John Lennon's tragic death remembered 41 years later: How the world reacted (2023)

John Lennon's death sent shockwaves around the world on December 8, 1980 when Mark Chapman shot the Beatles singer dead on the doorstep of his New York home.

The murder of the Beatles singer and one of the most famous celebrities on the planet in New York was something that resonated with so many people, in a way that had not been felt since John F Kennedy's death nearly 20 years previously.

In what would have been his 81st year, we take a look back at how the world reacted when it heard that John Lennon had been so senselessly killed, and how his fellow stars responded in tribute.

  • How and when did John Lennon die?

    John Lennon's tragic death remembered 41 years later: How the world reacted (1)

    On the evening of December 8, 1980, John Lennon was shot dead in the archway of the Dakota, his home in New York City.

    The killer was Mark David Chapman, an American Beatles fan who had travelled from Hawaii.

    Chapman explained that he was angered by Lennon's life and public statements, in particular his phrase about the Beatles being "more popular than Jesus" and the lyrics of his songs 'God' and 'Imagine'.

    Chapman also said he was inspired by Holden Caulfield from JD Salinger's 1951 novel The Catcher in the Rye.

    John Lennon's tragic death remembered 41 years later: How the world reacted (2)

    The American planned the killing over several months, and waited for Lennon at the Dakota that morning. At one point, he even met Lennon, who signed his copy of the album Double Fantasy.

    See more: Paul McCartney "often dreams" about old friend John Lennon: "They're always good"

    Later that night, Lennon and wife Yoko Ono returned, and as they walked towards the entrance, Chapman fired five shots, four of which hit Lennon in the back.

    Chapman stayed at the scene, reading The Catcher in the Rye, until he was arrested by the police. Lennon was rushed to Roosevelt Hospital, where he was pronounced dead on arrival at 11.15pm.

  • How was John Lennon's death announced on TV?

    John Lennon's tragic death remembered 41 years later: How the world reacted (3)

    9 December 1980 BBC1 - News: John Lennon is dead

    (Video) Paul McCartney Talks About John Lennon's Death

    As the death occurred at around 4am UK time, and with rolling news channels not in existence, most British people didn't find out what happened until the morning or even lunchtime news broadcasts on TV.

    In the US, news producer Alan J Weiss of network WABC-TV had been waiting to be treated in the Roosevelt Hospital after being injured in a motorcycle accident earlier that evening. He said in 2013 that he had seen Lennon being taken into the room surrounded by police officers.

    After discovering what happened, he called the station. Eventually, the news made its way to ABC News president Roone Arledge, who at the time was overseeing ABC's coverage of Monday Night Football.

    See more: The Story of... 'Yesterday' by The Beatles

    When Arledge discovered that Lennon had died, a match between the New England Patriots and the Miami Dolphins was level with less than a minute left. Arledge told commentators Frank Gifford and Howard Cosell about the shooting, and said they should report it on air.

    Cosell, who had interviewed Lennon back in 1974, wasn't sure, as he felt it was not their place to break such a big moment.

    John Lennon's tragic death remembered 41 years later: How the world reacted (4)

    John Lennon shot 12-8-80 Howard Cosell tells the world twice John Lennon was dead.

    However, Gifford convinced Cosell to do so, saying that he should not "hang on to [the news]".

    Cosell told viewers: "Remember this is just a football game, no matter who wins or loses. An unspeakable tragedy confirmed to us by ABC News in New York City: John Lennon, outside of his apartment building on the West Side of New York City - the most famous, perhaps, of all of the Beatles - shot twice in the back, rushed to Roosevelt Hospital, dead on arrival. Hard to go back to the game after that newsflash, which, in duty bound, we have to take.

  • Did John Lennon have a funeral?

    John Lennon's tragic death remembered 41 years later: How the world reacted (5)

    The day after Lennon's death, Yoko Ono issued a statement: "There is no funeral for John. John loved and prayed for the human race.

    "Please do the same for him. Love, Yoko and Sean."

    His remains were cremated at Ferncliff Cemetery in Hartsdale, Westchester County, New York.

    (Video) Shocking Facts About John Lennon's Death

    Read more: The 10 greatest John Lennon songs, ranked

    Ono told to the chanting crowd outside the Dakota that their singing had kept her awake, and asked that they re-convene at the Central Park Bandshell the following Sunday for ten minutes of silent prayer.

    On December 14, millions of people around the world did justs that. They paused for ten minutes of silence to remember Lennon. 30,000 gathered in Lennon's hometown of Liverpool, and the largest group - over 225,000 - did so at Central Park. For those ten minutes, every radio station in New York City also went off air.

  • How did the other Beatles react?

