One of the most shocking days in the history of contemporary popular music was December 8, 1980, when John Lennon was murdered by Mark David Chapman. The assassination came as a complete shock and no one could have predicted that it would happen. As John Lennon went on throughout his day, Mark David Chapman was working to execute the plan he’d considered for quite some time.
It’s now been over 40 years since the murder. As Mark David Chapman serves a life sentence and keeps trying to demand parole we can’t get this harrowing event out of our minds.
But how did Mark David Chapman get to a point that he wanted to murder John Lennon? And what were the reasons why many saw John Lennon, of all people, as a threat?
Join FactsVerse to learn more about how John Lennon lived during his final hours…
JOHN LENNON’S INFLUENCE
When The Beatles broke up, many music fans felt that they would never experience the genius of the Fab 4 again. But the 4 members went their separate ways and all had successful solo careers.
For John Lennon, he became perhaps even more iconic than when he was with The Beatles. John Lennon became one of the most influential artists while he was still a member of The Beatles and many of his songs and views struck a chord with the youth from across the world.
Among those who didn’t care for his music was the US government – and it seemed that he knew exactly what was happening.
But what was so good or so bad about John Lennon’s music that it upset some people?
Let’s look at some of the songs that really inspired and enraged others. Perhaps the most famous was his song Imagine – in which he envisions his ideal world. One of the most famous or perhaps infamous lines in the song is when he sings that we should imagine a world without religion and one where there’s no heaven and above us there’s nothing but the sky.
While such words may bring solace to some, they bring fury to others. Many didn’t like John Lennon’s overtly atheistic stance and many saw this as a stance against Christianity. It didn’t help that with The Beatles, John Lennon was instrumental in popularizing Eastern Spirituality and Religion in the West. At one point during The Beatles’ fame, John Lennon claimed that The Beatles were even more famous than Jesus – which enraged a lot of people, and also caused a few concerts to get cancelled.
While he was adored by many fans, he had unwittingly made a few enemies as well.
While we might think that music is just a form of entertainment – it’s important to know that all art has a greater influence on our collective psyche. Lyrics from a great song can inspire and influence the listeners – and many others might not be comfortable with how someone might act after hearing a song such as “Imagine.”
There were people who felt that John Lennon was a dangerous influence on American and perhaps Western society at large. Particularly a small populace of religious fanatics felt truly hurt by John Lennon’s music and his influence.
Among such persons, there was one who was previously a huge fan of The Beatles and John Lennon. He loved listening to John Lennon’s music and felt joy when he heard it. But this young man underwent a religious conversion and this time, he became even more obsessed with John Lennon.
But his obsession wasn’t one of a fan – rather it was one of someone who hated John Lennon – one who felt that John Lennon had to be silenced, lest he cause even more harm on the society.
This young man was planning to kill John Lennon…
ENTER: MARK DAVID CHAPMAN
Mark David Chapman was born on the 10th of May, 1955, in Fort Worth, Texas. His childhood wasn’t easy, and he recalled having horrible experiences with his father who was physically abusive to his mother and showed no affection toward Mark.
This made young Mark feel powerless and made him long to have power – especially power over others. Perhaps he secretly wished he could dominate others just as his father dominated over his mother and him.
As a teenager, he had a troubled life – often being bullied in school. He also experimented with drugs and even ran away from home and lived in Georgia for 2 weeks before returning home!
When he turned 16, he became a born-again Presbyterian and this had a major influence on the rest of his life. He found solace in religion and would go around distributing Biblical literature – finally finding a purpose and a source of strength in his life.
But this conversion had a darker side as well. It meant that Mark was disturbed by anything he considered blasphemous or against the message of the Gospel. As a young teenager, he, like many teenagers of his age, loved The Beatles and especially loved John Lennon.
But eventually his love for John Lennon turned into hate – as he felt that John Lennon would preach about having no possessions while living as a millionaire. He would listen to John Lennon’s music and felt angry that the singer didn’t believe in God and seemed to openly criticize the very concept of God and religion in his music.
This rage turned into a plan to murder John Lennon.
We can’t continue before mentioning The Catcher In The Rye. The famous novel was a great influence on Mark David Chapman and he often claimed that the novel made him want to commit the heinous murder.
Mark David Chapman felt a kinship with the novel’s protagonist Holden Caulfield. He felt that he could live his life as Holden and fight against “phonies” which is often mentioned in the novel. One interesting point that should be noted is that Holden Caulfield also had an aversion to religion and even makes a blasphemous statement about Jesus in the novel. Nevertheless, Mark David Chapman loved this book and read it many times.
Even after he had done the deed, the police found him sitting down reading the novel. The Catcher In The Rye was already considered to be a controversial novel and was now perhaps even more so since Mark David Chapman claimed that it inspired him to murder John Lennon.
Mark David Chapman decided to travel to New York when John Lennon lived. He carried along with him, a copy of The Catcher in The Rye and .38 Special revolver. In the morning of December 8, 1980, the world didn’t know who Mark David Chapman was. Since that fateful day, it seems that we’ll never forget him.
HOW JOHN LENNON LIVED DURING HIS FINAL HOURS
While John Lennon knew his music upset some people and that he was being surveilled by the government and was even threatened with deportation by President Nixon, his focus continued to be on his music.
On December 8, 1980, John Lennon was just as busy as ever. He and his wife Yoko Ono were finalizing their song “Walking On Thin Ice” which would then be released in February 1981.
One of the creepiest things about recording that particular songs are the lyrics in it. In the song, Yoko Ono sang about how she might ‘cry someday…’ Little did she know that one of the most traumatic events of her life.
But recording that song wasn’t the only thing that kept John Lennon busy on December 8th.
In fact, even earlier during that day he was busy giving an interview. John Lennon was interviewed by Dave Sholin and Laurie Kaye. In this interview, he discussed how he was perceived and this had become a regular theme of his interviews. In fact, only a few days before this interview he gave another one for Rolling Stone where he addressed the backlash he faced after The Beatles broke up. He stated that the British public wanted a dead hero such as Sid Vicious – but he himself refused to become a dead hero.
In hindsight, how John Lennon lived during his final hours almost made it seem as if he knew that a great threat was on his way.
Around 11 PM on December 8, 1980, John Lennon was shot and ultimately killed by Mark David Chapman outside of his apartment in New York City. When the police arrived to arrest the killer, he was sitting calmly at the scene reading The Catcher In The Rye.
At Yoko Ono’s request, all photographs of John Lennon’s corpse were destroyed. One wonders how this would play out in our modern age when one can take and share photos in an instant.
Mark David Chapman was given a sentence of 20 years to life with possibility of parole. While initially reluctant to speak to the press he stated that he didn’t want to kill John Lennon for the publicity. He has often requested parole stating that his mental state was weak during the time.
However, in 2022, he appealed for parole and stated that he knew that killing John Lennon was wrong but that he did in fact desire fame. He was denied parole on the grounds that the world was still recovering from his actions.
He is scheduled to appeal for his release for the thirteenth time in February 2024…
So, now let’s hear from you:
Are you a fan of John Lennon? Did you know about his final hours and the details leading to his assassination?
John Lennon left us too soon, but his music will continue to live on forever.
And now, here’s what we want to know:
Do you think that singers today express their own unique political views through music?
Or are they more likely to be controlled by an establishment that controls their lyrics?
If the editor wishes, here is a clip of John Lennon and Yoko discussing being watched by the govt.