On a dark evening of December 8, 1980, the music world was shocked to hear the untimely assassination of Beatles legend John Lennon by Mark David Chapman. Hours before the Lennon death, RKO Radio Network DJ Dave Sholin and his crew had an exclusive final interview with the Beatles icon. In commemoration of the 30th anniversary of the Lennon assassination, this article provides an in-depth look on the people’s reactions on the legacy he left behind.
In the afternoon of that day, Sholin and his fellow interviewers Ron Hummel, Laurie Kay, and Bert Keane were privileged enough to have taken part in the last interview of John Lennon and Yoko Ono at their Dakota building residence in New York. In an unprecedented first, the public gets an inside look on the key conversations with Lennon and how the immediate aftershocks of his assassination changed them and the world that mourned his death.
In the build-up to the interview, the crew reminisced in great detail as to how the Lennon-Ono residence looked like as if they were there. They admit that it took them about a month just to set up that historic interview with John and Yoko. As the anticipation builds up, the crew talked with Yoko while John just finished their iconic Rolling Stone pictorial with Annie Leibovitz.
Yoko vividly recalled the tingling sound of glass just like how “Just Like Starting Over” epitomized the sexual revolution and the counter-culture movement of the 70s just as they were getting started with their interview and John Lennon enters the scene. Sholin recalled that Lennon’s presence ‘put him at ease’ as if he is like ‘an old friend he knew’ while Hummel felt at awe as if he was a little boy meeting his favourite idol.
Lennon even poked fun at Keane as if he was just a character at Sesame Street while Kay was concerned about the previous Lennon interview with Playboy that John may not talked about his Beatles past. Apparently, she was wrong and viewed him as the ‘nicest human being’ she ever known. Lennon’s sabbatical provided him the inspiration for his last album “Double Fantasy” and really solidified his solo career thereby separated him from the John Lennon of Beatles fame to the John Lennon we know as Yoko Ono’s partner. To put in perspective, his hit single “Woman” is believed to have encapsulated his adoration to Yoko.
Lennon relished his times as father to Sean and his domestic lifestyle as the father he wanted to be. He sacrificed his music career and enjoyed his role as a ‘house-husband.’ Despite his five-year self-exile, Lennon still managed to find his creative talent and get back again to the business he knows best – making his own music.
All the women from John’s life from his mother Julia to Yoko played an important part in his creative process. In fact, Sholin can relate how John and Yoko are perfect for each other as to how they made eye contact and finish each other’s statements. In a rare moment in their discussion despite John’s jovial mood and optimism, he displayed an apparent sadness as he opens up aspects of his personal life including his haunting 18-month ‘lost weekend” where his relationship with Yoko hit rock bottom and how he tried to fixed things up.
As the consummate storyteller that he was, Lennon has showed how he grown up and overcame the challenges in his career and personal life. Hummel recalled Lennon’s animated response to the socio-political dynamics of the turbulent decade of the 60s and 70s as shown in “Across the Universe” and “Imagine.” He espoused the philosophy of ‘music is love’ to counter the horrors of the Vietnam War and the political climate of the time.
Hummel would recall an ironic twist to the waning moments of the interview wherein John talks about his own mortality. “...I realised that all my work won’t be done until I’m dead and buried...” is an eerie statement on what the Lennon death might become. Yet he was hoping to be still making record but it’s unfortunate that his life would end by the bullets of a Charter Arms .38 Special revolver used by Chapman hours after the interview.
Ride the time capsule and recall key moments of John Lennon’s life and career by listening to his two-hour final interview.