    John Lennon's tragic death remembered 41 years later: How the world reacted (6)

    Paul McCartney's real reaction to John Lennon's Death in 1980

    On the day after the murder, bandmate George Harrison issued a statement for the press, saying: "After all we went through together, I had and still have great love and respect for him.

    "I am shocked and stunned. To rob a life is the ultimate robbery in life. The perpetual encroachment on other people's space is taken to the limit with the use of a gun.

    "It is an outrage that people can take other people's lives when they obviously haven't got their own lives in order."

    See more: Yoko Ono facts: Artist's age, children and relationship with John Lennon revealed

    John Lennon's tragic death remembered 41 years later: How the world reacted (7)

    Ringo Starr tells 1981 about the last time he saw John Lennon

    Harrison is said to have privately told friends: "I just wanted to be in a band. Here we are, 20 years later, and some whack job has shot my mate. I just wanted to play guitar in a band."

    (Video) The Night John Lennon Died

    Paul McCartney criticised for his reaction at the time. He was leaving an Oxford Street recording studio when reporters asked him for his reaction. He responded by saying: "Drag, isn't it?".

    McCartney himself regretted the remark. He later said that he had intended no disrespect, and was unable to articulate his emotions, due to the shock and sadness he felt.

    Ringo Starr didn't release a statement at the time. In 1981, he told Barbara Walters how "sad" he was and that he "still misses" Lennon "a great deal".

    See more: The inside story of why The Beatles really broke up

  • What tributes happened at the time?

    John Lennon's tragic death remembered 41 years later: How the world reacted (8)

    Imagine - John Lennon & The Plastic Ono Band (w the Flux Fiddlers) (official music video HD long v)

    There was a huge outpouring of grief among fans at the time. In the week after his death, Lennon's new single '(Just Like) Starting Over' climbed to number one in the UK singles chart.

    Read more: The greatest John Lennon cover versions ever

    His famous festive song 'Happy Xmas (War is Over)' was reissued and went to number 4 the following week, and in the first week of January 1981, a re-released 'Imagine' went to number one for five weeks. He then replaced himself at number one with new single 'Woman'.

    See more: The Story of... 'Happy Xmas (War is Over)' by John Lennon

    Stevie Wonder found out about Lennon's death while backstage at one of his own concerts, and proceeded to tell a shocked crowd the sad news.

    John Lennon's tragic death remembered 41 years later: How the world reacted (9)

    Stevie Wonder Announces John Lennon`s Death Live to his Audience 1980 (Rare)

    (Video) John Lennon's death and how it rocked the world - 42 years on

    Queen performed 'Imagine' the night after Lennon's death at Wembley Arena in London.

    John Lennon's tragic death remembered 41 years later: How the world reacted (10)

    Queen - imagine ( Live In 1980 ) - (Video)

    David Bowie, who was close friends with Lennon since the mid-1970s, performed a moving tribute to Lennon at the final show of his Serious Moonlight Tour at the Hong Kong Coliseum, on 8 December 1983, the third anniversary of Lennon's death, singing 'Imagine'.

    John Lennon's tragic death remembered 41 years later: How the world reacted (11)

    David Bowie sings 'Imagine' - a tribute to John Lennon

    George Harrison released a tribute song titled 'All Those Years Ago' in 1981, featuring Ringo Starr and Paul McCartney.

    Elton John joined up with Bernie Taupin to recorded a tribute to Lennon, called 'Empty Garden (Hey Hey Johnny)'. When he performed the song in Madison Square Garden in August 1982, he was joined on stage by Ono and Sean.

    QUIZ: How much of a John Lennon fan are you?

  • What happened to Mark Chapman?

    Chapman pleaded guilty in 1981 to murdering Lennon.

    He was sentenced to 20-years-to-life, and later automatically became eligible for parole in 2000.

    (Video) Remembering John Lennon On The 40th Anniversary Of His Death | TODAY

    However, he has been denied parole 11 times and remains incarcerated in an Upstate New York prison.

    In 2020, he was quoted as saying he was "sorry" for killing Lennon, and that he was "attention-seeking".

    Read more: John Lennon’s 'attention-seeking killer' Mark Chapman apologises for murder

  • FAQs

    How did the society react to John Lennon's death? ›

    Fans Gather to Pay Respect

    John was taken to the hospital and was pronounced dead at 11:15 pm. Following the death of John Lennon, fans held candlelight vigils in his honor. 400,000 people gathered at Central Park in the week after his death to show their love and support for his family and his friends.

    What was George Harrison's reaction to John Lennon's death? ›

    In the feature, Harrison's wife, Olivia Harrison, revealed her husband's thoughts following Lennon's tragic murder. She said Harrison was "really angry" at Lennon for his lack of preparation. She said he was furious that "John didn't have a chance to leave his body in a better way".

