John Lennon dies

John Lennon was shot and killed on this day at the entrance of the Dakota building, New York City, where he lived with his wife Yoko Ono. He was 40 years old.

Lennon began 8 December 1980 with breakfast at 7.30am at La Fortuna's, New York City. At 9am he visited a local barber shop where he had his hair cut into a 1950s-style quiff. At around 9.45am he returned to his home at the Dakota to give an interview to Dave Sholin, Laurie Kaye, Ron Hummel and Bert Keane for an RKO Radio Network show.

The interview lasted 90 minutes. In the early afternoon Rolling Stone photographer Annie Leibovitz arrived at the Lennons' apartment for a photo session, which lasted from 2-3.30pm. One of the images, of a naked Lennon lying on a clothed Yoko Ono, was the last ever taken of the couple together.

Lennon and Ono left the Dakota at 5pm with the RKO team. Before they entered their car, Lennon was stopped for several people seeking autographs, among them 25-year-old hospital worker Mark David Chapman. Lennon signed Chapman's copy of Double Fantasy, after which he asked, "Is this all you want?" Chapman nodded in agreement. The encounter was photographed by Lennon fan Paul Goresh.

John Lennon and Mark Chapman, 8 December 1980

At the Record Plant Studio at 321 West 44th Street they mixed Ono's song Walking On Thin Ice, which featured Lennon on lead guitar. During the evening session Lennon also telephoned his aunt Mimi in England, and record label owner David Geffen called by with the news that Double Fantasy had been certified gold in its first two weeks on release.

The recording session came to a close at 10.30pm. Lennon and Ono discussed going for a meal at Stage Deli, but decided to first return to the Dakota to say goodnight to five-year-old Sean Lennon. Their son was being minded by Helen Seaman, the aunt of their assistant Fred.

Although it was late on a December night, the outside temperature was unseasonably warm. Lennon and Ono decided to stop their limousine at 72nd Street and walk the remaining short distance, despite a secure courtyard being available to park in at the Dakota.

Lennon walked a couple of paces behind Ono. As he approached the archway leading to the Dakota's courtyard, Mark Chapman emerged from the shadows and said: "Mr Lennon". The time was 10.52pm.

Chapman is said to have adopted a combat stance and fired five hollow-point rounds at Lennon from a Charter Arms .38 Special revolver. One bullet missed, passing over Lennon's head and through a window of the Dakota building. Two struck Lennon in the left side of his back, and two others penetrated his left shoulder. At least one of these pierced his aorta.

Lennon staggered up six steps to the Dakota's reception area and said "I'm shot," before collapsing. The tapes from the earlier recording session, which Lennon had been holding, were scattered across the floor. The other witnesses to the shooting were an elevator operator, a New York taxi driver, and the passenger he had just dropped off.

Duty concierge Jay Hastings immediately triggered a police alarm before covering Lennon with his blue Dakota uniform and removing his glasses. Yoko Ono cradled Lennon's head as he whispered "Help me", with blood pouring from his mouth. Hastings attempted to reassure him, whispering, "It's okay John, you'll be all right."

Outside the Dakota, doorman Jose Perdomo shook the gun from Chapman's hand and kicked it out of reach. "Do you know what you've done?" he shouted, to which Chapman calmly replied, 'Yes, I just shot John Lennon." The gun came to rest in nearby bushes, close to Chapman's autographed copy of Double Fantasy.

Chapman removed his coat and hat in preparation of the police arriving, and stood to the left of the Dakota archway on West 72nd Street. He began reading a copy of JD Salinger's 1951 novel The Catcher In The Rye, inside which he had written: "To Holden Caulfield. From Holden Caulfield. This is my statement."

Also on this day...

Want more? Visit the Beatles history section.

22 responses on “John Lennon dies

  1. PaulRamon

    Really sad article this, seeing everything John did on the day leading up to it.
    Just a couple of things Joe. I think Helen Seaman was Fred’s Aunt, not his wife? From most of the reports i have read, they said John got out of the limo after Yoko. I’m not sure if this is right but I’ve read and seen a few things about that day recently and that’s what they said

  2. Marcelo

    Hollow-point bullets… What a son of a bitch…

    Last night, after reading this article, and Norman’s bio, I was thinking about the rock & roll novel I want to write, and this idea cross my mind: “what if John would be still alive?” That will definitely part of the novel.

    1. BeatleMania99

      This is really sad. Mark David Chapman will never be forgiven. I know that for a fact. John was an excellent father, husband, and an extraordinare in the music business. He will be missed forever.

  3. Jennifer

    I can NOT get over John Lennon’s death. I have absolutely nothing but pain when I think about it. He was a beautiful man, despite his mistakes in life, What more did he do but give the world beautiful art and music? And incredibly poignant, timeless words and activism that will live on.

    This…demon who shot him…I can not forgive. To die like a dog in the street when all you have ever done was give, give, give to the world? There is nothing sane or normal about that. I have absolute disgust in my country for the liberal gun laws we still carry. Look at all the innocent people getting shot at and dying or being physically impaired because any psycho can walk into a store and attain a weapon. When is this going to change?????!!!

    My sympathy for Yoko, Julian, and Sean. I am SO sorry about your great loss that, I am certain, still hurts to this day.

  4. Sharyn Baker Herrmann

    so hard to believe it has been that long, miss what he could of still of been giving us, his wisdom of using words was awesome! Wonder what of so many things he would think of this United States we live in now and the war!

  5. Willem Woudstra

    35 years and it still feels like it was only yesterday. The dream may be over but John Lennon will always stay in many hearts and minds. That’s his unpayable legacy to the world we live in. This world needs another man like John Lennon.

  6. pkay

    May God bless John and his family and may he rest in peace. John is my favorite though I love them all. I listened to Imagine recently and it seemed brand new cause it had been awhile. Maybe John was right. Anyway the world apparently doesn’t want peace and the oligarchy (shadow devils) with their money will keep it that way.

    Mark Chapman was a patsy according to E. Howard Hunt’s son, Saint John Hunt. His father was a member of Operation 40, central in countless covert operations, including the JFK assassination. According to Hunt, Jose Perdomo (mentioned above) was the actual shooter, and was a substitute that day. Perdomo was a collegue of another Operation 40 member Theodore “Blond Ghost” Shackley: Station chief of CIA’s Miami Station. As an FYI, David Atlee Philips, a.k.a. “Howard Benson”, the head of Operation 40, rose to become the CIA’s chief of all operations in the Western hemisphere.

    We can only speculate as to the why but Lennon was on Nixon’s enemy list in the early 70’s. I post this because it won’t me mentioned in tonight’s CNN special, but people need to know. And when you think about it, isn’t the “lone nut gunman” scenario getting a bit shop worn?

    It is a sad day.

Leave a reply