What were you doing when John Lennon died?

I’m watching a documentary on Elton John, and he was speaking about where he was when John Lennon died on December 8, 1980. Apparently, Elton John was on an aircraft travelling between Brisbane and Melbourne, Australia.

Me, I was watching the Johnny Carson show. I was in Toronto (same time zone as New York), and I well remember that the Carson show was interrupted by an NBC News Special Report telling how John Lennon had been shot; and a short time later, by another report telling us that John Lennon was dead.

If you’re old enough to remember John Lennon’s death, what were you doing at the time, and how did you hear the news?

Sleeping. I heard the news when my clock-radio woke me up.

I was working, installing a fire suppression system in a Mexican restaurant.

I would have been sleeping too. I was in 8th grade, and heard the news at school the next day.

Watching Lou Grant.

Watching Monday Night Football with my dad. I was 9, I think. Howard Cosell made the announcement.

Watching Little House on the Prairie.

I wasn’t born yet, but I opened this thread out of curiosity just to see how many people heard it this way. I’ve definitely heard the same from others; I think that was a major vector of the news.

Working in a restaurant on State Street Madison, Wisconsin.

Add me to the list of those who heard it from Howard Cosell on MNF. I was a freshman in college at the time.

I was also in eighth grade, but an insomniac who went to bed (or tried to) listening to WCBS-88 news radio* – that’s how I heard the news. I remember going into my sister’s bedroom and waking her up. It was just awful.

  • Yes, I know this probably didn’t help my insomnia.

I was in my dorm room reading the PLAYBOY interview with Lennon with the radio on.

I was in grad school, working in my office, listening to the radio. I immediately called all my buddies.

Same here, except I was eating spaghetti at the time also. But i was 22.

I was listening to the radio while trying to do my homework (which, surprisingly, is not a very effective way of studying). I had tuned to KFI in Los Angeles and they had just played Lennon’s current hit, “Just Like Starting Over”, when the DJ suddenly announced that there was a big news story breaking and that they had to take an unscheduled commercial break. When I heard that, the first thing I thought of was not John Lennon but Poland. Solidarity had been challenging Polish Communist authority and there was the fear that the USSR would soon intervene to crush the “rebellious” activity like it did in Hungary, Czechoslovakia, and Afghanistan. However, when the DJ came back, he instead announced that John Lennon had been shot. Shortly thereafter, the news came that he had died. I immediately began tuning my radio all over the dial to find out what other stations were reporting. They, unfortunately, all had the same story.

It’s been nearly 30 years and I still feel shocked and blindsided by the news. It was so out of left field and senseless.

Sleeping. I work up the next morning, turned on the radio which played three straight Beatles songs and the DJ said how many people were calling in about his death.

I was sleeping, probably. I lived in Pennsylvania and it was pretty late on the East coast. I didn’t find out about it until I read it in the newspaper the next morning.

First of all, it was an exciting time. John and Yoko had just released Double Fantasy, and it was a great album; even Yoko’s songs weren’t that bad. (Just Like) Starting Overwas doing well on the charts, and John Lennon was indeed back.

I had already read the Esquire article and the Playboy interview, and it was a great time to be a Beatles fan…

Back then, I was in college, and that night, I was in bed, sleeping, because I had school the next day. My mother and father were downstairs watching Lou Grant; I knew this because I could hear it on the TV as I drifted off to sleep.

The next thing I knew, my mother was waking me up. “One of your Beatles got killed, it was on the TV.” she said. I immediately threw on a robe and went downstairs; there was a news report on, and it hit me as if I had been doused with cold water. Upon hearing that it was John, I immediately went numb. It couldn’t be…he was hot right now, wasn’t he? Upon hearing that he had been murdered, I found it hard to fathom. He had always been, after all, my favorite Beatle.

I didn’t know what to do. Back in those days, TV channels signed off, and it was unlikely they would stay on the air. There was the radio to listen to, and it being winter, it would be easy to pull in any one of dozens of stations, but one thing was for sure: there was no way I was going to be able to go back to sleep.

Eventually, I did just that, with the radio on low, but it was a horrible sleep, off and on the rest of the night. I drove to school the next morning, Double Fantasy playing in the cassette deck. It was definitely the hot topic in conversation that day, and everyone spoke in hushed tones. Most of the student body seemed depressed, and there were immediately debates over handguns.

I entered a depression, the likes I had never known (and looking back on it, not even the deaths of my parents and a younger brother, subsequent to this, affected me as greatly, believe it or not). All I did was listen to the news on the radio, listen to Double Fantasy, or other albums. When Sunday came, I made sure that I was at a nice place when 1:00 PM rolled around (the local beach), and I observed the period of silence that Yoko had asked for.

I spent the rest of the month grabbing all of the tribute magazines that came on sale, and somehow, I found time to get my Christmas shopping done, and was able to celebrate the holidays when they came. By the time holidays were over, and it was time to return to school, I was back to normal, but it was a time I’ll never forget.

I’ve always been a little surprised at the extent to which so many strangers were apparently really personally emotionally affected by Lennon’s death. (My intention isn’t to threadshit, I swear! I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with it!). Apart from Lennon, I’m curious what other celebrity deaths have caused reactions on the same level. I mean, I know lots of celebrity deaths cause anguish and so on, but I rarely hear anyone mention where they were when they found out James Dean died or having difficulty getting over it, for example. (Maybe that’s just my ignorance?) Who else was on Lennon’s level so far as this kind of reaction goes?

(JFK of course, and Princess Diana comes to mind, but I don’t really know anything)

(Well, heh, also my age, of course. But I don’t get the impression that it was nearly as big a deal even at the time.)