Does 40 years, on December 8, 1980, the former member of The Beatles John Lennon was shot and killed on his way home to the Dakota apartment building in New York.
Tom Brook of the BBC was the first British journalist to report live from the place. This is his narration of how Lennon’s death has haunted him ever since.
As I go about my daily routines in New York, I constantly remember John Lennon, both his life and his death.
Now I live just four blocks from the Dakota. I pass the building almost every day, and my gym is part of a complex that also houses a hotel, the same one where Lennon’s killer Mark David Chapman stayed on his first night in New York.
Lennon also continues to define my career.
I have been a television journalist for more than 40 years.
In that time I have submitted over 3,000 stories for the BBC and interviewed most of the big names in the film industry.
But all people want to know when they meet me is what it was like to cover John Lennon’s death.
A day of bad memories
I have to admit it was a great story, but the logistics of the story were pretty simple.
I went to a public phone booth in view of the Dakota, answered questions from BBC Radio Four Today host Brian Redhead, among others, and chronicled the latest events.
When he wasn’t doing that, he was interviewing some of the hundreds of Lennon fans who were congregating on the street.
Everyone around me was crying, some of the fans were hysterical.
I myself was a huge fan of Lennon.
The other day I retrieved the photograph of my first official BBC ID card from that time and looking at the image, it still amazes me that the corporation gave me a job.
He definitely saw me as a John Lennon fan.
Yes, That night it hurt too, but I managed not to drown with the circumstances.
How was it after
People always ask me to describe what happened at the Dakota immediately after Lennon died.
I will never forget a young woman who said: “I feel like I just got punched in the stomach.”.
I think his words perfectly sum up the moment.
Two years after the death of the former Beatle, I returned to the Dakota to interview Yoko Ono; she had just started commenting on Lennon’s death; he was still talking about him in the present tense.
“He is still alive, he is still with us, his spirit will continue, you cannot kill a person so easily”, he told me.
That’s perhaps the most remarkable thing 40 years after Lennon’s death: how alive his spirit remains in terms of the millions of young people who are now migrating toward its music.
In the weeks leading up to this anniversary, I have spent days talking to some of them.
They tell me they are drawn to Lennon’s music, his lyrics, and his particular style of idealistic pacifism, which they believe brings them some comfort in these times of pandemic.
The dark side
To be objective, I know that not everything about Lennon was wonderful.
The musician could act nasty, mean, and admitted that he abused women.
None of this has really affected his legacy; if anything, his stature as a musician has increased since he died.
I think what I liked the most about Lennon was that he had an authentic voice, not just musically.
Did and said some controversial things but he wasn’t a phony, he was always himself.
He was one of the most significant figures in 20th century pop culture history, a true original Brit.
Four decades after his death I am still fascinated by him.
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Digsmak is a news publisher with over 12 years of reporting experiance; and have published in many industry leading publications and news sites.