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. Benjamin

    A cheating, drug using, anti-American musician getting the love. It gives a lot of losers hope . . . if they could just write a few good songs.

    December 8, 2010 at 3:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • Peace

      He loved America so much he fought for years for the right to live here. And then he was brutally murdered by an American. George W. Bush used drugs and never wrote a love song.

      December 8, 2010 at 3:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • melissa

      you remind me of one of those tea bagger people, i mean, tea party people. in other words, crazy. if you knew a damn thing about john lennon, you know that he loved america more than most people i know. many people chat – has nothing at all to do with who he was as an artist and pretty much every musician does drugs – wake up...if you hate him that much, get off this damn page so real fans can discuss how awesome he was!

      peace – you rock. love the statement.

      December 8, 2010 at 4:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • whocares

      Really melissa, tea bagger? So you're anti-gay. Good to know. I also like that you defend drug use because "lots of musicians do drugs". So if all your friends were jumping off a cliff....

      December 8, 2010 at 4:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • Imagine

      @whocares. Careful, your reading comprehension issues are showing again.

      December 8, 2010 at 4:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • whocares

      @imagine, you're really sad. My comment was very clear and very related to melissa's comments. I'm sorry you can't find another reason to insult me so you're resorting to making up blanket statements without merit, but this is indeed the case. I don't question myself after your baseless yet condescending remarks. I do admire your tenacity, however. Well played.

      December 8, 2010 at 4:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • Marvel

      Benjamin , didn't you know he gave millions to charities and took in the homeless, yeah right. He was a stoner and once a year people shall rant about him and once the hippie generation passes he shall be forgotten. As far as being anti American, he took acid and got rich while other real Americans died in war, it is easy to speak out for peace when your not the one fighting and dying. And as far as melissa and Imagine go, Just because he was a pioneer in the music industry and spoke out for change remember one thing just because you do something first doesn't make you great , others have way surpassed him, by modern standards. now maybe you two should get off this page and go do something more productive

      December 8, 2010 at 8:05 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Peace

    I miss you, Johnny Boy. We could've used you when protesting Reagan and the Bushes.

    December 8, 2010 at 3:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • Imagine

      You got that right!

      Give Peace a Chance

      December 8, 2010 at 3:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jason

      lol *facepalm*. So you idolize Lennon and spit on people like Reagan and the Bushes (well, maybe I'll give you Bush jr...). How backwards you have your ideology.

      December 8, 2010 at 8:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jason

      Oh, and I would honestly love to see Lennon try to run the country. I would honestly pay money for it. It would be a hilarious failure. If you're true to your intellect, you'd have to agree.

      December 8, 2010 at 8:48 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Les

    Thirty years and one day ago I was working at my first adult job and living in my first adult department. Everything was possible. The next day, Lennon died along with my belief in the infinite potential. Now, I'm older than John ever lived to be and other people have died, including friends and family members I loved very much. Still, the sock and sorrow of John's death has never really gone. Thirty years, and I still miss him so.

    December 8, 2010 at 4:02 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Alexander

    What would a Lennon song say?
    If Lennon could sing a song today?
    Might it be about peace?
    The Middle East?
    What might Lennon say?
    Or maybe tomorrow
    If just a few more moments
    Time we could borrow
    Lennon would look this way
    And this is what Lennon might say,
    "Simply be...."
    And with this we
    Would be free....
    Support a Lennon fan by passing one of these simple messages along. Acceptance/Peace/Life/Choice/Race 8×10. Signed. Numbered.

    December 8, 2010 at 4:18 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Vernon Fueston

    I remember Lennon getting shot. It was a loss. A great talent. But I'll be darned if I can understand why CNN spent the WEEK on this one story, didn't do a tribute to the Dec. 7 attack on Pearl Harbor and is hardly covering the fact that we are about a half step from war with North Korea. He's a musician, that's important, but they didn't do this for the JFK assassination anniversary. Get some perspective!

    December 8, 2010 at 4:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • Les

      Actually they did make a big deal about the 30th anniversary of JFK. Only it was in 1993, sorry you missed it.

