Only a few hours before John Lennon’s grisly murder on Dec. 8, 1980, photographer Annie Leibovitz captured the cool Beatle and his icy wife, Yoko Ono, in an oddly seductive pose. Yesterday, the American Society of Magazine Editors named it the greatest magazine cover of the past 40 years.
When asked once in the 1960s how he expected to die, Lennon’s offhand answer was “I’ll probably be popped off by some loony.” In retrospect, for although he might have meant it as a joke and did not expect it to happen, the comment turned out to be chillingly accurate. Another chillingly accurate comment was made in his last interview, where he mentioned that he often felt that somebody is stalking him: first it was federal agents in the 1970s trying to deport him and later the obsessed fan in 1980.
In the late afternoon of December 8, 1980, in New York City, deranged fan Mark David Chapman met Lennon as he left for the recording studio and got his copy of Double Fantasy autographed; the event of Lennon signing one of his last autographs was caught by a photographer who witnessed this goodwill gesture. Later that night, as Lennon walked past him, Chapman called out “Mr. Lennon.” As Lennon turned, Chapman crouched into what witnesses called a “combat” stance and fired five hollowpoint bullets into John’s back and shoulder. One of the bullets fatally pierced his aorta. Still, Lennon managed to stagger up six steps into the concierge booth where he collapsed, gasping “I’m shot, I’m shot.” Chapman stood there, holding his .38 Charter Arms revolver, which was pulled out of his hands and kicked away by Jose Perdomo who then asked “Do you know what you have done?”, to which Chapman replied “I just shot John Lennon.” Chapman then calmly took his coat off placed it at his feet, took out a book and started reading. Police arrived within minutes, to find Chapman still waiting quietly outside, reading a copy of J.D. Salinger’s novel, The Catcher in the Rye. Oddly, John Lennon was also reading the book during those days.