Remembering John Lennon

Dec. 4, 2005 — -- Late on the night of Dec. 8, 1980, John Lennon and his wife, Yoko Ono, had just returned home when shots rang out.

Lennon was hit four times in the back. He fell to the ground, mortally wounded.

The gunman, 25-year-old Mark David Chapman, dropped his weapon and began reading a book.

Soon, a crowd of people, stunned and saddened, began forming outside Lennon's building.

"I walked outside and it was already an eerie sight," said Bob Herbert, a New York Times columnist who was a neighbor of Lennon's. "There was this soft sound because so many people had transistor radios, and the stations were already playing Beatles music. People were singing along to the music."

Six days later, at a memorial service in Central Park, an enormous crowd stood in absolute silence for 10 minutes -- a stunned silence that stood in stark contrast to the frenetic reaction Lennon received as one of the Beatles.

But, by 1980, he was already a decade removed from those Beatles days, and happy to be on his own. After a five-year break to raise his son Sean, he had just released a new album, "Double Fantasy."

"That's what he was expressing in the 'Double Fantasy' album, and the interviews he did in '80, kind of a grownup: 'Now I'm 40. Now I know how to live, and I'm looking forward to the future,' " said Bob Gruen, a friend and personal photographer of Lennon. "He used to say that all the time."

Lennon's Legacy

For Lennon, sadly, there would be no future.

"Most artists get to go on for another 40 years after they live," said Gruen, who recently published "John Lennon: The New York Years." "I try to think of the life and not the death."

Twenty-five years later, people who weren't even alive then still buy his albums, still cherish his music, still come to visit the Dakota, where John Lennon and lived and where he died.

Yoko Ono, now 72, still lives there, managing his estate and overseeing the release of new albums from his old recordings.

Chapman was diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic. He pleaded guilty and is now serving a 20-year to life sentence in prison.