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Coordinates: 40°46′35″N 73°58′34″W / 40.776436°N -73.976006°E / 40.776436; -73.976006

Death of John Lennon

The Dakota, location of the killing.
Location The Dakota, New York, NY
Date 10:50 p.m., December 8, 1980 (1980-12-08T10:50 p.m.) (approx. time)
Target John Lennon
Weapon(s) Charter Arms .38 Special revolver.[1]
Perpetrator Mark David Chapman

John Lennon was an English rock musician who gained worldwide fame as one of the founders of The Beatles, for his subsequent solo career, and for his political activism. He was shot by Mark David Chapman at the entrance of the building where he lived, The Dakota, on Monday, 8 December 1980; Lennon had just returned from the Record Plant Studio with his wife, Yoko Ono.

Lennon was pronounced dead on arrival at St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital Center, where it was stated that nobody could have lived for more than a few minutes after sustaining such injuries. Shortly after local news stations reported Lennon's death, crowds gathered at Roosevelt Hospital and in front of The Dakota. He was cremated on 10 December 1980, at the Ferncliff Cemetery in Hartsdale, New York; the ashes were given to Ono, who chose not to hold a funeral for him.



Lennon signing Chapman's Double Fantasy album

On the morning of 8 December 1980, photographer Annie Leibovitz went to Ono and Lennon's apartment to do a photo shoot for Rolling Stone. She had promised Lennon a photo with Ono would make the cover, but initially tried to get a picture with just Lennon alone.[2] Leibovitz recalled that "nobody wanted [Ono] on the cover".[3] Lennon insisted that both he and his wife be on the cover, and after shooting the pictures, Leibovitz left their apartment. After the photo shoot Lennon gave what would be his last ever interview to San Francisco DJ Dave Sholin for a music show on the RKO Radio Network.[4] At 5:00 p.m., Lennon and Ono left their apartment to mix the track "Walking on Thin Ice", an Ono song featuring Lennon on lead guitar, at Record Plant Studio.[5]

As Lennon and Ono walked to their limousine, they were approached by several people seeking autographs, among them, Mark David Chapman.[6] It was common for fans to wait outside the Dakota to see Lennon and get his autograph.[7] Chapman, a 25-year-old hospital worker from Honolulu, Hawaii, had first come to New York to kill Lennon in November but changed his mind and returned home.[8] He silently handed Lennon a copy of Double Fantasy, and Lennon obliged with an autograph.[6] After signing the album Lennon politely asked him, "Is this all you want?" Chapman nodded in agreement. Photographer and Lennon fan Paul Goresh snapped a photo of the encounter.[9]

Police artist's drawing of the murder

The Lennons spent several hours at the Record Plant studio before returning to the Dakota at about 10:50 p.m. Lennon decided against eating out so he could be home in time to say goodnight to five-year-old son Sean before he went to sleep and because Lennon liked to oblige any fans with autographs or pictures that had been waiting a long time to see him outside his home. They exited their limousine on 72nd Street, even though the car could have been driven into the more secure courtyard.[10]

The Dakota's doorman, Jose Perdomo, and a cab driver saw Chapman standing in the shadows by the archway.[11] Ono walked ahead of Lennon and into the reception area. As Lennon passed by, Chapman fired five hollow-point bullets at Lennon from a Charter Arms .38 Special revolver.[1] Numerous radio, television, and newspaper reports claimed at the time that, before firing, Chapman called out "Mr. Lennon" and dropped into a "combat stance",[12][13][14] but this is not stated in court hearings or witness interviews. Chapman has said he did not remember calling out Lennon's name before he shot him.[15][16][17] One shot missed, passing over Lennon's head and hitting a window of the Dakota building. However, two shots struck Lennon in the left side of his back and two more penetrated his left shoulder. All four bullets inflicted severe gunshot wounds, with at least one of them piercing Lennon's aorta.[18] Lennon staggered up five steps to the security/reception area, said, "I'm shot," and collapsed. Concierge Jay Hastings covered Lennon with his uniform, and removed his glasses; he then summoned the police.

The entrance to the Dakota building where Lennon was shot

Outside, doorman Perdomo shook the gun out of Chapman's hand then kicked it across the sidewalk.[11] Chapman then removed his coat and hat in preparation for the police arrival to show he was not carrying any concealed weapons and sat down on the sidewalk. Doorman Perdomo shouted at Chapman, "Do you know what you've done?", to which Chapman calmly replied, "Yes, I just shot John Lennon." The first policemen to arrive were Steve Spiro and Peter Cullen, who were at 72nd Street and Broadway when they heard a report of shots fired at the Dakota. The officers found Chapman sitting "very calmly" on the sidewalk. They reported that Chapman had dropped the revolver to the ground, and was holding a paperback book, J.D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye.[19] Chapman had scribbled a message on the book's inside front cover: "To Holden Caulfield. From Holden Caulfield. This is my statement." He would later claim that his life mirrored that of Holden Caulfield, the protagonist of the book.

