Dec 8, 1980 – The Day John Lennon Died (book review)

December 8, 1980 – The Day John Lennon Died – Keith Elliot Greenberg (Backbeat Books) Book review

There are certain dates that, if you lived through them, are etched in your memory – Lennon’s murder is one of those instances.  On the 30th anniversary of Lennon’s death, December 8, 1980 offers a unique angle, focusing on that final day of his life.  You might ask how you can write a book on just one day?  Greenberg tackles this by introducing each character that plays a role in Lennon’s final hours, and then gives a back story to each one.

So, you get background on Lennon, his wife, Yoko Ono, his killer Mark David Chapman, his record label president David Geffen and others.  One aspect that Greenberg focuses on is Lennon’s love of New York City; it’s true, the singer could have chosen any place on the planet to live, yet he became enamored with the Big Apple.  The author interviews ordinary people for their recollections as well, helping to paint a more complete picture of what the city was like thirty years ago.  He also tracks down lesser known figures, like a fellow fan that had waited outside the Dakota and talked with Chapman just hours before the muder; the police officer who drove Lennon to the hospital after being fatally shot; the doctor who operated on him, and the disc jockey who first broke the news to the world.

Several realizations come from the book:  first, for a man who, just a few months earlier, was changing diapers and cooking dinner, this final day of his life must’ve seemed extremely hectic, with an extensive RKO interview, a photo shoot, and a recording session.  You also realize how different a time that was media-wise: before 24 hour news channels, cellphones and online social networking, the news of Lennon’s murder traveled extremely slow.  Many people found out by watching Monday Night Football.  Not surprisingly, you also get a clearer idea of how much of a nutbag Chapman truly was.  And, for those who are scoffing at the added security measures at airports these days?  Greenberg reveals that Chapman managed to take his gun and bullets back and forth from his home in Hawaii to New York at least three times, simply by concealing them in his suitcase. This is as close as you can get to understanding how that fateful day unfolded.  –Tony Peters