    What were John Lennon's last words? ›

    While travelling in the car on the way back from The Record Plant, Lennon spoke to Ono for the last time. “I said, 'shall we go and have dinner before we go home?' ” Ono recalled. “And John said, 'No, let's go home because I want to see Sean before he goes to sleep.

    How did George Harrison find out about John Lennon's death? ›

    In a 1988 interview on Aspel and Co., Harrison revealed that he had been sleeping when he received the shocking news. “The call came through sometime in the morning, four or five in the morning,” George said. “I didn't take the call. Olivia took the call, and she said, 'John's been shot.

    What was John Lennon's impact on society? ›

    In the late 1960s and early '70s, John Lennon began to actively endorse a wide variety of progressive and radical political causes. He championed the anti-war movement as well as Native and African-American rights while demonstrating a deepening interest in feminism.

    What impact did the Beatles have on social issues? ›

    Many cultural movements of the 1960s were assisted or inspired by the Beatles. In Britain, their rise to national prominence signalled the youth-driven changes in postwar society, with respect to social mobility, teenagers' commercial influence, and informality.

    What was George Harrison's last words before he died? ›

    George Harrison passed away on November 29, 2001. His final words were recorded by his wife, Olivia Harrison, as very simply “love one another.”

    Did the Beatles attend George Harrison funeral? ›

    Did the Beatles go to George Harrison's funeral? No, because George didn't have a funeral - at least not in the traditional sense. George passed way in the early afternoon of 29th November 2001 in Los Angeles.

    Why was George Harrison mad at paul McCartney? ›

    During a chat with DJ Alan Freeman on his 1970s show Rock Around The World, George said he felt inferior in some ways to lead singer Paul, now 80. He said: “I had no confidence in myself as a guitar player having spent so many years with Paul McCartney, he ruined me as a guitar player.”

    What did paul McCartney say about John Lennon's death? ›

    "When John died, it was so difficult," McCartney told host Tom Frangione. "It was difficult for everyone in the world because he was such a loved character and such a crazy guy. He was so special." McCartney, 80, continued, that the death of his Beatles bandmate hit him so hard "that I couldn't really talk about it."

    What was John Lennon's last words to paul McCartney? ›

    Although their intimate conversations remained private, Paul's wife Linda McCartney once revealed John Lennon's last words to his former band mate. As Ultimate Classic Rock reveal, they were: “Think about me every now and then, old friend.”

    What did Yoko say when John was shot? ›

    She said: "I said 'shall we go and have dinner before we go home? ' and John said 'No, let's go home because I want to see Sean before he goes to sleep'.” Yoko was also asked if John had said anything after he had been shot, to which she replied quietly "no".

    What was Ringo Starr's reaction to John Lennon's death? ›

    After a period of pause, a silence that feels more real than anything else said in the interview, Ringo simply fills the space by stating: “I'm really sad. I still miss John a great deal, I'll always miss him, you know.

    What did George Harrison think of death? ›

    “One body is called the causal body, the next body is called the astral body and the third is called the gross physical body. So death is only relative to birth—if you don't wanna die, you don't get born. But as long as you're born, you've got to die.

    What was John Lennon's message to the world? ›

    In the better world Lennon proposed, people would forgo violence and act out of love and mutual respect. They would recognize that such traditional classifiers as religion, nationality and skin color are meaningless from a cosmic perspective and that any person should be treated simply as a fellow human being.

    What is John Lennon most remembered for? ›

    John Lennon was the leader or coleader of the British rock group the Beatles, author and graphic artist, solo recording artist, and collaborator with Yoko Ono on recordings and other art projects.

    What was John Lennon remembered for? ›

    John Lennon, born in Liverpool on Oct. 9, 1940, earned worldwide fame when he created the Beatles. Throughout his life, Lennon became known as a peace activist, artist, poet and philosopher, while still writing and recording seminal music.

    How did The Beatles affect the US? ›

    They led the way in production and album-oriented rock. They pioneered music videos. They also transformed attitudes about mind-altering drugs and ushered in a new interest in non-Western religions.

    What was the biggest Beatles controversy? ›

    In 1966, John Lennon entangled The Beatles in what was likely their biggest controversy. In an interview, he spoke about the enduring quality of rock music versus religion. “Christianity will go,” he said, per Rolling Stone. “It will vanish and shrink.

    Why are The Beatles so impactful? ›

    The Beatles were also innovative in business and strategy, having a huge impact on global music industries. They were one of the first rock groups to have their own production company, Apple, and to attempt to manage their own career after the death of their manager Brian Epstein.

    What did Paul McCartney say when George Harrison died? ›

    As ever Paul was calm, collected and sincere in his approach, describing the news as “very sad.” He went on to say “[I am devastated] I've known he's been ill for a long time,” before adding, “I've spoken to Olivia [Harrison] and she has been very strong, and I'd ask people to be kind to her.”

