John Lennon, songwriting genius and founding member of The Beatles — a man who gifted the world with beautiful music that still rouses the human spirit long after his death — was murdered in New York City on this day in history, Dec. 8, 1980.
He was 40 years old.
“An unspeakable tragedy,” legendary sports host Howard Cosell blurted in shock to the nation near midnight, interrupting the dramatic final seconds of a Monday Night Football broadcast.
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“John Lennon, outside of his apartment building on the West Side of New York, the most famous perhaps of all the Beatles, shot twice in the back. Rushed to Roosevelt Hospital. Dead on arrival.”
Cosell’s dramatic words spoken on national television, decades before the internet spread news instantly, were the first that many Americans heard of the celebrated musician’s death. The world learned soon after initial reports that Lennon was actually shot four times.
Lennon ignited pop-culture mania with The Beatles in the 1960s.
He went on to a hugely successful career as solo artist and peace activist in the 1970s.
He was murdered outside his residence, The Dakota, on Manhattan’s Upper West Side at 10:50 p.m. and pronounced dead at the hospital 25 minutes later.
“His music made people happy.” — 12-year-old fan Ethan Doyle
Gunman Mark David Chapman, a deranged fan who received an autograph from the musician hours earlier, pleaded guilty to Lennon’s murder in 1981.
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An estimated 100,000 Beatles fans flooded The Dakota and Central Park in the hours after the tragedy for a tear-filled vigil that shut down auto traffic across several blocks of Manhattan.
The John Lennon vigil has never ended.