Real Rock News

John Lennon was murdered 40 years ago today; Stevie Nicks and other stars share their recollections

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New York Times Co./Larry C. Morris/Getty Images

Today, December 8, marks the 40th anniversary of the murder of John Lennon, who was shot to death by a deranged fan outside of The Dakota, the New York City apartment building where the former Beatles legend lived with wife Yoko Ono and their son, Sean.

Lennon, who was just 40 when he died, had recently released a new album that he’d recorded with Ono, Double Fantasy, marking the end of a five-year hiatus during which time he focused on raising Sean. John’s killer, Mark David Chapman, had waited outside The Dakota for Lennon to return from a recording session that day, and shot him four times after he and Yoko were dropped off by a limousine.

A variety of well-known music artists have shared their recollections about Lennon’s tragic death with ABC Audio, including Stevie Nicks, who noted that John’s killing was very frightening for her and her peers in the music business.

“We all felt if that can happen to him, it could sure as hell happen to any of us,” Stevie remembers. “So there was a fear thing that happened then, and it scared everybody. You know, the crazy people of the world…[I]t’s like, why in the world would somebody do that? Why? Jealousy? Envy?…Why would you want to take the life of somebody that we all cared about so much?”

Heart guitarist Nancy Wilson recalls that she was at a Seattle restaurant about to eat dinner when a friend who worked there told her the awful news.

“We had to run out of the restaurant, into our cars, and drive home, ’cause we didn’t have cellphones yet, and turn on the TV [to] see if it was true,” Nancy says. “And it was true. And the next day, at the Seattle Center, they had a big wake. And I couldn’t go. I was too destroyed.”

Badfinger‘s Joey Molland, who played on Lennon’s Imagine album, had a particularly emotional response to John’s murder.

“I would have shot that guy who killed him,” Molland declares. “I would have shot him right away, right away. Cleaned his clock, you know? Unbelievable that somebody could do that to a man like that, you know?”

Molland adds that he remembers hearing the news from late sports announcer Howard Cosell while watching a Monday Night Football game.

“‘John Lennon’s been shot,’ he said,” Molland recalls. “Unbelievable…The next few days, it was like the sun didn’t come up or something.”

Here are the recollections from some other music artists:

Todd Rundgren: “I was at home in upstate New York, dead of winter. I was, as usual…on my computer doing something, because even though it was 40 years ago, I was already into computers…And then heard about it and, you know, it was sad and it was upsetting, but not shocking. Principally because I was also in show business, and when you become a public personality, that kind of stuff happens.”

Tom Petty guitarist Mike Campbell: “I was driving. I had a ’54 Chevy, and I was driving over the hill into town to a studio called Cherokee, where The Heartbreakers were working, and I heard it on the radio, and I pulled the car over [and] I just started sobbing. You know, I couldn’t believe it. And I do remember that moment, like I remember when John Kennedy was killed…and I remember when Tom died…Dark moments happen, and you just have to suck down and grieve through it.”

The DoorsJohn Densmore: “Yeah, I still ache. When John was shot, I went that night to a thing outdoors with candles and all of that.”

The RomanticsWally Palmar: “[When John] got murdered…The Romantics were in Toronto. We were playing at the El Mocambo, maybe not that night, but I think that we were there the night before…and it just so happened, you know, when we heard the news, we were sitting right there and it flashed across the TVs…Very sad, very needless, obviously.”

Ex-Joan Jett & the Blackhearts guitarist Ricky Byrd: “[W]e were getting ready to go out that night and the news…that horrible thing when ‘this is a bulletin,’ you know, when that comes on, your heart drops. Yeah, I mean, that was awful…And everybody went up there, we all got on buses or whatever, with cabs, and we went up to stand in front of the [Dakota] building…I don’t know why anybody would want to do that.”

By Matt Friedlander
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