Side view of Dakota entryway showing steps Lennon climbed before collapsing in the lobby

The second team, Officers Bill Gamble and James Moran, arrived a few minutes later. They immediately carried Lennon into their squad car and rushed him to Roosevelt Hospital. Officer Moran said they placed Lennon on the back seat.[20] Moran asked, "Do you know who you are?" There are conflicting accounts on what happened next. In one account, Lennon nodded slightly and tried to speak, but could only manage to make a gurgling sound, and lost consciousness shortly thereafter.[21]

Dr. Stephan Lynn received Lennon in the emergency room at Roosevelt Hospital. When Lennon arrived he had no pulse and wasn't breathing. Dr. Lynn and two other doctors worked for 20 minutes, opening Lennon's chest and attempting manual heart massage to restore circulation, but the damage to the blood vessels around the heart was too great.[22] Lennon was pronounced dead on arrival in the emergency room at the Roosevelt Hospital at 11:15 p.m. by Dr. Lynn.[23] The cause of death was reported as hypovolemic shock, caused by the loss of more than 80% of blood volume. Dr. Elliott M. Gross, the Chief Medical Examiner, said that no one could have lived more than a few minutes with such multiple bullet injuries. As Lennon was shot four times with hollow-point bullets, which expand upon entering the target and severely disrupt more tissue as they travel through the target, Lennon's affected organs were virtually destroyed upon impact. Ono, crying "Oh no, no, no, no... tell me it's not true," was taken to Roosevelt Hospital and led away in shock after she learned that her husband was dead.[24] The following day, Ono issued a statement: "There is no funeral for John. John loved and prayed for the human race. Please do the same for him. Love, Yoko and Sean."[24]


Shortly after local news stations reported the shooting, crowds gathered at Roosevelt Hospital and in front of the Dakota, reciting prayers, singing Lennon's songs.[25] After hearing the news sent by ABC News chief Roone Arledge, sports announcer Howard Cosell, who had briefly interviewed Lennon on Monday Night Football in 1974, announced the news of Lennon's murder during a televised football game between the New England Patriots and Miami Dolphins:

This, we have to say it. Remember this is just a football game, no matter who wins or loses. An unspeakable tragedy, confirmed to us by ABC News in New York City: John Lennon, outside of his apartment building on the West Side of New York City, the most famous, perhaps, of all The Beatles, shot twice in the back, rushed to the Roosevelt Hospital, dead on arrival.

Following the game, Ted Koppel provided further coverage for ABC during Nightline. NBC announced the news during The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. The show was interrupted by an anonymous announcer reading the news bulletin; the show then resumed. CBS broke the news during regular programming on the network, with Walter Cronkite and CBS News reporters announcing the news to viewers. Later that evening, Cronkite confirmed Lennon's death, at 11:20 pm.[26]

When a reporter asked Lennon's former Beatles-songwriting partner Paul McCartney for his reaction, McCartney said, "Drag, isn't it?" His response was criticised, but McCartney later stated in a Playboy interview: "I had just finished a whole day in shock and I said, 'It's a drag.' I meant 'drag' in the heaviest sense of the word, you know: 'It's a — DRAG.' But, you know, when you look at that in print, it says, 'Yes, it's a drag.' Matter of fact."[27] Earlier that day, McCartney did say to reporters outside his Sussex home, "John will be remembered for his unique contribution to art, music and world peace."[27] Ringo Starr and his fiancée, Barbara Bach, were on a holiday in the Bahamas, before hearing the tragic news and both flew to New York to comfort Ono.[28] George Harrison later released a tribute song, "All Those Years Ago" which featured former bandmates Starr on drums and McCartney on backing vocals.[29] McCartney himself also recorded a tribute song for Lennon in his 1982 album, Tug of War, entitled "Here Today." New York City station WABC-TV broadcast live coverage of the Lennon memorial tribute in Central Park six days after the shooting, with Roger Grimsby anchoring in the studio and Ernie Anastos reporting from the event.[30]


