Iconic musician, John Lennon, was shot dead outside his New York apartment

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Dakota mourning.

Monday, 8 December 1980

At approximately 11:00 PM, John Lennon was shot 4 times in the back as he entered his luxury apartment building on Manhattan's Upper West Side. The Lennon's left their limousine on the street and walked up the driveway when the gunman opened fire. He was rushed in a police car to St Luke's Roosevelt Hospital Center, where he died. His wife, Yoko Ono, who witnessed the attack, was with him.

His assassin, Mark Chapman, had asked the former Beatle for his autograph only hours before he laid in wait and killed him. After the shooting, Chapman sat and read a copy of Catcher in the Rye as he calmly waited for police to arrive.  He told police he had heard voices in his head telling him to kill the world-famous musician.

The instant outpouring of grief that followed Lennon's death was on a level with that of the sudden death of a world figure such as John or Robert Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr., or Princess Dianna.  By morning, the gates in front of his Lennon's apartment had become a shrine, covered with a collage of flowers, messages, photographs, and drawings.  His widow, Yoko Ono, received condolences from celebrities, Presidents, Prime Ministers, and legions of stunned fans from all over the world.  Impromptu public tributes and candlelight vigils took place in numerous major cities.  Radio stations on both sides of the Atlantic cleared the airwaves for Lennon and Beatles tributes, many of them immediately after broadcasting the news of his death. Record stores would soon report sellouts on Double Fantasy, as well as the back stock of Lennon's previous recordings.

On the night of his death, Lennon was returning from a studio called the Record Plant, where he had been working on tracks for his next album.  Tragically, Lennon had begun a revival of his carrier after spending the last several years away from the limelight. With the birth of his son Sean in 1975, Lennon put his career on hold to raise the boy. In the summer of 1980, both Lennon and Ono felt ready to resume work and began composing. His new album, Double Fantasy, released just 3 weeks before his death, marked his first new album in five years. The album won the 1982 Grammy Award for Album of the Year.

In 2002, respondents to a BBC poll on the 100 Greatest Britons voted Lennon into eighth place. In 2004, Rolling Stone magazine ranked Lennon number 38 on its list of "The Immortals: The Fifty Greatest Artists of All Time" and ranked The Beatles at number one.  But more than his stature as a recording artist, John Lennon was at the center of a youth movement that shook Western popular culture and politics to its very foundations during the 1960s and 70s. 

References:
• Time Magazine,' John Lennon is shot to death at 40 ',[online], Available at www.content.time.com[Accessed: 20 November 2013]
• Mail online,' John Lennon's Killer ',[Online],Avaliable at www.dailymail.co.uk[Accessed: 20 November 2013]

Last updated : 20-Nov-2013

This article was produced for South African History Online on 16-Mar-2011