This Day in History: December 8th- For Attention

This Day In History: December 8, 1980


John Lennon pictured with the man who would become his killer later that day

It was the last thing people expected. On December 8, 1980, Howard Cosell announced during Monday Night Football that John Lennon, legendary musician and peace activist, had been shot and killed outside his home in New York City. The shooter, 25-year-old Mark David Chapman, made no attempt to flee the scene or resist arrest. Lennon had been shot five times, and was rushed to Roosevelt hospital where ER personnel frantically worked to save his life, but he had lost too much blood. The 40-year-old ex-Beatle was pronounced dead around 11:15 p.m.

Earlier that day, Chapman had approached Lennon outside the Dakota, the apartment building where John lived with his wife Yoko Ono and five-year-old son Sean, asking him to autograph a copy of his album “Double Fantasy.” John complied, not knowing this particular “fan” had been plotting his murder for at least three months.

Lennon had taken a break from the music business and political activism for five years to raise his son Sean. He’d missed out on most of his older son Julian’s childhood and was determined not to make the same mistake with his second child. Once Sean had reached the age of five, he felt inspired to make an album again, and he and Yoko entered the studio to create “Double Fantasy.” It had already gone gold by December and was still climbing the charts, much to John’s pleasure.

Lennon creative muse had reawakened, and he was in a good place in his personal life. Happy and enthusiastic, he was looking forward to the future, and had made peace with his tumultuous Beatle John mop top past. Lennon, whose work was always highly subjective, made this clear in the upbeat single “(Just Like) Starting Over” that was in heavy radio rotation at the time.

On the evening of December 8, John and Yoko were working on some new tracks at the Record Plant – his last recording. The couple left the studio in good spirits and returned to the Dakota around 10:50 p.m. The same awkward young man that Lennon encountered earlier that day emerged from the shadows, and pulled the trigger of a .38 five times.

But why? Why would Chapman commit such a brutal, senseless act? You can gain a little insight from one of Chapman’s parole hearings in 2012:

Parole board: “Why did you target this victim?”
Chapman: “Because he was very famous.”
Parole board: “And what did you want to get out of it?”
Chapman: “Attention, bottom line.”

A global outpouring of shared grief and respect for the assassinated musician, activist and cultural icon spontaneously broke out in the aftermath of his death. Few other public figures had inspired such a shared need to pay tribute since President Kennedy. At least 100,000 people gathered in Central Park on December 14th to take part in a 10-minute silent vigil in John’s memory. Many others participated in cities all over the world, and  every year since his death, fans have commemorated John Lennon’s inestimable impact on music, art and social issues.

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