Remembering John Lennon: 1940 – 1980

[Originally Published December 8, 2006]

Today marks the 32nd anniversary of the day Mark David Chapman shot and killed John Lennon outside of the Dakota in NYC. My house growing up was always filled with the sounds of The Beatles, and they were the first band with which I was totally infatuated. Lennon’s death was senseless, and we were robbed of many years of genius, while his family was robbed of a father and a husband.

[Stevie Wonder Tells His Audience About Lennon's Death (Hat Tip Chris DiLeo)]

Back in 2005, I made my first trip to the annual gathering of Lennon fans in Central Park’s Strawberry Fields. Here’s an essay that I wrote when I returned home that cold evening seven years ago…

I don’t always take advantage of the great location where I live. Tonight I decided to brave the elements and pay my respects to John Lennon as well as trying to make some sense of what happened 25 years ago. All day I’ve been thinking about John, and more so about Yoko and Sean, and at such a horrible tragedy that they have had to deal with.

I got to the front of the Dakota at about 10 pm, and I was extremely surprised that 72nd Street wasn’t closed off. Easily I accessed the entranceway. It was so eerie, to see the exact spot where it all went down. It took my breath away and I felt really sad. The outside railing of the building had flowers, poems, and pictures attached in all different places. People wrote letters to John and left them at the bottom of the railing, it was quite a site.

After a while I made my way across the street to Strawberry Fields. As I crossed the street I realized a massive throng of people awaited on the other side. News Media was everywhere as well as the annoying hum of helicopters circling. The police was out in full force but were visably trying to be accommodating. It was my plan to walk to the Imagine memorial and realized it was barricaded off to control the flow of people. There was only one entrance and the line was imposing. It was cold, it was nearing 10:50 and I was going to turn back. At that point I turned around and took a look at the Dakota. Up on the Seventh Floor I saw two candles lit from John and Yoko’s apartment.

I kept on thinking about all the good John Lennon did and how the best way I could ever honor him was to contribute some good to make up for his loss. I was pondering good and evil. John was so good and Chapman was so evil. Chapman won, as John is dead. Does that mean evil won? There are so many good people, but the evil ones can make such a huge dent on humanity. It’s like the internet where the people who have no sense of community are so much louder than those who just want to get along. Sorry for the tangent back to the story at hand.

So I decided after 10 or 15 minutes that I want to be part of the vigil. It is a large group of people massed around the Imagine Mural and I was ready to wait on the line. I queued up around 10:30 and realized the line was actually moving quick. It took 15 minutes and I finally made it into Strawberry Fields. There were so many different types of people with all different sorts of intentions for the vigil. It was fairly chaotic and it was almost like “Beatlewars.” There were three or four masses of guitar players each playing different songs. It was tough for people to decide who to singalong with.

The vigil was both beautiful and horrifying. At 10:50 people started realizing it was time for the first moment of silence. It took a while to get everyone to shut up and even when the crowd was silent the hum of the helicopters hovering above was obnoxious. People would break the silence and yell some appropriate things (war is over if you want it, give peace a chance, we love you John) while some yelled inappropriate things (I buried Paul, Yoko sucks, Fuck Bush). But there was something special and healing being amongst that group of people. Besides a few jerks many people were there for the right reasons, and it was beautiful when the helicopters left and everyone quieted down for the second moment of silence at 11:15 to commemorate John’s death. Everyone held up the peace symbol and for a while the entire crowd was absolutely silent. Quite tearjerking.

I’m really glad I went, and I hope to go back to mark his birthday to more celebrate the magnificence of his career as opposed to the horrible way his life ended. As I walked out of the park I looked up and saw a figure blow out the candles in Yoko’s apartment. I wonder how Yoko handled today, I know how much today affected me so I can’t even fathom the emotions she felt.

I hope I take today’s experience with me in the future. John did so much for this world, I just want to give a little of that. Not everything is about me, and Lennon inspires me to do more for others.

RIP John RIP

We’ll always remember the greatness and genius of a true legend.

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10 thoughts on “Remembering John Lennon: 1940 – 1980

  1. HP Anything Reply

    Lennon was my least favorite Beatle up to the day he died. Only after he met his Dakota-based demise did I realize that without him The Beatles were simply Paul McCartney’s excuse to play cabaret and dancehall songs with electric instruments. Lennon was in the process of squandering much of his legacy when he died, but in retrospect his memory will be more beloved than that of Sir Paul, his freak-show marriages, and lackluster solo output.

    RIP, John Winston O’Boogie.

  2. Hard Days Night Reply

    Chapman should rot for his selfish crime – I hate thim

  3. Scott Bernstein Reply

    Couldn’t agree more Hard Days Night

  4. Pete Reply

    Very well said Scott, and a nice account of your experience. RIP John…

  5. neeko Reply

    I was there last year as well.. Im actually sitting just 5 blocks from strawberry fields now. I dont think i want to go down there this year though. I dont want to only think of John Lennon in the tragic way he died. Last year was something else though, to consider a quarter century had passed since that fateful night.. Its quite remarkable how much people still believe in his music and his message.

    Its always an emotional time for me, because my mother was a giant John Lennon fan. he dide when i was one, and almost a year to the day after, her father passed.. But when i think about the tragic way he was taken from the world, i dont know that i can “hate” chapman. Ive read a lot of interviews of John where he discusses being full of hate and anger most of his life. It wasnt until around the time he died that he kind of let go of all that. If you take anything from the message in his music and his words, it should be that their just aint no time to hate.

    Thanks for posting this man. coo coo ca choo

  6. glace neuf Reply

    RIP JL – I think it’s sad that we’re all too often reminded of how one or a few deranged but passionate people can greatly affect our world. lennon’s passing is surely a reminder of the beauty and fragility of human life – thanks for the post.

  7. Perry Reply

    I couldn’t agree more, Lennon still inspires the good in all of us… Great article, hope to see you in Strawberry Fields tonight, as I usually go every year…

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