Musician's words still resonate with fans
Many continue to mourn his death 25 years later.
By BILL STRAUB
SCRIPPS HOWARD NEWS SERVICE
John Lennon had finished what would be his last recording session at the legendary Hit Factory in downtown New York on the cold evening of Dec. 8, 1980, when the limousine spiriting him and wife Yoko Ono pulled up in front of their longtime residence at the Dakota.
Waiting at the curb for the rock-music legend and former Beatle was a disturbed young man named Mark David Chapman. Shots rang out at 10:50 p.m. and, in a matter of moments, the Summer of Love and all it represented disappeared as if it had never existed.
It's been 25 years, a quarter of a century, since John Ono Lennon died on the streets of the city of New York at the too-young age of 40. Rolling Stone magazine, which seemed to chronicle every step of this bitter artist during his tenure on the public scene, said his "unfathomable murder" remains "one of the most mourned losses in the history of rock 'n' roll."
In what essentially was a 17-year career, beginning with the Beatles' recording of "Please Please Me" in London in February 1963 and ending with his demise, Lennon played a vital role in reshaping the popular culture. His music remains embraced by millions 25 years after he played his last note, and there's no reason to believe his influence will fade within our lifetimes.
It is difficult, if not impossible, in this post-9/11 world to describe to those who weren't there the grip Beatlemania held on America and Europe in the mid-1960s. Lennon and his mates from Liverpool -- Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Ringo Starr and their underappreciated producer, George Martin -- propelled popular music into uncharted territory, away from the teen-idol crooning of Frankie Avalon and Bobby Rydell and the saloon ambience of Frank Sinatra into a world of loud guitars, shouted lyrics and catchy tunes all within a self-contained group.
They also, in the words of Rob Sheffield, a contributing editor at Rolling Stone, invented "drugs, beards, bed-ins, India, concept albums, round glasses, the Queen, breaking up and vegetarians."
Lennon and McCartney became the most successful songwriting team ever. If McCartney, "the cute one," provided the group's happiness and light, Lennon, "the smart one," offered the underside.
A remarkably complicated individual, Lennon was excoriated for claiming that the Beatles were "more popular than Jesus," abandoned his first wife for Yoko Ono, an avant-garde artist, became a peace activist, took up primal-scream therapy and, after the band's ballyhooed breakup in 1969, seesawed between reclusiveness and attention-getting theatrics.
He also managed to produce what many consider one of the essential albums of the rock era -- "John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band" -- which sounds as fresh and invigorating today as when it was first produced.
Few people can claim to have influenced the world in as great a detail as John Lennon has over the past 40 years. He remains celebrated in both an increasingly materialistic America and in Cuba, where Fidel Castro hailed him as a revolutionist and unveiled a statue in his honor upon the 20th anniversary of his death. It was Lennon who pleaded to "give peace a chance" and sought a world where "we all live as one." People are still seeking the same things 25 years after the working-class lad from Liverpool was gunned down.