John Lennon Died 28 Years Ago Today; a Word to Boing Boing from Yoko.

Yoko Ono has kindly emailed Boing Boing this beautiful photograph of her husband, former Beatle John Lennon, who was murdered on this day in 1980. Photographer Allan Tannenbaum took the image on November 26, 1980, just a couple of weeks before Lennon passed away.

"Please share your memories of John here at this website," Ms. Ono says to Boing Boing readers, and, "WAR IS OVER! IF YOU WANT IT. You can download the poster here. Print it out, and display it in your window, school, workplace, car & elsewhere over the holiday season."


  1. This news story is actually something that is near and dear to me. In 10 days I will turn 28 years old. My parents, being the huge Beatles fans they are, were absolutely devastated by the news of John Lennon’s murder. My mother and father decided to name me in honor of the fallen legend. I know Ms. Ono might not see this, but, I want her to know that John’s music, life, and everything he did has had a major impact on my own. Even know I am listening to some of John’s (and The Beatles) music, in honor of my hero. Thank you for posting this. And thank you, Ms. Ono, for the wonderful picture.

    ~John Winston Lennon Ashline

  2. @#2: I don’t know anything about what is said about how or why the Beatles split up, but I know this: Nothing is going to break up a friendship or a partnership that I’m a part of, except for me or my friends or partners. Others may have an outside influence, or they may not, but in the end it’s about what *we* decide to do.

  3. I am a musician today because my folks brought a Beatles album home for me in ’68. I wore it out on my little cardboard record player.
    When the “more popular than Jesus” thing happened I remember my mom actually saying “he seemed like a nice boy”.
    I remember Howard Cosell announcing that John had been shot during Monday Night Football.
    My coworker came to work with a black arm band on.
    Did any good come of this?

  4. In light of the war message and of course the fact that it’s the anniversary of his murder, this comment is a tad bit frivolous, but I’ll make it anyway. Anyone else instantly think of John’s poker face on the “Beatles for Sale” cover when they saw this photo? Here’s the two side by side:

    He was still a handsome devil. And I had forgotten how absurd was the shape of George’s “Hershey’s Kiss”-do on that same album cover. Early Beatles are so delightful. I’m currently reading “Can’t Buy Me Love”, which is surprisingly fresh despite the literally hundreds of Beatle books that preceded it. The writer does a nice job with the social context of the Beatles (both in the U.K. and the States)…making the reader think about all the pop-culture tropes that didn’t exist before the Beatles that we now take for granted, and also pointing out connections between the Beatles and that same culture that we might not be aware of (for instance, that they modeled there arrangement of “‘Till There Was You” very closely on the Peggy Lee arrangement featured on the circa 1960 Lp “Latin a la Lee”). The Hamburg chapter is particularly good, at least for somebody like me who only had a passing familiarity with the Beatles’ time in Hamburg.

  5. i take no small amount of comfort in the fact that john died on bodhi day, the traditional day commemorating when siddhartha gautama became the buddha:

    i’ve written in the past here about how much john’s life and death have affected my life. i still miss him. i wish he was here today to see how things have (and haven’t) changed. i’m sure his music would have been right there reflecting on it. peace to you, yoko.

  6. Yoko has always been awesome.

    Anyway, if you want one thing to blame the breakup of the Beatles on, it was Brian Epstein’s death.

  7. All they are saying, is Give Peace a Chance.

    What happened here
    As the New York sunset disappeared
    I found an empty garden among the flagstones there
    Who lived here
    He must have been a gardener that cared a lot
    Who weeded out the tears and grew a good crop
    And now it all looks strange
    It’s funny how one insect can damage so much grain

    And what’s it for
    This little empty garden by the brownstone door
    And in the cracks along the sidewalk nothing grows no more
    Who lived here
    He must have been a gardener that cared a lot
    Who weeded out the tears and grew a good crop
    And we are so amazed we’re crippled and we’re dazed
    A gardener like that one no one can replace

    And I’ve been knocking but no one answers
    And I’ve been knocking most all the day
    Oh and I’ve been calling oh hey hey Johnny
    Can’t you come out to play

