President Reagan was shot soon after. He lived, which made me question why that was news (a kid's logic is sometimes odd).
Five months after Lennon was shot, Pope John Paul II was shot in the arm and abdomen. I thought two things: when the newscaster said "Pope John Paul..." I thought it didn't sound complete without "George and Ringo" after it. I also wondered how often people got shot. My parents tried to calm me down, saying it didn't happen often. Then on October 6, my birthday in 1981, Anwar Sadat, the President of Egypt, was assassinated on live TV.
It wasn't until I was an adult that I realized how tragic Lennon's death was. The Beatles had become one of my favorite groups. I would read the lyrics and think about other musicians who died young. Usually it was from drug overdoses or a plane crash. They didn't get shot. And the ones who did, there were reasons behind it. Sam Cooke was in a hotel with a prostitute who tried to rip him off. Marvin Gaye was shot by his dad, angry about his son's drug addiction. And in the rap world, well, you get shot for wearing the wrong color or for being West Coast instead of East.
Lennon was shot by a guy who was insane. A guy who had him autograph a Double Fantasy album earlier that same day (it went on to sell for $500,000, touted as "one of the last autographs Lennon signed"). A guy who tried to kill himself in Hawaii but was saved by a man who now wishes he hadn't.
A story I once read about the history of Monday Night Football said that John Lennon and Ronald Reagan were once visiting the booth at the same time. Cosell turned around to see the Gipper explaining the game to Lennon. To think they would both be shot within 90 days of each other. And that most of the United States heard the news about Lennon during the football game...
It wasn't until about five years ago that football stopped causing me sad memories. Now it's about my fantasy football team, the Chargers continuing to frustrate me, and my hatred of the Raiders.
However, football is relegated to Sunday and Monday. Not a day goes by that I don't listen to some Beatles tunes.
— Josh Board, staff writer, professional party crasher
I can remember where I was that night. It was almost like the day I heard President Kennedy had been shot, although this memory is much more vivid. Kennedy happened when I was just 12. This was like hearing a family member had been killed. I had just gotten off the George Washington Bridge and was on the West Side Highway in NYC, heading downtown in my 1976 Triumph TR6 convertible when the radio DJ interrupted the music. "John Lennon has been shot," he said. I remember how the air smelled, the sounds of the city outside my car window, the feeling of lightheadedness as I tried to comprehend what I'd just heard. I was alone. I started to cry. I don't think I could have kept from crying even if there had been people in the car with me.
Like a film flashback, I was seeing memories of the Beatles and how they took me through my youth in a stream of consciousness that began when I was 12 or 13 years old. How I'd seen them on The Ed Sullivan Show, my sister screaming her head off while I was completely hypnotized by the whole spectacle. How they influenced me in the deepest manner possible, from my thinking to my love for music and the guitar.
As I approached my exit on the West Side Highway, more news came over the radio. "John Lennon is dead," the announcer said in a trembling voice. How could this all happen so quickly, and why? When the details started to become clear, I realized I was only a few blocks from the scene when it happened. The shooting occurred around 8 p.m. At that time I was on the West Side Highway, somewhere around 80th Street West. The Dakota is right there. In earlier times, I used to argue with my dad about how the Beatles were sure to change the world. On this dreadful night, it became painfully clear that the world would certainly never be the same again.
Everything had changed.
— Charlie Dominici, La Mesa entrepreneur, founding lead singer of Dream Theater
In December 1980, I had a job in a warehouse in National City, packing and shipping velvet paintings from Mexico. I had also begun earlier that year putting on punk rock shows at the Skeleton Club in downtown San Diego. Even though I was really getting into all the punk rock and new wave bands of the day -- bands such as Dead Kennedys, X, Gang of Four, etc. -- I had grown up listening to all the great rock bands and was still a big fan of the Beatles, Stones, Zeppelin, Bowie, etc.
I remember being at work on Monday; it was a busy time of year, and I was working late as we were trying to get everything shipped out for the holidays. I was listening to KGB, which at the time used to play a great variety of music, everything from the Ramones and Sex Pistols to Rolling Stones and Beatles. The DJ broke from the music and announced that John Lennon had been shot and killed. I turned the radio up to hear what he was saying. I was unable to finish my work that night. I went and told the owners, a nice older couple from NYC, what had happened. One of them began to cry. We all sat there for a couple minutes, and then I said I had to go home.
— Tim Mays, longtime area concert promoter, owner of the Casbah
All illustrations by Jay Allen Sanford.