John Lennon's remains were cremated at Ferncliff Cemetery in Westchester. No funeral was held.[31][32] Yoko Ono sent word to the chanting crowd outside the Dakota that their singing had kept her awake; she asked that they re-convene in Central Park the following Sunday for ten minutes of silent prayer.[33] On 14 December 1980, millions of people around the world responded to Ono's request to pause for ten minutes of silence to remember Lennon.[34] Thirty thousand gathered in Liverpool, and the largest group—over 225,000—converged on New York's Central Park, close to the scene of the shooting.[34] At least two of Lennon's fans committed suicide after the murder, leading Yoko Ono to make a public appeal asking mourners not to give in to despair.[35]

Ono released a solo album, Season of Glass, in 1981. The cover of the album is a photograph of John Lennon's blood-spattered glasses. A 1997 re-release of the album included "Walking on Thin Ice", the song that John and Yoko recorded at the Record Plant right before he was murdered. Chapman pled guilty to Lennon's murder in June 1981,[36] against the advice of his lawyers,[37] who wanted to file an insanity plea.[38][39] He received a life sentence but under the terms of his guilty plea became eligible for parole in 2000, after serving twenty years. Chapman has been denied parole at hearings every two years since 2000 and remains an inmate at Attica State Prison.[40] Annie Leibovitz's photo of a naked John embracing Yoko, taken the day of the murder, was the cover of Rolling Stone magazine's 22 January 1981 issue, most of which was dedicated to articles, letters and photographs commemorating John's life and death.[41] In 2005 the American Society of Magazine Editors ranked it as the top magazine cover of the last forty years.[42]

Memorials and tributes

A memorial statue of Lennon in Havana, Cuba

Lennon continues to be mourned throughout the world and has been the subject of numerous memorials and tributes, principally New York City's Strawberry Fields, a memorial garden area in Central Park across the street from the Dakota building. Ono later donated $1 million for its maintenance.[43] It has become a gathering place for tributes on Lennon's birthday and on the anniversary of his death, as well as at other times of mourning, such as after the September 11 attacks and following Harrison's death on 29 November 2001.[33]

Elton John, who had recorded the number-one hit "Whatever Gets You thru the Night" with Lennon, teamed with his lyricist, Bernie Taupin and recorded a tribute to Lennon, entitled "Empty Garden (Hey Hey Johnny)." It appeared on Elton's 1982 album Jump Up! and peaked at #13 on the US Singles Chart that year. When Elton performed the song at a sold-out concert in Madison Square Garden in August 1982, he was joined on stage by Yoko Ono and Sean Lennon.[44]

Lennon was honoured with a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1991.[45] In 1994, the Republic of Abkhazia issued two postage stamps featuring Lennon and Groucho Marx, spoofing Abkhazia's Communist past. These stamps would have normally borne the portraits of Karl Marx and Vladimir Lenin.[46] (Whether intentional or not, this echoed the front album cover of Firesign Theater's How Can You Be in Two Places at Once When You're Not Anywhere at All, which also had a tribute to (Groucho) Marx and (John) Lennon.) On 8 December 2000, Cuba's President Fidel Castro unveiled a bronze statue of Lennon in a park in Havana.[47] In 2000, the John Lennon Museum was opened at the Saitama Super Arena in Saitama, Saitama, Japan[48] and Liverpool renamed its airport to Liverpool John Lennon Airport and adopted the motto "Above us only sky" in 2002.[49] The 25th anniversary of John Lennon's death was on 8 December 2005.[50] Celebrations of Lennon's life and music took place in London, New York City, Cleveland, and Seattle. The minor planet 4147 Lennon, discovered 12 January 1983 by B. A. Skiff at the Anderson Mesa Station of the Lowell Observatory, was named in memory of Lennon.[51]

The Imagine Peace Tower in Iceland

On 9 October 2007, Ono dedicated a new memorial called the Imagine Peace Tower, located on the island of Viðey, off the coast of Iceland. Each year, between 9 October and 8 December, it projects a vertical beam of light high into the sky.[52] Every 8 December there is a memorial ceremony in front of the Capitol Records building on Vine Street in Hollywood, California. Many people light candles in front of Lennon's Hollywood Walk of Fame star outside the Capitol Building.[53] From 28 to 30 September 2007, Durness held the John Lennon Northern Lights Festival which was attended by Julia Baird (Lennon's half-sister) who read from Lennon's writings and her own books, and Stanley Parkes, Lennon's Scottish cousin.[54] Parkes said, "Me and Julia [Baird] are going to be going to the old family croft to tell stories". Musicians, painters and poets from across the UK performed at the festival.[55][56]

In 2009, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's New York City annex hosted a special John Lennon exhibit. The exhibit included many mementoes and personal effects from Lennon's life, but it also included the clothes he was wearing when he was murdered, still in the brown paper bag from Roosevelt Hospital.[57] Miss Ono still places a lit candle in the window of Lennon's room in the Dakota on December 8.[58][59]

