Remembering the Death of a Beatle – Forty Years On

“There are places I’ll remember
All my life, though some have changed
Some forever, not for better
Some have gone, and some remain
All these places had their moments
With lovers and friends, I still can recall
Some are dead, and some are living
In my life, I’ve loved them all.”

  • From The Beatles song ‘In My Life’, with lyrics by John Lennon

By Doug Draper, Niagara At Large

Posted December 8th, 2020 on NAL

John Lennon, the way I will so often remember him during the height of The Beatles years in the 1960s

I went to work 40 years ago today – it was Monday, December 8th, 1980 and I was about a year and half in to my first job as a reporter for The St. Catharines Standard – and I was still flying high from what is still one of the greatest rock concerts I have ever seen, just four days earlier

On December 4th, Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band took the stage at the old Buffalo Aud., and from the countdown to ‘Born to Run’ to almost five hours later (Springsteen was famous for doing those marathon concerts at the time), those of us who were fortunate enough to be there were in Rock and Roll ecstasy.

For me, it almost made up for not seeing The Beatles when I was a kid, although right up to December 8th, I still entertained dreams that a Beatles reunion and a concert I may be lucky enough to get a ticket to could still happen.

One of the many mass vigils, held around the world, in the days after John Lennon’s death.

That dream ended four days later when, as I was finishing up a story during the final hour or two of that Monday, one of the editors in the Standard newsroom said; “Oh no. Someone shot John Lennon. They say he’s dead.”

John Lennon was, at the time, only 40 years old and a length BBC interview he did two days before his death found him in high spirits as he had just released ‘Double Fantasy’, his first new album of music after five years of time off with his wife Yoko and their young son Sean.

From ecstasy to an outpouring of grief shared with countless millions around the world, I was way too young to remember “the day the music died” when 1950s rock legend Buddy Holly went down in a plane crash. But now here was that moment for a generation of fans who grew up with The Beatles.

Fifteen years later, in 1995, when the three surviving Beatles teamed up together to produce the multi-series anthology of the group’s storied career, they actually went in to the studio with home-made recordings featuring John’s voice on two songs he wrote after the band broke up.

They took those tapes of ‘Free As A Bird’ and ‘Real Love’ and produced what would technically become the last ever Beatles recordings, one of which actually rose up as high as Number 6 on the Billboard Charts 25 years ago this December.

The ‘Strawberry Fields’ memorial site in New York City’s Central Park, across the street from the Dakota building where John Lennon lived and where he was gunned down just outside.

Those ‘ghost recordings, as some called them, left many sadly wondering how great it might be had John lived and possibly gone into the studio with the  other three to record a whole album, and possibly go out again on tour.

I find myself feeling a little selfish having those thoughts because, first and foremost here, the tragedy was that a person who was a husband and father had his life snuffed out in mid-stream.

Forty years later, on this December 8th, 2020, some of the tributes I have heard on radio and TV include a listen to what, for so many, as become his most beloved solo recording – ‘Imagine’.

So I thought I would end it here with one of my favourite Beatle songs. This one, according to many accounts, was mostly John’s and in an interview years later he shared his desire to record it again, slowed down and more acoustic, as he originally intended it to be.

The song is called ‘Help’ and you can watch John and The Beatles perform it the year it was recorded in 1965 by clicking on the screen immediately below –

RIP John Lennon

“The death of a loved one is a hollowing experience. After 40 years, Sean, Julian and I still miss him. ‘Imagine all the people living life in peace.’”                                                                                    – Yoko Ono Lennon, from John Lennon’s widow

Toward the end of his life in his adopted home of New York City in the 1970s with wife Yoko

To read a story that includes tributary statements from the two surviving Beatles, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, and from others, click on – .

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2 responses to “Remembering the Death of a Beatle – Forty Years On

  1. I remember it was lightly snowing and my friends and I skipped school and drove up and down Hartzell Road for a big chunk of the day as the radio covered everything in the Beatles’ and Lennon’s songbook. It felt like we’d just got him back, and suddenly he was gone. Sad day.


  2. John reputedly could be a real jerk, likely due to his terrible early childhood, deserted by both parents (listening to the song “Mother” is heartrenching) and sudden overwhelming fame at a young age – BUT – before his murder in 1980 he got himself together, overcame his demons and become a good and principled man who tried to make the world a better place.
    His last recordings were among his best, just a hint of what might have been….”Watching the Wheels”, “Starting Over”, “Imagine”, “Beautiful Boy” and other great songs. Everyone can make mistakes but, especially while being under a microscope, admitting and overcoming them is hard work. He did. He was also a genius.
    I was lucky enough to see The Beatles three times – see but not hear. The screams were like a jet engine. Couldn’t hear for a week. Whether people loved or hated him, John and his cohorts changed society. The legacy of The Beatles and their influence on society and future musicians can never be ignored.


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