Born a decade too late to remember John Lennon in his Beatles days–
in keeping with that circumstance, I was a day late in hearing of his appalling death.
On December 9, 1980, I was in college: a freshman alto in the choir and working in the music department to earn tuition money.
That morning I was waiting in the foyer to the music department for the history class meeting down the hall in the choir room to turn out so I could go set up for a rehearsal when our accompanist/piano instructor came in and demanded abruptly, What do you think about what happened to John Lennon?
We had no television at home then, and no radio in the car, so I got all my news, in those days, secondhand.
Also, I wasn’t quite awake.
What happened to John Lennon? I asked.
You mean you haven’t heard? He was murdered last night!
That blunt. That cold. That unbelievably, sadly true.
Murdered when he was almost home, by a mentally disturbed man who sat down and read a copy of The Catcher in the Rye until the police came–who would later use Salinger’s novel as a “explanation” for Lennon’s death.
Mark David Chapman, the gunman, pleaded guilty and was sentenced to twenty years to life for Lennon’s murder. Denied parole, at last count, six times, he will likely die in prison.
We have Lennon’s music. That, Chapman could never take from us.
I remember this song every Christmas season.
Rest well, John Lennon. Rest well.
PS There are reports, by the way, of people who claim to have seen Lennon’s ghost in front of the Dakota, that immense gothic apartment building where he and Yoko Ono made their home in the last years of Lennon’s life.
Lennon’s spirit also figures in British author Phil Rickman’s brilliant horror novel December (1994).