      December 8, 2010 at 5:16 pm | Report abuse |
  6. whocares

    Here's a question:

    Will Yoko Ono EVER shut up? Seriously, marrying someone famous shouldn't give you access to the media forever. I suppose that's the culture, but does she have any real fans that care about her opinions?

    December 8, 2010 at 4:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • Les

      As far as I can tell, you haven't been married to a famous assassinated person but you're still talking. Give her the same rights.

      December 8, 2010 at 5:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • CalgarySandy

      Yoko was a respected avant guard artist before she met John. This is what made him notice her in the first place. She was independently wealthy and did not need his money or the light of his fame. When she knew he had to find himself she let him go with a trusted friend until he was able to be strong and centred. She invested his money wisely. It was not John who blew off the Beatles. Not that it matters. All of them were sick of it. Even George had a hand in the breakup.

      December 8, 2010 at 5:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jason

      "As far as I can tell, you haven't been married to a famous assassinated person"

      Oh good grief. Ever heard of Lincoln, Kennedy, Gandhi, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr? All far more important and useful individuals than a hippie musician. Pick up a history book and quit the blind celebrity idolatry.

      December 8, 2010 at 8:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • Luce

      Actually, yes, Yoko had and still has thousands of fans that care for her dearly and respect her opinions because she is a talented, enlightened individual, a truly amazing woman. I love John. I discovered John first. But for me, it is Yoko's art and music that has inspired me the most, and I know I'm not the only one.

      December 9, 2010 at 2:41 am | Report abuse |
  7. reddog

    I hope Mark David Chapman stays in prison until the day he dies.

    December 8, 2010 at 4:38 pm | Report abuse |
  8. lakotawinyan

    Imagine the music he would be composing today! So talented and I know I miss his music.

    December 8, 2010 at 4:48 pm | Report abuse |
  9. John Coctosten

    I was and still am a Beatles fan. That John Lennon was murdered was tragic, as is anyone's murder.

    However, the veneration and honor glory heaped upon him and his "legacy" is misplaced. Lennon's "message" was nothing new, anyone could have said the same kinds of things he said, and many have. His song "Imagine", while musically very good, is otherwise embarrassingly naive for its lyrics.

    Lennon was an intelligent and gifted man. He was also an uneducated man who often did not know what he was talking about. Why wasn't he trying to persuade the Viet Cong to stop the war?

    His death was tragic, but his political views and his method of trying to change the world speak for themselves.

    December 8, 2010 at 5:00 pm | Report abuse |

    Lennon is yet another example of people who try to live a good life without Jesus or God. The man may have had good intentions, but he really ended up making the world a darker place. How many people have destroyed their lives by using LSD or marijana beacuse they were influenced by Mr. Lennon's drug centered music? He was decived by the same tempter that led Adolf Hitler to shatter the lives of millions of people. He clearly stated with his actions, " do not what i do, but do what i say." Prahaps if the man had acctualy raised his son how a son deserves to be raised and soung about good things I might be a bit more favorfull twards him.

    judge those by the fruits of their labors

    December 8, 2010 at 5:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • CalgarySandy

      Judgement is mine, sayeth the Lord.

      December 8, 2010 at 5:53 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Scott T

    Just "Imagine" how many more Communist propaganda songs this hippie could have written had he not got whacked!

    December 8, 2010 at 5:16 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Rodney D.

    To think it was an American with a handgun that killed John Lennon just sickens me...

    December 8, 2010 at 5:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • Marvel

      So what your saying is that if it would have been a Canadian, German, or a South American it would have been more acceptable. Really now the attackers method or place of origin matter not. I really don't see the why a stoner musician gets so much attention when other good clean people are killed each day

      December 9, 2010 at 2:09 pm | Report abuse |
  13. JWH


    December 8, 2010 at 5:30 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Petey

    The mistake John made was he downplayed his celebrity status and thought that he could walk the streets of NY without security. Unfortunately, if you are as famous as he was, you can't do that in this day and age. Nuts abound out there...

    December 8, 2010 at 5:41 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Marshall LA.

    "Living is easy with eyes closed
    Misunderstanding all you see
    It's getting hard to be someone,but it all works out
    It doesn't matter much to me"

    December 8, 2010 at 5:46 pm | Report abuse |
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