In a time of economic roller-coaster rides, what does John Lennon have to offer? A look at his legacy on the occasion of his death anniversary.
“Mockingbirds don’t do one thing but make music for us to enjoy ... they don’t do one thing but sing their hearts out for us. That’s why it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.”
Miss Maudie, To Kill A Mockingbird
It was a little after 10.30 p.m. Mark stood outside the Dakota apartment building. He was pacing nervously on the sidewalk. He looked at the doorman, smiled and gave him a slight nod. At around 10.50 p.m., Mark saw a white limousine turn around the corner and stop. He saw the Japanese woman get out of the car. Mark knew that the person he was waiting for would get out of the car immediately after her. The woman walked past Mark and as she furtively looked his way, he bowed his head and whispered a shy hello to her.
As he looked up again, his target was walking past him. As the man crossed him, Mark called out to him and even before the man could turn to acknowledge the greeting, Mark pulled out his .38 revolver and shot him twice. As his victim spun around on impact, Mark dispersed three more rounds at him. To his surprise, the man managed to stagger all the way up to the security booth. “I am shot,” he told the concierge and collapsed.
Mark could hear the Japanese woman scream. He stood exactly where he was, making no attempt to escape. The doorman ran to him, shook the gun from his hand and kicked it across the asphalt while screaming, “Do you know what you’ve done?”
Mark took off his coat and hat and threw them on the sidewalk. He slowly reached into his pocket and pulled out a dog-eared paperback copy of The Catcher in the Rye, looked at doorman and said: “I just shot John Lennon.” He sat down on the sidewalk and continued reading the book, waiting for the police to show up.
End of an era
December 8, 1980; Mark David Chapman had just shot and killed John Lennon.
It seemed as though once the media saturation about his death was reached, Lennon would just retreat into the annals of history and to eventually be forgotten with the passing of the generation that grew up on The Beatles. But it was not to be so. In the days following his death, thousands gathered outside The Dakota to honour the memory of the man who defined their generation. They recited prayers, lit candles, sang songs, laid flowers, drawings, photos, record covers and anything else they could to express their grief and shock at the rude way in which fate took him away from them. Many held up signs that said: “John Lives”, “With us forever”. Nothing could be truer than that declaration.
Even now, 28 years after his death, the music and message of Lennon still rings loud and clear. In 1985, a portion of Central Park was re-landscaped and renamed “Strawberry Fields” and dedicated as a memorial to John Lennon. At the western entrance to the memorial is a black and white mosaic, which is a gift from the city of Naples, Italy, with a single word “Imagine”, the title of Lennon’s most famous song, in the middle.
Still with us
Every year, fans gather at Strawberry Fields on October 9 and December 9, Lennon’s birth and death anniversary and there have also been impromptu gatherings on other days of mourning.
Lennon’s death was a first. He was the first rock star to be assassinated — a term that was until then attributed to the killing of political figures. In a way, Lennon’s death was indeed political. Perhaps the most significant of Lennon’s legacy was seen a decade after his death with the fall of the Berlin Wall when suddenly from the shadows of the erstwhile Communist Sates were heard strains of Lennon’s “Imagine”and “Give Peace A Chance”.
For a generation embattled by a world where stock market sentiments matter more than human life, legends such as that of Lennon seem to be an emotional recourse we all take; a way to sort things out and make sense of it all. Yet, in the dusty corners of this nostalgic jamboree, we ask ourselves: what did Lennon take to his grave and what did he leave behind? Do his songs reveal him in his honest avatar? These questions take us to the very depths of ourselves as we search for explanations to things that happened while our parents were still trying out different hair-dos. In this lies the secret — the more we search, the more elusive Lennon becomes... until it is time for us put on that CD and listen once again.
Meanwhile, Mark Chapman had appealed for parole five times since he was incarcerated at the Attica correctional facility, New York, in 1981. The last was in August this year. Though denied parole all five times because the parole board still considers him unfit to walk free among society, Chapman will appeal yet again in early 2010. Chapman knows very well that he has committed the sin of killing a mockingbird and he knows too that no matter how many years pass, if he ever walked out those prison gates, he would be doing so into an unforgiving world.