were only interested in "dead heroes," something he had no desire to be, saying that he had "plenty of time" to accomplish some of his life goals.

"These critics with the illusions they've created about artists - it's like idol worship," he told the magazine. "They only like people when they're on their way up. … I cannot be on the way up again.

"What they want is dead heroes, like Sid Vicious and James Dean. I'm not interested in being a dead (expletive) hero. ...  So forget 'em, forget 'em."

But forget him, we would not.

Three days later, the Beatles front man was murdered on the steps of his New York apartment building. He and his wife, Yoko Ono, had just come home from an evening of recording tracks in their studio.

And in the years to follow, and 30 years ago Wednesday, Lennon is remembered exactly the way perhaps he had not wanted to be - as an idol.

Leading up to the anniversary, Vanity Fair even wrote a piece imagining where Lennon would be if he were alive today.

The anniversary of his untimely death marks a day of mourning for a whole generation. The cultural icon of their lives is gone. It's a day just about everyone who was alive remembers. One of those days where you recall exactly where you were when you heard the news.

During "Monday Night Football," Howard Cosell told Frank Gifford - off the air - that Lennon was dead. And in an ESPN video the two discuss how - and whether they should break the news to fans.

CNN's John Roberts, then a music journalist for City TV in Toronto, writes of the day, "It was one of those moments where time seems to slow down and the mind considers a hundred questions before finally settling on the truth: How could he have been shot? Are the reports mistaken? Who would do such a thing? How could we lose such a pop culture icon? Didn't he just turn 40? Didn't he have a young son? Didn't he have security?

"Will I wake up and this will all have been just a dream?"

Like Roberts, a few journalists shared their recollections of that fateful night and the roles they played in the coverage.

Jim Farber, a New York Daily News music critic, was a recent college graduate who was writing the record review column for Circus magazine when Mark David Chapman assassinated Lennon. He recalled hearing people talking about Lennon's death but dismissed it, until he saw the news. So he went to the scene where the music icon was gunned down.

"There were hundreds of people there, and they shut down parts of 72nd (Street) because there were so many people there," he said. "It was very emotional, if you could imagine, and I stayed there the whole night wandering around, talking to people and trying to get our heads around what had happened."

Ono, writing a column for The New York Times, however, chooses not to think of the day with unbearable sadness. Instead, she says she remembers the quiet moments she had with her husband and reflects on a night they shared laughter over a cup of tea.

"They say teenagers laugh at the drop of a hat. Nowadays I see many teenagers sad and angry with each other. John and I were hardly teenagers," she said. " But my memory of us is that we were a couple who laughed."

And she writes she hopes his legacy is not just in the words of his music, but in the work he did as well and his hope for peace.

"The most important gift we received from him was not words, but deeds. He believed in Truth, and had dared to speak up. We all knew that he upset certain powerful people with it. But that was John. He couldn’t have been any other way," Ono writes. "If he were here now, I think he would still be shouting the truth. Without the truth, there would be no way to achieve world peace."

Lennon indeed was a man who wanted to imagine - to imagine peace. Who wanted to help start a revolution to get us there.

So today, many fans around the world remember, and will as they gather Wednesday at Central Park's Strawberry Fields, how on December 8, 1980, what they couldn't imagine - that the man who gave them the words they lived by was gone.

And as he once sang, there are places we all remember.

"All these places had their moments, with lovers and friends, I still can recall. Some are dead and some are living. In my life I've loved them all."

And for Lennon fans, today is one of them. And without a doubt, they've loved every moment he created for them.

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Filed under: Celebrity • John Lennon • Music • Showbiz
soundoff (229 Responses)
  1. Max

    WOW, it's to bad Mr. Hello on Jim's comments could be backed up with some actual knowledge of John L. For instance the video was of a called love in, not a peace in, and it was in Montreal not Toronto...

    December 8, 2010 at 2:22 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Tevan

    I wonder how John would have dealt with radical Islam ?