    And through their tears
    Some say he farmed his best in younger years
    But he’d have said that roots grow stronger if only he could hear
    Who lived there
    He must have been a gardener that cared a lot
    Who weeded out the tears and grew a good crop
    Now we pray for rain, and with every drop that falls
    We hear, we hear your name

    Johnny can’t you come out to play in your empty garden

  8. …I remember that night well, when the news broke and my best friend and I went down to the local Album Rock station to help the evening DJ mourn, as he was one of the biggest Beatles freaks we knew. It was a really sad and weird feeling watching the AP wire reports coming over on the teletypes with the latest updates on the various global reactions to Lennon’s death, and the whereabouts of his assassin. One NYPD cop was even quoted as saying “we’re keeping this guy under wraps, because there’s no way we’re going to have an Oswald here in NYC!”

    Rest easy, John. And thanks for the wonderful trips!

  9. jeez, i was just getting ready to finish up my first semester in college, and was making love to my gf in my dorm room when i heard a great commotion outside. then my roommate pounded on the door and said “john lennon’s been murdered!” the worst coitus interruptus i have ever experienced! all us beatles / lennon fans poured out of our rooms and sat under a big, old oak tree in the middle of the commons and sang john’s tunes til almost sunrise. i wish we knew the whole truth of his murder. i, for one, have many unanswered questions.

  10. Dear Yoko,
    I was in grade school when your husband was killed. I learned of it from the school bus radio that morning as we rode in to school. People in the hallways there were talking about it, teachers were even talking about it; this was clearly an important, significant loss. But I was in fifth grade, and though I was very interested in the story and could see it was important to so many others, I did not know who John Lennon was.
    I’d heard the Beatles, and I knew some of their songs. But neither of my parents had any of their albums, and I had only a few 45s at that point, and none by the Beatles or John Lennon or you. So I went through the school day, listening to people talk about this John Lennon, this violence, New York City, and, of course, the music. All of the discussions seemed to come back to music. Most of which I had never heard.
    I didn’t tell anyone in school that day that I’d never heard the name John Lennon before that morning. I went home on the same school bus, where the same story was still being announced, and I realized then that they were playing Beatles songs. Lots of them. So I asked my mother to turn on our radio in the kitchen when I got home. And after she had, I found the station from the bus, and we listened.
    I asked my mother who John Lennon was, but she didn’t know any more than that he’d been in the Beatles. I asked my father when he came home from work, and he said little more than my mother. We had turned the radio off by then, unfortunately.
    After dinner, I decided to consult the one and only real media resource I had available to me at the time: the World Book Encyclopedia. Volume J-K-L. Lennon, John. It wasn’t a long entry, but it was there. A lot about the Beatles, and then you were mentioned. The hotel room. The peace movement.
    I have to admit, as a fifth grader living in rural Maryland, I wasn’t sure what to make of it. I thought that the war had long been over. A peace movement didn’t seem important. And why did people care so much about some old music?
    I had a small transistor radio in my bedroom that I used to listen to baseball games on the AM stations in the summer when I couldn’t fall asleep from the heat. I went to my room that night after reading about you and your husband, and I tuned to the station that was playing his (and your) music, and I listened for as long as I could stay awake. I liked what I heard, much of it new to me.
    The next day, the station was playing other music. People were talking about other things too. But still, I kept hearing his name periodically: John Lennon. Spoken in a sort of reverential tone.
    A few days or perhaps weeks later (the passage of time is so extremely distorted in childhood memories), I asked my mother as we stood in a department store, not far from the racks of albums and 8-track tapes, if I could get a Beatles record for Christmas. I remember how her eyebrows moved as she paused in looking at whatever she’d been focused on and then focused on me.
    “Do you know which one you want?” she asked.
    I remember feeling my cheeks get a bit warm. “I want the best one,” I replied, trying to sound like I knew at all what I was talking about.
    I received a “greatest hits” type of collection that year under the tree, and I played it incessantly. I don’t know if I started out liking it, or if I just wanted to like it so much that I somehow did. I don’t know now even which songs were on it. But I did like it. And I grew to know and appreciate the Beatles’ and John Lennon’s music as I grew up.
    I am very sorry that your husband was killed, of course, and I doubt I can articulate any condolence you haven’t already heard. I know, however, that, as horrible as his loss was, it did serve to make some people more aware of him and his contributions to this world, then and now. And I hope that offers some tiny solace.
    Thank you for sharing and reaching out today. Peace to you and your family.
    PS—Please exhibit your visual art more often.

