Tonawanda News

December 9, 2013

MUSIC NOTES: The day Lennon died not to be forgotten

The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — On the morning of Dec. 9, 1980, my father knocked on my door the way he did on every school day. As part of his morning routine, he would often give me a quick news flash like, “by the way, the pope died.”

On Tuesday morning Dec. 9, my father said, “John Lennon was murdered last night.”

Most of the nation learned of Lennon’s death during a Monday Night Football game between the New England Patriots and the Miami Dolphins. At just 14, I was too young to stay up to watch an entire Monday Night Football game.

My first reaction to the news was utter disbelief, and I reached up to turn on my clock radio, which was set to the local rock station. They were playing “A Day in the Life,” and after the song, the disc jockey confirmed that Lennon had indeed been murdered.

Like many of my peers, I was caught up in all of the emotions of the death even though I didn’t even have a recollection of The Beatles being together. I was a fan. My first album was The Beatles’ “Abbey Road,” their final recording session.

Lennon’s death meant that there would be no reunions, which I have little doubt would have eventually happened had Lennon not been murdered.

That Christmas I asked my parents to purchase me a copy of John Lennon’s last album, “Double Fantasy.” The demand for the album was so high that most record stores and department stores ran out of the album, so my parents bought me “Mind Games” instead, an album I wasn’t particularly fond of.

For months afterward, I listened to tons of Beatles music and bought many Beatles albums. Oddly enough, as I sat here writing this I realized that I have never listened to “Double Fantasy” and I actually purchased a copy of it online today, my early Christmas gift.

A few years ago, I finally was able to visit the scene of the crime, the Dakota in New York City. It was a place I had seen in news reports and in pictures when I bought the Rolling Stone Magazine with Lennon on the cover that was published right after his death.

In the 33 years since his death, I find myself revisiting it often. I have met correction officers that interacted with Lennon’s murderer, Mark David Chapman, when he was housed in Attica State Prison. They all say that Chapman would have been paroled by now if he had killed someone other than John Lennon, and if paroled it was reported Chapman wanted to relocate not far from my home in Orleans County.

I read “A Catcher in the Rye” looking for clues as to his motive, and was saddened to learn Chapman had a copy of one of my favorite Todd Rundgren albums in his hotel and was wearing a Rundgren shirt when he was arrested.

It’s strange in many ways, I never knew or met John Lennon personally, but like many fans I felt a connection and a deep sense of loss when he was murdered, and Dec. 8 is a date I have never forgotten.

Thom Jennings writes a weekly column on the music scene for Sunday Lifestyle. Email him at