For many New Yorkers and fans worldwide — the gunshots that shattered the silence on the Upper West Side and ended John Lennon’s life 30 years ago tomorrow still rip through their own hearts.
But since his murder at the age of 40, Lennon’s music and message continues to leave an imprint that his killer Mark David Chapman could never erase.
“He’s like a secular saint,” said Philip Norman, author of “Lennon: The Life.”
“His death was one of the moments where people remember exactly where they were and what they were doing,” he said. “He’s still very much a part of young people’s lives.”
One of the tragic ironies of Lennon’s murder is how the former Beatle’s dislike for being a celebrity and his hunger to fit in as regular New Yorker factored in his demise.
Lennon walked these streets with Yoko Ono without security or an entourage, interacted regularly with fans; and when Chapman shot him at 10:50 p.m, he was heading to the front door of his apartment in the Dakota at West 72nd Street rather than its more secure courtyard entrance. And perhaps most haunting is the famous photo of Lennon signing an autograph for Chapman hours before the murder.
“John Lennon prided himself on being a New Yorker,” said Jason Menkes, a music business professor at NYU. “It was his adopted city. He felt free to walk around the city without an entourage or having to flee paparazzi. His murder was tragic because it marked the end of an incredible life, an amazing talent, and the sense of safety between musicians and their fans.”
Chapman, convinced his former idol had become a “phony,” shot Lennon four times in the back. Now 55, Chapman is serving 20 years to life.
Lennon’s fan base and influence, however, hasn’t dwindled.
“Lennon was ahead of his time. When he died, a great voice was lost for a movement and a generation,” said Joan Grzan, 64, of Manhattan. “In culture and music, there will never be another John Lennon -– no one with the influence and wisdom he had.”
Maria Milito, longtime DJ on classic rock station Q104.3, said people still wonder what Lennon’s opinion would be regarding current world events.
“As we've seen the world change in so many drastic ways over the past 30 years — there’s a wonder of ‘What would John Lennon have thought about that?’ I often hear that,” she said.
Lennon’s life has been mercilessly analyzed and dissected. Such inspection may have left even some of his most fervent fans believing he was irritable, reclusive and antagonistic.
“Given this critical examination of his flaws... public opinion of Lennon remains overwhelming positive,” said Erek Barsczewski, moderator of Lifeofthebeatles.blogspot.
“Despite his flaws, Lennon was an adorable human being, no one ever walked away from him without feeling totally captivated by him,” added Norman.
(With Heidi Lee and Tim Herrera)