Past lives: John Lennon assassinated – December 8th, 1980

Its December 8th today, and exactly 32 years ago to the day Mark David Chapman shot John Lennon in the back  four times, on the steps of his apartment building, The Dakota in New York. Doctors said no-one could have lived for more than a few minutes with the scale of injuries Lennon sustained, and he was pronounced dead at 11.07 in the evening at The St Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital Center.

John Lennon – Losing You from 1980s Double Fantasy, released on 17th November, less than 3 weeks before his death.

The day had started off fairly ordinarily in the life of one of the worlds most iconic artists, with a photo session for Rolling Stone. Photographer that day was Annie Liebovitz. She had wanted just Lennon on the photographs, but after Lennon insisted, his wife Yoko Ono was included. (below)

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Lennon then went to do what would be his final interview, for the RKO radio network and DJ Dave Sholin. Much of it is talking about their Double Fantasy, the writing process in particular. It was recorded at Lennon’s record label offices, Geffen.

At 5pm Lennon, this time back at the Dakota building, left to go to the Record Plant Studio. Waiting outside since the morning was his killer, Mark Chapman. Silently passing him a copy of the double fantasy album, Lennon signed it and briefly spoke to him (asking him if that was all he wanted) Another of the waiting fans, photographer Paul Goresh, captured the encounter.

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Carrying on to the studio, Lennon and Oko went to work on mixing a song ‘Walking on thin Ice’ a Yoko song on which Lennon played guitar.

They arrived back around 11.50, Lennon passing on going for something to eat so he could say goodnight to his son. As he walked up the stairs, Chapman, who had been hiding in the shadows, adopted a military stance and fired. the first shot missed, the next two hit the left side of his chest, the next two his shoulder. Lennon, mortally wounded and bleeding uncontrollably, struggled up the stairs and said ‘I’m shot, I’m shot’ to concierge Jay Hastings. Hastings, seeing the enormity of Lennon’s injuries, removed his glasses, put his own coat over him, and called for assistance.

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Outside, Jose Perdomo, the buildings doorman, wrestled the gun out of Chapmans hand and kicked it away from him. Asking Chapman if he realised what he’d done he calmly replied ‘yes, I’ve shot John Lennon’. The first policemen on the scene found Chapman calmly sat on the pavement, with a copy of Catcher in the rye in his hand. The second officers on the scene carried Lennon into the back of their squad car and took him to hospital. Reputedly asking him if he was John Lennon, he nodded and tried to answer. By the time the car arrived at hospital, Lennon had no vital signs of life.

Lennon was received at hospital by Dr Stephen Lynn, working on him for twenty minutes with the assistance of two other doctors until finally pronouncing him dead. He said “If [Lennon] was shot in the middle of the operating room with a team of surgeons ready to work on him, he wouldn’t have survived his injuries”. An inconsolable Yoko Ono was calmed down when receiving his wedding ring, and left accompanied by record label boss David Geffen.

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The death was announced to the nation live on Monday night football in America. As soon as it was a huge gathering made its way to the Dakota building. Ono let the crowd know she wished them to pray for his soul, and meet on the park the next Sunday for ten minutes of silent prayer. 225,000 turned up.

John Lennons death announced by Howard Cosell on Monday Night Football.

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And so we lost one of musics great songwriters, characters, campaigners, visionaries. December 8th.

The Kinks -Killers eyes, written about the events.

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