    December 8, 2010 at 2:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • DCLaw-1

      Hmmmm? Maybe he would have written a song about it asking for peace and understanding, bank the profits,.maybe a publicity stunt or two if the song was not selling well, anf then he would retreat with his money back into the Dakota?

      December 8, 2010 at 3:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jason

      lol, gonna have to agree with DCLaw. He'd probably just spout a bunch of useless rhetoric about peace and love, make some offhand comment insulting Muhammad, and get off'd by some radical.

      December 8, 2010 at 8:41 pm | Report abuse |
  3. DC

    Don't forget, a more recent tragic loss, it is "Dimebag Darrell Abbott's anniversary too. The Best metal guitarist ever...

    December 8, 2010 at 2:27 pm | Report abuse |
  4. DaveS

    Something I never knew before but today, the day John was killed is also the day Jim Morrison was born.

    December 8, 2010 at 2:31 pm | Report abuse |
  5. DCLaw-1

    John was not a prophet, he was a business man. HIs business was selling his hippy BS. “Imagine no possession”………? It is easy to do John when you are sitting at a $50,000 piano in your Central Park West penthouse. And, please, John Lennon did not “give” the world anything, he sold it at market prices. See If Yoko doesn’t unleash her lawyers on anyone using John’s image, no matter the reason. The man was more the Bill Gates of the 60s music scene than the Dahli Llama, Martin Luther King, or Ghandi.

    December 8, 2010 at 2:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • CalgarySandy

      There is nothing wrong with making money from your talents. Lots of money if your talents are big enough. How is it that some of you little trolls are whining about how much money he had and the others are calling him a communist?

      This is the sad side of the Internet. The garbage oozes out and makes it look like everything has turned dark.

      December 8, 2010 at 5:37 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Edward Maynard

    The moment I heard that John Lennon had been murdered,I was over-whelmed with great sadness. I sat down immediately and wrote the following poem.I sent a copy to Yoko at that time. Never really knew if she received it or not. Now, thirty years later, I'll share it with you.

    Dear John, I heard the news today,
    I don't know what to say.
    Someone has murdered you?
    It just wasn't right to do!
    The truth! – It is so cold!
    So final! – As it unfolds,
    We will hear no more from you.
    Now – fear more cause of you.
    The violence that killed you,
    May some day kill us too!
    But you have not died in vain dear John,
    For you've left your words, like seeds behind.
    And the seeds will sprout!
    And the sprouts will root!
    And your garden of thoughts,
    Will prove you – no mute!
    Poet to poet, I just have to say,
    The torch has been passed
    Onto others today.
    John Lennon – John Lennon,
    Wherever you are?
    You'll always be close,
    No matter how far.

    Edward Maynard

    December 8, 2010 at 2:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sean

      Thank you Mr. Maynard. After having read the ugly opinions of some and the gracious memories of others, I would have to say that your post is the most memorable. Thank you for posting.

      December 8, 2010 at 5:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • CalgarySandy

      Heart felt. Thank you.

      December 8, 2010 at 5:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • Michael skurnik

      I would like to say what a nice thing you have done especially to honor a fall in hero like John Lennon ...bless your soul

      December 8, 2010 at 5:48 pm | Report abuse |
  7. chris

    great master of lyrics and melody. He at least knows for sure now if there is no heaven above or hell below.

    December 8, 2010 at 2:41 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Orv Pibbs

    John Lennon was a fabulous writer and performer, but also fallible and human, which it seems some folks seem to forget. Yes, he could have been a better dad to his first child, but we all could stand some improvement. As a musician myself, I treasure the Art and Music he left behind, and wished he would have been with us longer. Whether you loved him or hated him, loved the music or hated it, he and his music did change the world, whether you want to admit it or not.

    December 8, 2010 at 2:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ian

      Our best works of art are better than we can ever be.

      December 8, 2010 at 3:17 pm | Report abuse |
  9. puller

    "the Beatles front man"?????

