Interesting Facts About The Murder Of John Lennon That You Might Not Know

The murder of John Lennon stands as one of the most significant events in music history. The death of the beloved songwriter and legendary member of the Beatles came just a decade after the band's breakup, well into his equally prolific solo career and new life as a parent with wife Yoko Ono.

On December 8, 1980, Lennon was shot four times by Mark David Chapman, a crazed fan who waited for Lennon outside the singer's apartment at the Dakota in New York City. Arrested on the scene, Chapman later pleaded guilty and received a sentence of life in prison.

Lennon's death remains so significant that most people old enough to remember it know exactly where they were when it occurred; the event serves as a cultural turning point. 

Photo: Eric Koch / Anefo / Wikimedia Commons / Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication

  • Chapman Almost Committed The Act Earlier
    Photo: Eric Koch/Anefo / Wikimedia Commons / CC0 1.0

    Chapman Almost Committed The Act Earlier

    Mark David Chapman's wife, Gloria Hiroko Chapman, revealed in an interview that her husband first planned to kill Lennon two months prior to the fateful night of December 8, 1980. According to her 2018 interview:

    Two months earlier, Mark had traveled to New York. He came home scared, telling me that to make a name for himself he had planned to kill Lennon. But he said my love had saved him.

    Chapman expressed to his wife that he "needed to grow up as an adult and husband, and needed time to think about his life," so he decided against the plan.

    Gloria later said she was devastated by her husband's actions:

    I remember it was a Monday. I had come home from work, fixed dinner, and was watching Little House on the Prairie. On the show, Mary had just found out she'd become blind when suddenly, words ran across the bottom of the screen: "John Lennon has been shot in New York City by a male Caucasian." My life changed dramatically that night. I was now Mrs. Mark David Chapman, the wife of a murderer, and not just any murderer but one whose victim was known and loved by millions around the world.

  • James Taylor Met Chapman The Day Before The Incident
    Photo: Unknown / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    James Taylor Met Chapman The Day Before The Incident

    The day before Chapman shot Lennon, he encountered another famous musician in a train station - folk legend James Taylor. The singer later said of his encounter with the gunman:

    His assassin had buttonholed me in the tube station... He pinned me to the wall, glistening with maniacal sweat, and tried to talk in some freak speech about what he was gonna do... how John was interested and how he was gonna get in touch with John Lennon.

    It was surreal to actually have contact with the guy 24 hours before he shot John.

    At the time, Taylor was living in a building near the Dakota and recalled hearing the incident take place just down the street.

  • Lennon Signed An Autograph For Chapman Hours Before The Shooting
    Photo: Jack Mitchell / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0

    Lennon Signed An Autograph For Chapman Hours Before The Shooting

    Chapman waited outside Lennon's apartment for two days before finally meeting him on the evening of the shooting. When Lennon left to go to a recording session around 5 pm on December 8, 1980, Chapman was waiting outside with a copy of Lennon's Double Fantasy album and managed to get a signature.

    "I was just so excited to see him," he later recalled, saying he was "just a fan." During one interview, Chapman went into further detail: "He took his time. He asked me if I wanted anything else. His wife had come out with him and she was waiting in a limo and that's something I often reflect on how decent he was to just a stranger."

    Chapman continued waiting outside for several hours before Lennon returned home around 10:30 pm. At that point, Chapman shot Lennon in the back four times.

  • Chapman Told Parole Officials He Wanted To Be Famous
    Photo: NBC Television / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    Chapman Told Parole Officials He Wanted To Be Famous

    Chapman was admittedly obsessed with Lennon and shot him for one reason only - he wanted fame. The killer later explained that he bore no ill will toward the singer. All he wanted was to be known for something.

    A parole board member once asked him, "It wasn't anything personal against John Lennon, it was just simply about you and gaining notoriety?" Chapman replied, "Absolutely true. Nothing personal."

    As it turned out, Lennon wasn't the only person Chapman intended on killing. He possessed a list of other celebrities he wanted dead, including comedian Johnny Carson.

    Chapman later hoped to clarify to Lennon's wife that he didn't commit his horrendous crime out of spite: "It wasn't anything against her husband as a person, only as a famous person. If he was less famous than three or four other people on the list, he wouldn't have been shot. And that's the truth."

  • Lennon Was Photographed By Annie Leibovitz The Same Day
    Photo: Annie Leibovitz / Rolling Stone / Fair Use

    Lennon Was Photographed By Annie Leibovitz The Same Day

    Prior to going to the recording studio on the day he died, Lennon and his wife, Yoko Ono, were photographed by renowned photographer Annie Leibovitz in their home. The now-iconic photo, later appearing on the cover of Rolling Stone, features Lennon naked and curled up on his wife, who remains fully clothed.

    Ono was hesitant to strip nude for the photo, offering to take off just her top. Leibovitz ultimately decided it would be better if Ono remained clothed, and Lennon was thrilled with the results.

    "You've captured our relationship exactly," he and Ono reportedly said in response.

  • A Witness Claimed Yoko Ono Banged Her Head Against The Floor After Learning Her Husband Died
    Photo: Unidentified / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    A Witness Claimed Yoko Ono Banged Her Head Against The Floor After Learning Her Husband Died

    Dr. Stephan Lynn, who was on duty at Roosevelt Hospital where Lennon was taken after the shooting, later said telling Ono about the death was a difficult experience itself:

    Her first response was immediate, "It's not true. You're lying. It can't be. I don't believe you." In my mind it literally felt like this was going on for about five minutes. She was lying on the floor, she was hitting her head against the floor. I put my hands behind her head to try to prevent damage to her.

    Yoko Ono was incredibly emotional for quite a long time. And in fact it was when one of the nurses bought in John Lennon's wedding ring and gave it to her that she accepted the fact that her husband was dead.

    Ono's only request in those moments was that doctors delay the death announcement until she was able to get home and tell their young son, Sean.