In film

Two films depiciting the murder of Lennon were released in close proximity of each other more than 25 years after the event. The first of the two, The Killing of John Lennon, was released on 7 December 2007 (one day before the 27th anniversary of the murder). Directed by Andrew Piddington, the movie starred Jonas Ball as Mark David Chapman. The second film was Chapter 27, released on 28 March 2008. Directed by J. P. Schaefer, the filmed starred Jared Leto as Mark David Chapman. Ironically, Lennon was portrayed by an actor named Mark Chapman. Of the two films, the low budget The Killing of John Lennon was considerably better received,[60] while Chapter 27, with its higher budget and star power (Jared Leto, Lindsey Lohan), was roundly hammered by the public.[61]


  1. ^ a b "Police Trace Tangled Path Leading To Lennon's Slaying at the Dakota". Retrieved 20 December 2007. 
  2. ^ "Hours After This Picture Was Taken John Lennon Was Dead". Guardian Unlimited. 12 August 2005. Retrieved 26 July 2007. 
  3. ^ Lucas, Dean (2007). "Naked Lennon". Famous Pictures Magazine. Retrieved 26 July 2007. 
  4. ^ Smith, Harry (8 December 2005). "John Lennon Remembered". CBS News. Retrieved 8 November 2008. 
  5. ^ "The Last Days of Dead Celebrities". ABC, Inc.. Retrieved 26 December 2007. 
  6. ^ a b "Is That All You Want?". Courtroom Television Network. Retrieved 4 May 2008. 
  7. ^ "The Last Day In The Life", Jay Cocks, TIME Magazine, 22 December 1980
  8. ^ "Descent Into Madness". People. 22 June 1981.,,20079581,00.html. 
  9. ^ Buskin, Richard (3 July 2007). "John Lennon Encounters Mark David Chapman". Retrieved 6 May 2008. 
  10. ^ Ledbetter, Les (09 December 1980). "John Lennon of Beatles Is Killed". New York Times. 
  11. ^ a b "Do It, Do It, Do It!". Courtroom Television Network. Retrieved 4 May 2008. 
  12. ^ CBS Evening News television report, 9 December 1980.
  13. ^ ABC News Nightline television report early in the morning of 9 December 1980. The "Mr. Lennon" and "combat stance" statements were made several times.
  14. ^ "Police Trace Tangled Path Leading To Lennon's Slaying at the Dakota" by Paul L. Montgomery, The New York Times, 10 December 1980, pp. A1,B6 (unverified quotes attributed to NYPD Chief of Detectives James T. Sullivan and in turn to an unnamed witness)
  15. ^ "I don't recall saying, 'Mr. Lennon'". Retrieved 21 August 2008. 
  16. ^ Transcript of 2008 parole hearing in which Chapman denies calling out "Mr. Lennon"
  17. ^ Transcript of 1981 competency hearing in which Chapman says he did not say anything to Lennon
  18. ^ "John Lennon - After The Music". Robert Soliman. Retrieved 6 May 2008. 
  19. ^ Montgomery, Paul L. (09 February 1981). "Lennon Murder Suspect Preparing Insanity Defense". The New York Times. Retrieved 6 May 2008. 
  20. ^ Edwards, David (3 December 2005). "Lennon’s Last Day". Daily Mirror. Retrieved 4 May 2008. 
  21. ^ "Lennon shot on way to see son". Retrieved 20 December 2007. 
  22. ^ "Recalling the Night He Held Lennon's Still Heart", Corey Kilgannon, New York Times, Dec. 8, 2005
  23. ^ "John Lennon Death Certificate". 22 June 2004. Retrieved 6 December 2009. 
  24. ^ a b Cave, Damien; Matt Diehl, Gavin Edwards, Jenny Eliscu, David Fricke, Lauren Gitlin, Matt Hendrickson, Kirk Miller, Austin Scaggs, and Rob Sheffield (24 June 2004). "The death of John Lennon in 1980: 50 moments that changed the history of rock & roll". Rolling Stone (951): p. 140. ISSN 0035-791X. Retrieved 16 November 2007. 
  25. ^ Kane, Larry (2007). Lennon Revealed. Running Press. ISBN 0-762-429-666.  Cable News Network (CNN) and anchor Kathleen Sullivan was the first to report that Lennon had been shot, and was being rushed to Roosevelt Hospital (his death had not been confirmed).
