December 8, 1980, a few hours before Lennon was murdered.
Today is December 8, and 29 years ago tonight, John Lennon was lethally shot by a stranger in front of his own home. His wife was walking in front of him. One of his sons was upstairs, waiting for his daddy to come home from the studio and tuck him into bed.
I truly hate thinking about John’s actual death. I’d much rather write about his life. But when it comes to this day, the murder is what I always feel confronted with. When I think of November 29 (the date of George Harrison’s passing), I feel sadness and loss, but I don’t immediately think of cancer. When I think of December 8, I do think of gun violence. And in many ways, I think it’s important to remember why and how John died.
As with all murders, there is an inherent unfairness to John’s death. It’s simply not right that he was not allowed to see his 5-year-old son become an adult, to grow old with his wife of 13 years, to make more music, or even, when his time had in fact come, to be able to say goodbye.
Instead, his life was taken suddenly when he was 40-years-old, by a man who had no right. (As a reminder: that man’s name is not welcome here.) And he was taken during what is believed to have been the happiest period of his life.
In some ways, this may have been a blessing; after all, few would argue that it is better to die miserable. And I’d hope that no one would ever argue that murder is less abhorrent when the victim is sad. But there is a unique if not greater brutality to killing someone when they are happiest to be alive. It always pains me to know that he didn’t die instantly, that for a few minutes he knew what was happening to him, and he tried to stop it. When the bullets probably should have caused him to collapse, he instead continued up the path to the building, somehow managed to climb several stairs, and asked for help before falling to the floor. There may be extremely little remarkable about this; the vast majority of us, given the chance, would fight for our lives. But the fact remains that the last thing John did was demonstrate that he wanted to live.
He wanted to live.
He had many reasons for that, beyond mere human instinct. He was in love, and married to his soul mate. After many years of failed attempts, they had a son together, Sean, and John spent 5 years staying at home and helping to raise him. He was working on his relationship with his older son, Julian. He was making music again after a 5 year hiatus, and that music was in fact very good. He was apparently planning his first tour since his days with the Beatles. And in interviews he spoke candidly with a sense of calm and self-assurance that had he had rarely displayed in his younger days. It seemed that after many years of personal pain and insecurity, he was at peace with himself. At least he got that.
Below is some of the work that John released in 1980, which talks about his life during that period.
Watching the Wheels
Woman (Video is NSFW, but utterly gorgeous and definitely worth your watch at home.)
Beautiful Boy (John Lennon Anthology alternate take)
My thoughts and best wishes today go out to Yoko, Sean, and Julian.