  11. Yoko Ono was the Ur-punk Japanese art gal. She rocked and rocks still.

    Of course, it was easy for very white American and Britain to blame the Beatle breakup on this crazy Japanese gal they couldn’t comprehend and that indeed terrified them because she was so friggin iconoclastic and liberated and even, in her own way, powerful.

    Does it not say a lot that John Lennon was smitted by this woman?

    Meanwhile, I’ve always thought the Beatles were probably sick of being Beatles by that point, so a breakup was inevitable.

  12. Whatever their flaws and mistakes, John and Yoko’s work for peace was so sincere and human that it is above criticism.

  13. John Lennon was politically incorrect,he was flawed and made mistakes. He made song from these mistakes and gave us understanding, insight and a path of truth. We loved you for all your mistakes because, like us you were learning too. We miss you so much.

  14. I was still in college, visiting with friends that evening, and on the way home, saw a bunch of people standing in front of a bunch of candles and flowers on Boston Common — a little impromptu shrine that had sprung up. What a way to find out!

  15. Just out of high school, I remember how excited I was to hear new tracks by John on the radio that fall in 1980. I remember my buddy calling me late at night, something like 11 and I was in bed. I had to get up at 4 am for work. He was watching Monday Night Football and heard Howard Cosell anounce the tragedy of John’s death. I remember being in shock and crying on and off for several days. How could this happen? Why?

    You know, it’s no secret that John was no saint and he hurt a lot of the people he loved. Maybe that’s why I always related to so much of his music. The internal and eternal pain and agony, self-loathing and egotism. He was in the “greatest show on earth” and rested on his laurels to a certain degree after that. But the talent and his message more than made up for any orchestral and pop music shortcomings. We were robbed of him, but also have been blessed with his legacy.

    I still miss him. I am still moved to tears, sometimes, when I hear a Beatles or solo song. I remember how sick I felt when I first heard what happened and, every December, I still get that pit in my gut. Even after twenty eight years. If it just hadn’t happened so close to Christmas, maybe if wouldn’t be so bad.

    But who am I kidding? It wouldn’t have mattered when it happened, Christmas every year would still be sad without John. I miss you, John.

  16. so this is christmas/ and what have you done?/ another year older/ and a new one just begun/ a very merry christmas!/ and a happy new year!/ let’s hope it’s a good one/ without any fear.

  17. Just a few months ago, I realized what a picture I especially liked of John and Yoko really meant:

    It was actually taken on Dec. 8 1980, hour before John died.

    I still love the picture of course, perhaps much more. Every time I see it, I get this poignant reminder of how fleeting life is and how necessary it is to hold people you love as tightly and as often as possible.

    At least, I tell myself, they did embrace each other that day. But it is small comfort.

    Peace to you, John. And much love to you, Yoko.

  18. Yoko, Xeni: Thanks for sharing the photo and keeping the candle lit for Peace.

    OM: I’m jumping up and down for your pleasant comment. Peace, bro. =D

    CVR: Yes, that’s a good bio. I also recomend A Day In The Life by Mark Hertzgaard.

    Minty: I was only 13 that night in 1980. I discovered music through the Beatles when I found a copy of Meet The Beatles at 6 yrs old. I collected nothing but Beatles until I was 10. I had the whole catalog by then, mostly first editions. It was my first hobby. They taught me to sing.

    I had discovered punk rock by this early age of 13, and had largely rejected the classic rock fare that was mainstream music at the time, but never The Beatles. John had always been my fave of the four, long before I knew of his peace work and his politics, or that he had been the founder of the band. I still remember that night like no other. After the news came on the radio, they played nothing but John’s work all night. I remember feeling ashamed I had not realized that so many other songs I knew were John’s solo works. I had never really delved into post Beatle work until then. I had no one to mourn with. No one who understood what their music and message meant to me. It was one of the saddest nights of my life.

