Give Peace a Chance
John Lennon was a singer, songwriter, musician, author and peace activist who was also one of the founding members of The Beatles. He died tragically on December 8, 1980 in New York City, New York. Lennon was shot and killed by Mark David Chapman at the entrance of the Dakota apartment building where he resided. Chapman was charged with murder and received a prison sentence of twenty years to life. He has been up for parole five times, which has been denied each time. Chapman remains at Attica State Prison in New York. John Lennon’s assassination shocked the world. The world had lost a great musician.
Born on October 9, 1940 in Liverpool, England, Lennon had taken an interest in music at an early age. At seventeen, he formed a band called The Quarrymen that eventually became The Beatles. The Beatles looked to Lennon as their group leader. As Paul McCartney, a fellow band member stated, “We all looked up to John. He was older and he was very much the leader- he was the quickest wit and the smartest and all that kind of thing” (Goldman 672).From 1957 until 1964, the Beatles toured all over Europe. The group first appeared in the United States in February 1964. After their performance on The Ed Sullivan Show, The Beatles toured nonstop for two years, holding concerts, making movies, and writing hit songs. In 1969, the group split up and John Lennon began working on his first solo album. Throughout the 1970’s, Lennon produced multiple hits and he had a successful solo career. He also recorded several albums with his wife, Yoko One, a Japanese-American woman who was several years older than Lennon. He had two sons, Julian from a previous marriage and Sean with Yoko Ono.
Mark David Chapman was born in 1955, the son of a military family that moved around his entire childhood. He was bullied and teased at every school he attended. “He sought refuge in an imaginary world of little people where he achieved affection and the feeling of power” (Norman, 804). In his early teen years, Chapman experimented with drugs, but he later became a devout Christian. He went on to work for several worthwhile causes that Lennon would have approved- a YMCA program for Vietnamese people and he also spent time in Beirut during the Lebanese Civil War (Norman 804). At age 22, he began having psychiatric problems and attempted suicide. In 1979, he married a Japanese-American woman several years older than himself, much like Lennon. Chapman eventually developed a series of obsessions including John Lennon and the book The Catcher in the Rye. Chapman particularly obsessed about Holden Caulfield, the main character in the book. He believed that “if he put an end to John Lennon, he would be able to step into the book’s pages and become Holden Caulfield” (Norman, 805). His main comfort in his joyless life was Beatles music.
On Friday, December 5, 1980, Mark David Chapman flew from his home in Honolulu, Hawaii to New York with a backpack and fourteen hours of Beatles music on cassettes. He checked into a YMCA and bought a copy of Double Fantasy, the latest album by John Lennon. Chapman left his copy of J.D. Salinger’s book The Catcher in the Rye at home in Hawaii, so he purchased a new copy in New York. His plan was to shoot John Lennon at that time, but instead just took some pictures. Chapman spent most of the weekend outside the Dakota talking to the many fans that always stood around hoping to get a glimpse of Lennon, but he did not see John Lennon until Sunday. On Monday, December 8, Chapman returned to the Dakota around noon. John left his building around 4 p.m., and Chapman was planning once again to shoot Lennon. This time, Lennon autographed Chapman’s Double Fantasy album, Chapman hesitated when Lennon kindly asked, “Is that all you want?” This caught Chapman off guard and he could not go through with his current plan.
Later that evening, at 10:49 p.m., Lennon returned to his home. Lennon headed to the entrance of the Dakota. Chapman walked towards Lennon and was holding his autographed copy of Double Fantasy. He softly called, “Mr. Lennon” and produced a .38 caliber handgun, firing five shots. Within minutes, police arrived at the scene and took Lennon to Roosevelt Hospital. He was pronounced dead at 11:07 p.m. Police found Chapman leaning against the bricks outside the Dakota calmly reading The Catcher and the Rye. His gun and the Double Fantasy album were on the ground nearby. The inside book cover read “This is my statement” (Jones 22). “This” was underlined, it was signed “Holden Caulfield,” and The Catcher in the Rye was written underneath.
Lennon was assassinated by a man similar to himself. “Both were troubled, self-absorbed, and emotionally unfulfilled children. Each came separately of age- Lennon in the rubble of post World War II England, and Chapman in the midst of America’s decade long war in Vietnam-in a confused and hypocritical world” (Jones 2). Both sought out music, art, drugs, and religion (Jones 1). Chapman was angered by Lennon’s infamous remark in 1966 that The Beatles were “bigger then Jesus.” Chapman’s was obsessed with the theme of phoniness from The Catcher in the Rye. It was suggested that Chapman wanted to kill Lennon because he viewed him as a phony. Chapman later said that he felt the murder would turn him into Holden Caulfield.
Both John Lennon and his assassin, Mark David Chapman, have surprised and forever altered history. Ironically Lennon had given an interview on the say of his assassination where he said that he felt safe enough to walk anywhere in the city. He was a simple man who wanted only peace and love in the world. These ideals where shown in his music and songwriting. His assassination robbed the world of a talented musician.