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30 years after his passing, John Lennon is bigger in death than he was in life


I remember as a small child asking my mother who The Beatles were. I knew of them, but I was only around five and didn't know much about them. I don't recall how it came up, but I asked my mother if all of them were still alive.John Lennon signs an album for Mark David Chapman on December 8th, 1980. Just hours later, Lennon would be assasinated by Chapman. Photo: http://userserve-ak.last.fm/serve/500/31955023/John+Lennon+lennon+chapman.jpg

"All of them but one," she said.

"What happened?" I asked, and to this very day I remember her words.

"The one who died was named John Lennon, and a very bad man shot him."

It is exactly 30 years ago today in 1980 that John Lennon was fatally shot by Mark David Chapman  outside his New York apartment.



In the years since Lennon's death, neither his appeal or universal love from his fans have diminished.

In fact, it's bigger than it's ever been.

I don't remember that fateful night in 1980. I was only two years old. However, you can be 32 or 92 and be well aware of the influence John Lennon and The Beatles still have more than 40 years since they disbanded.

Simply put, The Beatles were the best. Period. There hasn't ever been a single band in the history of music whose popularity remains as equally endearing as each generation passes.

Of course there are some haters, you can't please everybody. In saying that, The Beatles are probably the only band where you can ask a casual listener to name ten of their songs off the top of their head, and they can do so without hesitation.

With all due respect to Paul McCartney, Lennon was the machine that made the Beatles go. As talented as Lennon was however, much of his music stemmed from his inner demons. From his rough childhood, to his "Beatles are bigger than Jesus" comment, to his marriage to Yoko Ono in Gibraltar, to his "lost weekend" (which turned out to be over a year) with May Pang, to the government threatening him with deportation in the 1970's  and many other stories too numerous to mention, Lennon was hands down the most controversial and enigmatic Beatle.

Philadelphia broadcasting legend Larry Kane, who covered The Beatles on their tours in 1964 and 1965, spent a considerable amount of time with Lennon on those tours and after The Beatles' breakup in 1970. Of the four Beatles, Kane was the closest to Lennon, even authoring a book titled Lennon Revealed.

"Lennon was a guy who said in public what he thought in private. Never hesitating. He was the real thing," recalls Kane. "As tough as he was, which made his life and his legacy, he was a very compassionate person. He may not have shown it in public, but he really was."

Kane remembers what he was doing on the night his friend died, and the unenviable task of reporting his death on the news was very hard.

"It was a Monday night and I was at Channel 10 getting ready to go home after the news. I got a call from a friend of mine from my old station in New York who told me that John was dead and what happened. At that moment, everybody ran to the television in the newsroom and they heard Howard Cosell (on Monday Night Football) announce that he was dead. Cosell had the same source where I got the news from and I went on the air with it."

"It's kind of a callous thing to report the deaths of people every day in the news whenJohn Lennon in 1974. Photo: http://www.unfogged.com/John-Lennon-New-York-1974-Posters.jpg you don't know who they are. When you go on the air to report the death of someone who you do know, it becomes very hard and emotional, and that night it was for me."

Songs such as "Help!",  "I'm a Loser," and "Imagine,"  prove that John Lennon's realness he exhibited in life was always reflected in his music. It's possibly what made him so endearing.

Phil Fizur from Haddon Heights, New Jersey, thinks Lennon had an ever bigger impact away from music.

"To be honest, I think John Lennon’s contributions outside of music are more important than anything he did in the studio," Fizur says. "I love the vast majority of his work with and without the Beatles, but I think what he did to change the minds of millions has far more impact than anything he ever recorded. John Lennon set a precedent. He made it clear he’d never apologize for who he was or what he believed and that nobody else should ever have to. People often assume he was for peace, love, and dope, but that really wasn't the message. He didn't want everyone to get along and love each other, he just wanted tolerance and for people to let each other live their lives."

Long after his death, John Lennon, through his music or his beliefs, will continue to touch the lives of those who have been inspired by his artistry.

Perhaps Larry Kane said it best about Lennon's legacy.

"John was big in life, but he's actually bigger in death than he was in life. That says something."

30 years later, it surely does.


Contact Joe Vallee at jvallee@philly2philly.com

Lennon photo: http://userserve-ak.last.fm/serve/500/31955023/John+Lennon+lennon+chapman.jpg

Thumbnail: http://www.unfogged.com/John-Lennon-New-York-1974-Posters.jpg