John Lennon, member of the legendary Beatles would have turned 70 today if he wouldn’t had been murdered by crazed fan, Mark David Chapman on December 8,1980. As co-writer of legendary songs with Paul McCartney, Lennon had an awesome 27 #1 singles in just the U.S. alone, and has sold more than 14 million records as a solo artist.
John Lennon’s penchant for writing songs that have a soft classic backdrop style on one hand, and angry political messages on the other hand, made him the most complex and controversial of the Beatles in style. Lennon’s U.S. association with antiwar and civil rights politics also made him a political target of the Republican Nixon administration with right wing South Carolina Senator Strom Thurmond a strong backer of his deportation back to the UK. However, in the spirit of healing America, the more mainstream conservative President Ford rescinded the deportation order engineered by the Nixon White House. Interestingly, Lennon attended Jimmy Carter’s inaugural, and Lennon’s often radical politics began to moderate with the end of the Vietnam War.
In later years, it was discovered that the FBI kept a 281 page file on Lennon, although no evidence existed that he was any security threat. During the Nixon years, many normal law abiding citizens were targets of domestic surveillance activity for their opposition to Nixon Administration policies such as the war. He was certainly more political than any of the other Beatles, although Paul McCartney was particularly associated with peace efforts in Northern Ireland, and wrote the protest song, “Give Ireland Back To The Irish”, which is something of a rarity these days and never included on any greatest hits collections.
As a musician and songwriter, Lennon was so talented and beloved that an Airport in Liverpool, England was named after him. In Havana, Liverpool and Hungary statues or busts celebrate the controversial, but very great artist.
At the time of his death, the comeback album with Yoko Ono, DOUBLE FANTASY was doing well on the charts with some major hit single action for the song, “Starting Over”. But in a wave of public sympathy following his tragic death, the album sales boomed and two more singles, “Woman” and “Watching The Wheels” were released as singles, both doing very well. In the U.S., the album peaked at #1 for a seven week run following his death, and did nearly as well in the UK, although by 1980, John Lennon seemed to be viewed more as an American and native New Yorker by then. Lennon was a regular neighborhood fixture near his Dakota apartment building neighborhood. And it was this easy access that made him an easy target for a mentally unbalanced assassin like Mark David Chapman who suffered from bizarre delusions that killing Lennon would allow him to have his fame and popularity.
At an autograph event earlier in the evening, Lennon was kind enough to autograph a copy of DOUBLE FANTASY for Chapman, even as he plotted to murder him later that night. About 10:50 that evening as Lennon and his wife Yoko Ono were returning home to the Dakota apartment building, Chapman walked toward Lennon and fired four shots into Lennon’s back. Lennon was rushed to the hospital, but pronounced dead on arrival.
It was a strange journey for Lennon. Growing from the humble roots in the poor working class neighborhood of Liverpool, England, into one of the most popular rock stars of all time, to the breakup of The Beatles, to his comeback as a solo artist, to his bizarre death.
John Lennon is another example of a great legendary talent, gone way too soon. He no doubt had so many more classic songs in his future. We can only imagine.