    Over the years I have rediscovered the magic and majesty of the Beatles collectively and individually many many times. You always remember your first love best.

    Light a candle tonight, and celebrate on Oct. 9.

    Here’s to Johnny, Dr. Winston O’Boogie!

    Instant karma’s gonna get you
    Gonna knock you right on the head
    You better get yourself together
    Pretty soon you’re gonna be dead
    What in the world you thinking of?
    Laughing in the face of love
    What on earth you tryin’ to do?
    It’s up to you, yeah you

    Instant karma’s gonna get you
    Gonna look you right in the face
    Better get yourself together darlin’
    Join the human race
    How in the world you gonna see?
    Laughin’ at fools like me
    Who in the hell do you think you are?
    A super star?
    Well, right you are!

    Well we all shine on
    Like the moon and the stars and the sun
    Well we all shine on
    Everyone! Come on!

    Instant karma’s gonna get you
    Gonna knock you off your feet
    Better recognize your brothers
    Everyone you meet
    Why in the world are we here?
    Surely not to live in pain and fear
    Why on earth are you there?
    When you’re everywhere
    Come and get your share

    Well we all shine on
    Like the moon and the stars and the sun
    Yeah we all shine on
    Come on and on and on on on
    Yeah yeah, alright, uh huh, ah

    Well we all shine on
    Like the moon and the stars and the sun
    Yeah we all shine on
    On and on and on on and on

    Well we all shine on
    Like the moon and the stars and the sun
    Well we all shine on
    Like the moon and the stars and the sun
    Well we all shine on
    Like the moon and the stars and the sun
    Yeah we all shine on
    Like the moon and the stars and the sun

  19. Like BIFFPOW, I had an similar experience in junior high that really transformed my newly burgeoning thirst for all things music. Mr. Reilly, my English teacher who sometimes would whip out his acoustic guitar and perform for us, had the gumption to tell us all why the news was so sad, while in fresh, real mourning.

    After that, I rediscovered those British guys that only sound British when they’re talking, and the rest is history. John was always my favorite, and every year I get as many people as I can to remember the 8th of December with music. Prteferably the music of John Lennon.

  20. I was 13 and had been sent to bed for the night worst night of my life had just said good night to my dad little did i know it was for the last time. They announced on the radio that John had been shot and killed, felt horrible for all his family and friends. My Aunt woke me up the next morning to tell me my Dad had died in the early morning hours. The world had just lost 2 of the most wonderful men in ever in a few hours that December.

  21. Greenskeptic @ 26 – !!!!!!

    and I thought ~I’d~ had a bad day that day.

    Here in the UK it happened on the 9th, and the 9th is the day that still brings it all back.

    My best friend phoned me before college, she had heard it on the radio. I argued with her for ages over the distinction between ‘shot’and ‘dead’.

    The rest of the day was entirely surreal.
    It was the first time I ever went through the whole grieving process.

    And years later, with all the fun of ageing, passing the ‘I’ve outlived Hendrix’, ‘I’ve outlived Jesus’, ‘I’ve outlived Marilyn Monroe’ markers, outliving John was the one that really gave me pause…

  22. In December of 1980 I was 21, fresh out of college and, for lack of anywhere else to live, had moved back into my parents’ house in Far Rockaway. I swore it was temporary, that I’d save every penny and get my own place within a year. That night, December 8th, I went out with my steady boyfriend at the time. We must have gone to a bar in Atlantic Beach, because I clearly recall walking back to Rockaway with him across the Atlantic Beach Bridge. I was home by eleven and asleep shortly thereafter. At midnight, my dad woke me up to tell me what he’d just heard on TV. I switched on the radio by my bedside to either WPLJ or WNEW, I can’t recall which one, and the DJs confirmed it.

    Based on what they were saying, I calculated that I was right smack in the middle of that bridge at the moment he was shot. I don’t know why it was so damn important for me to know exactly where I was when it happened. But at the time, it seemed significant. And so that memory of crossing the bridge that night remains stuck in my head like a tick.