    What were Harrison's last words? ›

    Passing away at Sir Paul McCartney's American home, George Harrison had wife Olivia Harrison by his side until the end. According to those present, his final words were: “Everything else can wait, but the search for God cannot wait, and love one another.”

    Who was George Harrison's closest friend? ›

    Eric Clapton was Harrison's closest friend, but he had actively pursued Pattie Boyd romantically while she was married to Harrison.

    Did Paul McCartney attend John Lennon's funeral? ›

    Yes, Paul McCartney did attend John Lennon's funeral.

    What song was played at George Harrison's funeral? ›

    All Things Must Pass” reflects George Harrison's philosophy on death. Death is inevitable. We cannot ignore it, so we must embrace it warmly.

    Did John Lennon and George Harrison stay friends? ›

    Harrison and Lennon were possibly the closest friends in the group at the time — and following the band's breakup with the guitarist notoriously featuring Lennon's famed Paul McCartney attack song — but their relationship was dramatically withering.

    Did McCartney and Harrison ever reconcile? ›

    Arguably though, Harrison and McCartney fell out more than any other members, and their differences seem harder to reconcile. It would be a stumbling block for any potential reunions. In 1973, the dust had settled a little and the Beatles all seemed to have relaxed into their new roles as solo artists.

    Why did Harrison walk out Beatles? ›

    George left because Paul and he were having a heated discussion. They weren't getting on that day and George decided to leave, but he didn't tell John or me or Paul.

    Did George Harrison enjoy The Beatles? ›

    Unlike John Lennon, who used his status to establish himself as a countercultural preacher-for-peace, George regarded fame as innately destructive. It is perhaps for this reason that he once said he stopped enjoying being in The Beatles when they became famous. Sure, it made them rich, but it also made them complacent.

    What did paul McCartney think of John Lennon's death? ›

    "When John died, it was so difficult," McCartney told host Tom Frangione. "It was difficult for everyone in the world because he was such a loved character and such a crazy guy. He was so special." McCartney, 80, continued, that the death of his Beatles bandmate hit him so hard "that I couldn't really talk about it."

    How did paul McCartney find out about John Lennon's death? ›

    With the grim milestone coming up, his bandmate, Paul McCartney, 72, spoke about how he found out his close friend had died after he was shot to death at the age of 40 in New York by Mark David Chapman. "I was at home and I got a phone call," he said on the Jonathan Ross Show. "It was early in the morning.

    How did the Beatles overcome the tragedy? ›

    They faced their share of numerous failures throughout their journey. But their persistence and hardwork aided them immensely. The series of failures only made them stronger and each time they failed they worked even more to come back stronger. Beatles are probably one of mankind's greatest success stories.

    Did John Lennon forgive Paul McCartney? ›

    Paul McCartney says his bitter rift with Beatles bandmate John Lennon may have drawn headlines, but their real story at the end was one of forgiveness, as the two put aside differences to bond over fatherhood and “bread-making recipes.”

    What was John Lennon's last words to Yoko? ›

    “I said 'shall we go and have dinner before we go home? ' and John said 'No, let's go home because I want to see Sean before he goes to sleep',” Ono, 73, told Kirsty Young on 'Desert Island Discs'.

    What song was written about John Lennon's death? ›

    "Here Today" is a song by Paul McCartney from his 1982 album Tug of War. He wrote the song as a tribute to his relationship with John Lennon, who was murdered in 1980.

    Did George Harrison pass away in paul McCartney's house? ›

    Harrison died in a property owned by McCartney in Beverly Hills, Los Angeles. He was surrounded by his wife, Olivia Harrison, his son, Dhani Harrison, and his closest friend, Ravi Shankar, as well as his family and some other Hare Krishna devotees.

    What did John Lennon say about Joni Mitchell? ›

    “As soon as it hit my era, the intelligence of it dropped considerably. When it came to me, this guy folded his arms and crossed his feet and said, 'I never liked Joni Mitchell—she's too twee. ' Well, that's what John Lennon was like. It was that fear working-class people have of middle-class people.”

    What was John Lennon's famous quote? ›

    "A dream you dream alone is only a dream. A dream you dream together is reality."

    What was John Lennon reading when he died? ›

    Lennon was rushed to Roosevelt Hospital in a police car, where he was pronounced dead on arrival at 11:15 p.m. at age 40. Chapman remained at the scene reading The Catcher in the Rye until he was arrested by the police.

    Why was John Lennon so special? ›

    He was an Activist

    Lennon was famous for making meaningful music, but he also stood out in the minds of people everywhere due to the fact that he was vocal on a number of political issues during his lifetime. He used both his music and actions to voice his opinions.


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