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. Jo

    Bottom line, the man was about peace. I don't care how you spin it, religeon, talent, yoko, parenting (And how do we know mum didn't have a part in the dstance in the relationship?) it you come back to the same thing, the message was peace. That's all he wanted, and how sad that he had to fight a rising tide.

    December 8, 2010 at 10:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • Alexander

      well said.

      December 9, 2010 at 1:49 am | Report abuse |
  2. Ray

    Yoko's addictions could not have been very helpful to John but if he loved her then who am I to say anything?

    As so eloquently expressed by Edward Maynard above in Poet to Poet, those who care and were affected by this music enough to remember it always will carry on in all the ways that matter with/without the assistance of big media .

    Speaking of bm, a quick aside to all the gits who have a home thanks to CNN. Go back to fixing transmissions and gittin' hammered. CNN and the rest of them love you all the way to the bank every single day of your sorry ass existence(s).

    December 8, 2010 at 10:57 pm | Report abuse |
  3. PAX

    It's been 30 years since the world lost John Lennon; but his memory will live on forever. This is a unique opportunity to own a piece of that memory and to help end senseless gun violence once and for all. You can own an exclusive, limited edition, signed and numbered Ethan Russell photograph of John Lennon, and 75% of the proceeds will go directly to PAX, a non-political nonprofit working to end gun violence. For more information, please visit:

    December 8, 2010 at 11:09 pm | Report abuse |
  4. blake

    Lennon was a self-absorbed lost soul. I enjoy his music and talent as much as anyone, but the musican and writer had feet of clay. He is not someone to put up on a pedestal.

    December 8, 2010 at 11:30 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Alexander Khattab

    i think if john were alive today, wikileaks would have made him grin from ear-to-ear.

    December 9, 2010 at 1:42 am | Report abuse |
  6. Texas

    I'm thankful that my dad turned me on to the Beatles at a young age. Lennon was the greatest musical artist to ever walk this planet.

    December 9, 2010 at 1:47 am | Report abuse |
  7. Marcie

    Such profound sadness even now. His honor would best be served also remembering both of his sons, John Charles Julian Lennon and Sean Lennon. All of the on air tributes mostly show Ono but his sons are his true legacy, not Ono.

    December 9, 2010 at 1:50 am | Report abuse |
  8. Thomas

    Sadly no much is being said about John Lennon statement at the time that the Beatles shows were more popular then Jesus Christ .
    Wondering what was in his head at the time, did he think he was all that powerful?
    Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world and for anyone to say he ‘s more popular than Him, must be crazy. Jesus Christ has been and will remain popular until time eternity.
    I don’t like the Beatles for such nonsensical statement

    December 9, 2010 at 5:23 am | Report abuse |
  9. Fred


    Living is easy with eyes closed, misunderstanding all you see.

    December 9, 2010 at 10:19 am | Report abuse |
  10. Marvel

    I can't wait till the 9th then we can move on. all this attention for a hippy stoner addict who really by modern standards wasn't all that. Please he was a radical world changer, NOT. More like a rich addict with an opinion on how the world should be while on acid. Lots of money and fame can afford a nobody to make such opinions or useless campaigns against social order.

    December 9, 2010 at 2:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • Fred


      Don't you have a Tea Party Rally to go to, Bagger?

      December 9, 2010 at 2:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • Marvel

      No actually fred, I had to put up with him while he was alive and even after he was killed we had to deal with the chaos that followed him, he disrupted the city and was criminal. That my is the cold hard truth from someone who had to deal with it. The majority of the people who surrounded him even after his death were addicts, social misfits, and borderline criminals. I've seen him in person, often he'd be so disoriented he'd lose his train of thought, before his death he was a real problem just look up his interaction with the city police. in the end about a year or two after he was killed nobody really cared much or even showed up at the place where he was killed. Nice to see how people react when you point out faults in their heroes and role models and how they react can show just how pathetic, weak, and useless they are. really if you resolve yourself to attacking someone from a religious point of view or political view you show your ignorance.

      December 9, 2010 at 4:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • Fred


      I stand corrected. You are nothing more than a jack-booted thug.

      Thank you for clearing things up, troll.

      December 9, 2010 at 4:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • Marvel

      Yes fred I am

      December 10, 2010 at 1:08 am | Report abuse |
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