Imagine all the people living life in peace. You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one. I hope someday you’ll join us, and the world will be as one.
October 9, 1940 – December 8, 1980
On the anniversary of John Lennon’s killing, every fan page and newspaper, every music blog and every related website commemorated his life and his passing. But we realized that this homage should not be limited to the actual anniversary date of this horrific act only, but that true Beatles fans, Lennon fans and most real human beings miss John – as they should – every day. Thus, our take on this infamous event, a few days later.
As John Lennon and his wife Yoko Ono returned to their New York apartment at the Dakota on December 8, 1980, a killer lurked in the shadows, waiting for the right moment.
Lennon and Ono were returning from the recording studio where they were mixing Ono’s song “Walking on Thin Ice,” which featured Lennon on guitar. “John and I were gloriously happy in the first week of December. In our minds, we were a team – old soldiers,” Ono recalled to British newspaper The Daily Mirror.
As they passed the small autograph-seeking crowd gathered outside their building’s entrance, Mark David Chapman, who Lennon had signed an autograph for hours earlier, stepped out from the archway in which he was hiding and raised his revolver, aiming directly at Lennon’s back. Five shots cracked into the night. One of the .38 Special’s hollow point bullets missed, two hit Lennon in the left side of his back, and two penetrated his left shoulder.
Police arrived on the scene within minutes to find Lennon lying in the lobby bleeding profusely. Outside they found Chapman waiting calmly for his arrest, holding a copy of J.D. Salinger’s 1951 novel A Catcher In The Rye. In the book he had written, “This Is My Statement.” He signed it Holden Caulfield, the story’s protagonist, which had become a cultural icon of rebellion and angst.
The Mirror reports that upon realizing the severity of Lennon’s wounds, officers placed him in the back seat of a squad car and rushed him to a hospital; they did not believe he would make it if they had to wait for an ambulance. But upon arrival, Lennon’s pulse and breathing had stopped. Attempts to resuscitate him proved futile, the damage sustained and the volume of blood lost was simply too great. Shortly after 11 p.m., Lennon was pronounced dead. And the world changed forever.
The death of Lennon, one of the most iconic and outspoken Beatles, rocked the earth to its core. Fans poured into the public to share their grief. The world had watched his mind blossom with each new Beatles hit. Following the breakup, they listened to him espouse love and world peace with his solo projects and public protests. His murder left an indelible scar on the realm of music, and the hope for a better world.
Chapman had been a devout Beatles fan, but Lennon’s increasingly controversial statements, such as how The Beatles were more popular than Jesus, would come into direct conflict with his religious beliefs and his perceptions of reality. In a 2001 article, author Lynne H. Schultz quotes Chapman as saying, “At that point, my mind was going through a total blackness of anger and rage.” As his disgust with society continued to fester, so did his obsession with killing Lennon.
Lennon’s remains were cremated, but no funeral was held. A week after his death, at the request of Yoko Ono, millions of people around the world took pause for ten minutes in silent reflection of Lennon. The New York Times reported that thirty thousand people gathered in Liverpool, but over 225,000 occupied New York’s Central Park to remember Lennon while every radio in the city went silent.
In the time before the trial, Chapman underwent extensive psychiatric evaluations and was diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic. Although he was encouraged to enter an insanity plea, Chapman opted for a guilty plea and was sentenced to 20 years to life with the possibility of parole. He has been denied parole eight times and remains incarcerated to this day.
Bob Bonis had the pleasure to know John Lennon while serving as U.S. Tour Manager for The Beatles (as well as for The Rolling Stones) during all three of their American tours between 1964 and 1966. With his trusty Leica M3 camera, Bonis captured never seen before moments of John Lennon and The Beatles as they grew under the watchful eye of the world. His photographs chronicle the years of the band’s rise to fame, and snapshots of the moments leading up to Lennon becoming the musician, activist, and icon the world fell in love with.
These iconic and intimate photographs are available now for the first time as strictly limited edition, custom-printed fine art prints from the Bob Bonis Archive. Each photograph is hand numbered, estate embossed, and comes with a Certificate of Authenticity from the GRAMMY Museum® at L.A. LIVE!
John Lennon: although your life ended at the hands of insanity, and way too early, your message of peace and love still rings clear, and you live on in our hearts day after day. We miss you constantly. Your music and your messages changed the world forever; thank you for your unequalled contribution to peace.