    December 8, 2010 at 2:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • Imagine

      Yes, he was. Is that a problem for you?

      December 8, 2010 at 3:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jason

      The problem being that he wasn't...

      December 8, 2010 at 8:42 pm | Report abuse |
  10. jobean236

    An incredible man.....he saw potential in the human race and recognized that we can all pull together to make it a better place for everyone. He is greatly missed

    December 8, 2010 at 2:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jason

      Uh, him and every other hippie in the 60's. So what? I have far more significant and relevant role models.

      December 8, 2010 at 8:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • kyle My personal tribute to John Lennon after he gave me so much!

      December 11, 2010 at 6:18 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Steven

    Why do message boards always deteriorate into mean spirited chaos? Bizarre.

    December 8, 2010 at 2:57 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Marvel

    hundreds of people are murdered each day around the world, few if any speak for them. I can't believe that such ordeal is being made about John Lennon. Listening to people say what would John do about Islam or this or that is sort of sad. He was a musician nothing more not a political leader, a law maker, or empowered to do anything but preform for money and ride fame sort of like a 60's Paris Hilton. The only power he had was a strong fan base but in the end he couldn't change the world. The people who listened to him and other performers are the ones who enacted change if any, shame he took or is given the credit. All this ruckus over a dead stoner musician

    December 8, 2010 at 3:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • Imagine

      @Marvel. "a 60's Paris Hilton"???

      Are you kidding me? I'm sorry, you haven't a clue!

      December 8, 2010 at 3:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • melissa

      marvel – simply do some research and then repost. you have NO idea what he did and what he was about. did you know he donated MILLIONS to charities? he took in the homeless?? he believed in peace and making a difference. on top of that, he is one of the highest selling musicians of all time with the beatles AND as a solo artist. in addition, his artwork speaks volumes and is displayed in galleries all over the world. to this day, his message lives on. for you to say what you've said only means you've never actually learned about who he was or done any research on him. i hate when people spew things that make no sense just because they THINK they know when they really haven't a clue. now get off this page and go do something more productive.

      December 8, 2010 at 4:22 pm | Report abuse |
  13. tc

    I'll never forget seeing him for the first time on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1964 –

    December 8, 2010 at 3:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • jamesfinnerty

      Thanks for sharing that clip...brings back the memories!

      December 8, 2010 at 3:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • CalgarySandy

      Thank you. I was 16 when I first saw that. I can still see it in my mind's eye and I can regain a little bit of the excitement that I felt. Everything changed as being a Beatle's fan was enough to knock down the barriers of money, class, grades, clothes...

      December 8, 2010 at 5:42 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Ian

    Sad, but I was only a month old so to me John Lennon has always been dead. Too bad he went in such a way, but as far as music is concerned, I don't feel like we were robbed. There is plenty of his music out there. Don't feel that the fates owe us any more.

    December 8, 2010 at 3:15 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Marilyn

    I agree, the Beatles were not "gods" but they knew that better than anyone and as big of a Beatles fan that I am it does distress me that people can hold them up as being sacred. But in my humble opinion, they were the best thing to happen to music. I didn't agree with everything they stood for, I am too much my own person for that. Their music has brought me a lot of joy and how you can criticize that is beyond me.

    December 8, 2010 at 3:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • CalgarySandy

      Just curious as to why people think Beatle fans worship them. I have never seen anything that indicates this. Look at the way people carry on about Elvis and all he could do was interpret the songs other people wrote while someone else played the instruments. Nothing like that has ever occurred with John and never will.

      December 8, 2010 at 5:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jason


      Are you serious? Really? Hell, just read a few comments on boards like this. People become weak at the knees over this dead hippie. People who may have not even been born until after his time. Honestly from the comments I see, you'd think Lennon was people's own mother. Or Mother Theresa. Or Jesus. Or w/e. It's pathetic. Some folks need to get a grip. You'd think we're on a teen girl forum about Justin Bieber's death.

      December 8, 2010 at 8:46 pm | Report abuse |
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