  26. ^ Wiener, Jon. "John Lennon 1940-1980: History Professor Jon Wiener Discusses Lennon’s Politics, FBI Files and Why Richard Nixon Sought to Deport Him". Democracy Now. Retrieved 3 May 2008. 
  27. ^ a b "Paul McCartney 1984 Playboy Interview". The Trustees of Indiana University. Retrieved 6 May 2008. 
  28. ^ Buskin, Richard (3 July 2007). "The World Mourns John Lennon's Death". Retrieved 6 May 2008. 
  29. ^ "All Those Years Ago". Connolly and Company. Retrieved 5 May 2008. 
  30. ^ "John Lennon Tribute". WABC-TV. 14 December 1980. Retrieved 25 April 2009. 
  31. ^ List of celebrities cremated or interred at Ferncliff Cemetery
  32. ^ "Lennon slaying linked to quote". Milwaukee Sentinel. 11 December 1980.,2565851&dq=john+lennon+cremated&hl=en. 
  33. ^ a b Gentile, Fiorella Dorotea. "The Central Park Vigil, New York, 14 December 1980". Thou Art. Retrieved 3 May 2008. 
  34. ^ a b Clyde Haberman, "Silent Tribute to Lennon's Memory is Observed Throughout the World," The New York Times, 15 December 1980 pA1
  35. ^ "Suicides push Lennon's wife to caution his fans", The Bulletin (Bend, Deschuets County, Oregon), Dec. 12, 1980
  36. ^ "Divine Justice". Time. 6 July 1981.,9171,922589,00.html. 
  37. ^ "A Matched Pair of Gunmen", TIME Magazine, Sept. 7, 1981
  38. ^ "John Lennon's Killer: The Nowhere Man", New York Magazine, 22 June 1981
  40. ^ Transcript of 2008 Chapman parole hearing
  41. ^ John Lennon & Yoko Ono-RS 335 (22 January 1981)
  42. ^ "Lennon Leads List of Top Magazine Covers", MSNBC, Oct. 17, 2005
  43. ^ "Strawberry Fields". New York City Parks. Retrieved 17 March 2008. 
  44. ^ "John Lennon". Retrieved 12 May 2009. 
  45. ^ "Lifetime Achievement Awards". The Recording Academy. Retrieved 3 May 2008. 
  46. ^ Robinson, Ben. "March Marx Magic". Ben Robinson. Retrieved 6 May 2008. 
  47. ^ "Once-shunned Lennon now feted in communist Cuba". CNN. 8 December 2000. Retrieved 6 May 2008. 
  48. ^ "John Lennon Museum". TAISI Corporation. Retrieved 3 May 2008. 
  49. ^ "Background Information". Liverpool John Lennon Airport. Retrieved 3 May 2008. 
  50. ^ "25th Anniversary of John Lennon’s Death". Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 3 May 2008. 
  51. ^ "Lennon's planet". Retrieved 20 December 2007. 
  52. ^ "The Imagine Peace Tower". Imagine Peace. Retrieved 3 May 2008. 
  53. ^ Wayne, Gary. "Capitol Records Building". Retrieved 8 May 2008. 
  54. ^ Chrystall, Margaret (22 September 2007). "Lennon fans come together". Highland News. Retrieved 24 December 2007. 
  55. ^ Ross, John (19 May 2007). "Village strikes a chord with Lennon festival". The Scotsman. Retrieved 25 December 2007. 
  56. ^ "John Lennon Northern Lights Festival in Durness". Scotland homepage. Retrieved 25 December 2007. 
  57. ^ Carucci, John (12 May 2009). "Yoko Ono displays John Lennon's bloodied clothes". Huffington Post. 
  58. ^ Lennon Fans Remember From the New York Daily News and reprinted in the Palm Beach Sun-Sentinel, December 12, 2005, page found 2010-03-03.
  59. ^ Yoko Ono joins vigil for John Lennon] Reprinted on the Democratic Underground website, page found 2010-03-03.
  60. ^ Studio Briefing - Film News Jan 8 2008
  61. ^ "Chapter 27 Movie Reviews, Pictures - Rotten Tomatoes". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2008-03-29. 

Books and articles

  • Badman, Keith (1999). The Beatles After the Breakup 1970-2000: A day-by-day diary. Omnibus Press. ISBN 0-7119-7520-5. 
  • Seaman, Fred (1991). The Last Days of John Lennon. Birch Lane Press. ISBN 978-1559720847. 
  • Bresler, Fenton (1990). Who Killed John Lennon. St. Martin's Press. ISBN 978-0312923679. 
  • Cocks, Jay (22 December 1980). "The Last Day in the Life". Time. 
  • David Rosenthal et al., "The Death and Life of John Lennon". New York, 22 December 1980.
  • Tom Mathews et al., "Death of a Beatle." Newsweek, 22 December 1980.

External links



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