Thirty years ago on Wednesday, Mark Chapman became infamous and the famous became a memory. This is the 30th anniversary of the death of John Lennon.
Everyone has their own story of "where I was when I heard the news". Everyone has their own recollections of the man, the group and the music and how they were personally influenced, inspired and entertained. Only the good die young? Everyone conjectures about what may have happened if Lennon had lived.
I certainly know my teenage years were marked by the music of the Beatles. From my first album, Long Tall Sally propped up on a table in my bedroom when I woke up for my birthday, the purchase of every record was a distinct landmark throughout my travels in life. I never saw them play live but I was certainly glued to the family television set in 1964 when they appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show. I followed them on the radio, on record, on TV and at the movies. The release of each record heralded an important moment where I would listen to each song over and over again soaking up the music, the lyrics and the emotions the experience evoked.
In 1969, I was in Varsity stadium for the Toronto Rock and Roll Revival when John Lennon and Yoko On showed up billed as the Plastic Ono Band. I remember this like it was yesterday; Eric Clapton also played as part of this improvised group.
According to the story, tickets weren’t selling too well. Kim Fowley, a producer, managed to convince Lennon to appear. When news got out of Lennon’s appearance, tickets sold out immediately. And here’s an interesting bit of history: Kim Fowley as part of his introduction of Lennon, asked everybody to light matches to welcome the band. While this is a common tradition today, this particular event is apparently the very first time it was ever done. The next time you’re at a concert and you look out on a sea of lights, remember 1969 and the Toronto Rock and Roll Revival as the first time!
As I look at the list of albums, I can associate each one, every song with some moment of my life and listening to the music brings back strong memories of that particular period. I laughed; I cried; I danced; I got high with a little help from my friends, the Beatles. The group, each member of the group left an indelible mark on my experiences. They were more than just a musical group; they were a defining moment for me and an entire generation.
Mark Chapman was charged with second degree murder. At the beginning of the trial, the defence tried for a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity but part way through the trial, Chapman himself insisted on pleading guilty. His own defence questioned his sanity but in the end, the judge accepted this and Chapman was sentenced to 20 years without parole. He has been eligible for parole every 2 years starting in 2000 but each time this has been denied. Yoko Ono has written several times to argue that parole should not be granted based on the possible threat Chapman’s release would represent to her and her son. Apparently some fans of Lennon have also suggested Chapman’s life would be in jeopardy if he was released.
Mark will remain well known forever but not as being famous, but for being infamous. Chapman shot Lennon then he hung around waiting for the police to arrive to arrest him. After being asked, "Do you know what you’ve done?" Chapman calmly replied, "I just shot John Lennon".
A British director Michael Waldman has put together a TV documentary called The Day John Lennon Died. He managed to track down people who were witness to the events of that day and film their recollections about it. This includes Yoko Ono, a policeman who arrived at the scene and one Paul Goresh who unknowingly snapped a picture of John Lennon signing an autograph for Mark Chapman just hours before Chapman would gun down the star. This is apparently to be released in Great Britain on December 6, 2010.
How popular are the Beatles? No-one under 30 was alive when Lennon was murdered. No-one under 40 was alive when the Beatles broke up. After a lot of negotiating, Apple finally came to an agreement with the Beatles and on November 16, 2010, iTunes started selling Beatles music. As of this writing, in the top 100 albums of iTunes Abbey Road is at #26; The White Album #48, The Beatles 1967-1970 #53; Sgt Pepper #59, The Beatles 1962-1966 #62, The Beatles Box Set #71, Rubber Soul #79 and Revolver #92. It seems that nostalgia is alive and well and maybe not just in the older generation.
There are many interesting reads about Lennon and this tragic event. I’ve listed a number of them below so for those Beatles aficionados or just Lennon fans, you will have a field day.
It is certainly tragic to think back on Lennon’s death. Murder is not easy to accept for the senselessness of the act; we are all deprived of a creative energy that has brought great pleasure to so many. Lennon will live on through his music and we can only hope that his message will someday come to fruition.
Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace…
Click HERE to read more from William Belle
The Guardian: John Lennon: the last day in the life – Dec 5/2010
Wikipedia: Mark Chapman
Lennon: What could have been
By Darryl Sterdan – Dec 4/2010
As interesting "what if" recounting of John Lennon’s life after 1980.
I remember the real John Lennon, not the one airbrushed by history
By Ray Connolly – Dec 4/2010
An interesting remembrance of the man by a British writer who apparently knew the Beatles and wrote about them extensively when he was a journalist..
The New York Daily News
Dr. Stephan Lynn, the doctor who tried to save John Lennon remembers the icon’s dying day
By Heidi Evans – Dec 5/2010
This is the story of the doctor who tried to save Lennon’s life when he was first brought to the hospital.
The Daily Mail
John Lennon’s last day: A gripping NEW eyewitness account on the 30th anniversary of Beatle’s murder By Sue Summers – Dec 5/2010