    Early the next morning, still emotionally numb and slightly queasy, I took the subway to work, taking pains to avoid reading the headlines. My office was on Madison & 52nd and at lunch I went uptown to the Dakota. It seemed like the right thing to do, to pay my respects with the large crowd that had formed. A week later, my friend Val and I attended the silent memorial in Central Park.

    Some years later I dated a guy who had been a doc in the ER at Roosevelt Hospital that awful night. “He was dead when they brought him in,” he told me. “But we worked on him anyway. Because it was John Lennon.” By that time I had long since made good on my promise to move out, and was living in a studio in the West Village. Oddly enough, it turned out that my apartment was directly across the street from the building where John and Yoko had lived before they moved to the Dakota. Just knowing that he and I could have been neighbors made me happy.

    Like most kids in the sixties, the Beatles formed a soundtrack for my childhood. One of my earlier memories (I was five) is walking with my dad, my fingers gripping his, the two of us singing “I Wanna Hold Your Hand,” which was a number one hit at the time. And I forever will be grateful that, at 15, I was lucky enough to see Lennon perform on stage with Elton John at Madison Square Garden. It was my first concert, and it would be Lennon’s last public performance. It was a magical night, Beatlemania redux. You can listen for yourself on Elton John’s “Here and There” CD. That’s me screaming in the background, along with 20,000 other lucky fans.

    It saddens me to think of all the music we’ll never hear and the songs we’ll never sing because he was taken from us too soon. John Lennon asked us to “Imagine.” I try to imagine the music we’ve missed these past 28 years. But I can’t. And it occurs to me that perhaps we all crossed a bridge that long-ago night.

  23. Oh Robin (singing in the dead of night), I agree we all crossed a bridge. A bridge of imagination enginered by John.

  24. @ 27 – I of course meant Leftyc @ 25, emotion compromises my numeracy.
    I experienced the death of John Lennon, and I’ve also experienced the sudden and unexpected death of my dad.
    Both on the same day I cannot claim to comprehend, I can only imagine.

  25. John Lennon is absolutely a hero of mine. I have rock-solid heroes, who I’ve dwelt on for many hours, and carefully selected over time to admire.

    I regret his death as keenly as any other. One of his very few equals, Bob Dylan, continues to contribute immensely to our cultural fabric – I only wish John were here to do that too; especially since the re-entry of the Bush family to power in 2000 – what a difference he might have made.

    I know every intonation, emotion and subtlety in his music, and grew up with it from the age dot. I remain appalled at the person who took his life. I regret the grief his family, and we all to a lesser extent, feel.

    So I celebrate his life and mourn his loss, and dedicate my thinking and actions today to forwarding the causes and beliefs I have in harmony with my perception of John’s spirit. I have numerous days like this.

    So – I’ll sign up to donate money to Pump Aid, which I read about yesterday, and help a village have clean water.

    And out of respect for the passion, tenacity and ferocity in John, I exhort myself to maintain a clear head and stable understanding of what it meant to have him in the world, and how to interpret him and his legacy, his ongoing legacy in the presence of Yoko, in the ultra-realist fashion I’m sure he would drive for. Let nothing be forgotten.

    I was mean-spirited, and offer my apologies.

  26. I was reading in my apartment in the Echo Park district of L.A.
    The first thing I did was to rush into the living room to touch the picture of John (you know, the one that came with the White Album) that had hung on my front door every place I had lived since 1968.
    Local labor organizer Shin’ya Ono had arranged for John and Yoko to appear at a rally supporting striking workers in L.A., where I would’ve met them.
    A working class hero is (still) something to be.

  27. I am amazed at how some folks will go so far out of their way to try to knock people down, even after they are dead. We ALL have to be for peace, because we are ALL so un-peaceful. There is great wisdom in being able to be so unflinchingly honest with oneself about past misdeeds and yet striving so overtly to make the world a better place for all of us. There is no room on this planet for selfish bastards anymore, if we are going to survive. Can’t we appreciate John Lennon the human without someone building straw saints here?

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