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Remembering John Lennon

Former Beatle John Lennon performs at New York's Madison Square Garden, in this Aug. 30, 1972, file photo. AP file

Dateline interviewed different people who knew, admired, and crossed paths with John Lennon. Below, are excerpts of their remembrances of the music legend, as told to "Dateline."

Where were you on Dec. 8, 1980? How did you find out Lennon died? What was your reaction? Share your own personal tribute to John Lennon in the mailbag provided below.

Vin Scelsa, WNEW disc jockey, who had to announce the news to many New Yorkers
"I was on the air from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m, that was my shift.   And there was a desk assistant, a DA, who was in the newsroom —a young guy named Marty Martinez. Suddenly all the lights began to light up the switchboard. And I looked over and I saw it and I wondered what that was all about because I wasn’t doing a contest or a giveaway. Marty came running into the room, and he was white as a ghost.  And he said, “John Lennon’s been shot.” He knew that something significant had happened.  I was playing Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Jungle Land.’  This long, 11 or 12, or 13 minute track about the city and about life on the streets.  And to a certain extent, about violence on the streets.  A very ironic thing.  I faded down the music and I read the bulletin. And we tried to downplay it.  John has been shot.  He’s been taken to the hospital.

Many minutes later, the bulletin came across that he had died.  Marty came into the room, tears streaming down his face, totally shaken, and said; “He—he—he’s dead. He’s gone.” I kinda flipped out at that point.  I didn’t wanna go on the air and say this.  I had gone on the air other times in my life and announced that people had died.  John Lennon, I knew right away, thatthis was something that went beyond just a pop star murder or a pop star death.  That this was truly a significant moment in our cultural history.  I remember finally the song ending and my coming on the air and saying whatever it is I said.  I know that what I said is in the Museum of Television & Radio.  I’ve only listened to it two or three times over the years, cause I don’t really wanna listen to it.

I know that I said something like, 'For the first time in my life I’m speechless.  Cause I had been known as the DJ who talked a lot.' My voice was shaking.  I was crying.  I was trying to hold it together. And we began, without ever planning it or talking about it, or thinking it through, we began what became a radio wake for John Lennon.  We opened up the phones.  We took calls.  And what came across in those phone calls was this incredible sorrow, and rage."

Max Weinberg, drummer, Bruce Springstreen and the E Street band; Max Weinberg Seven
"It’s forever in my mind where I was the night John Lennon was assassinated.  I had just gotten done playing a concert with Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band at the Spectrum Arena in Philadelphia.  And I’ll never forget the scene. I was walking with the rest of the band up the ramp, backstage.  And one of our tech crew came over and said what had happened.  And it was just like all the air was sucked out of the room.  It’s one of those moments that stays with you forever where you were when John Lennon was assassinated, where John Kennedy was assassinated, Martin Luther King, Bobby Kennedy.  It just freezes that moment in time.

"He just looked at us and said, "You’re not going to believe this, John Lennon’s been shot.' And the very first instant, the first thing I thought of was some sort of accident, which I can recall when I was in seventh grade I thought the same with President Kennedy.  It never dawned on me that somebody would assassinate John Lennon.  I immediately felt numb, being both a Beatles fan, a John Lennon fan and that feeling stayed with me all night long.  I think the next day on the way to the next concert, I believe it was Steve Van Zandt made the comment and observation that if there was any doubt in anybody’s mind, this was the end of the 60s.

"We were scheduled to play on December 9th, 1980 at the Spectrum.  And we did.  And we didn’t quite know what we were about.  Of course, I think Bruce did.  And you know Bruce went up and made a very eloquent moving soliloquy about John Lennon.  And you know if memory serves, he said that we wouldn’t be up there tonight if it hadn’t been for John Lennon. When the world asks you to accept the unacceptable, all you can do is play music.  All you can do is rock.  And then, we played 'Twist and Shout.'"

Viewer e-mails
"I was decorating my Christmas tree when I heard the news report. I was totally devastated. I couldn't sleep that night and listened all night to a wonderful radio station (KMET) that no longer exists and talked on the phone with a friend and fellow Beatle fan. Thats what got me through that night. The Beatles had been an important part of my life since the beginning and John was especially important to me. His dedication to truth and peace has stayed with me ever since and will be a part of me for the rest of my life." --Cindi Poplos, Los Angeles, Calif.

"I was a junior at Ohio State University. 4 of us lived together in an apartment and we were getting ready for class,taking showers etc when Doc, came out of the bathroom crying saying she had just heard that John Lennon was assasinated. There was dead silence in our apartment no one knew what to say, we all just cried. We had grown up with the Beatles and John Lennon." --Susan Longbrake, Columbus, Ohio

"Like a lot of Americans, I was watching Monday Night Football when Howard Cosell announced that John Lennon had been shot. I was devastated as I was a Beatles fan since the age of 12. John had affected every aspect of my life. I had experienced loss of parents just like he did. The Beatles music was my escape as well as my defining myself as a musician. Personally, It was like reliving the Kennedys and King assassinations all over again. I will miss John and all that he and the Beatles meant to me in my life. I will never be the same. Not because of some rock band but because of what they stood for in our generation. As John said 'All I was is some truth' and I think that is what he delivered. Some of us were not ready for the truth." --Steve Charlson, Richmond Va

"I was sitting on the couch with my girlfriend in her parents house. We were watching Monday night football and talking. We didn't even hear Howard Cosell make the announcement, but a few minutes later her little sister came running down the stairs shouting that John Lennon was shot. She knew I was the biggest John Lennon fan and she was distraught. I couldn't really believe her. We turned on the radio and every station was playing a Beatles or Lennon song and then it really hit me. Today that girlfriend is my wife of 23 years and we live in the house that we heard the horrible news in. We are godparents to 2 of her little sister's 3 kids and we all still love John Lennon and the Beatles." --Kevin McAteer, Newtown Square, Pa.

"I was 7 years old and asleep in my room. My father woke me and told me to get up and said 'John Lennon is dead.' I remember getting up immediately and had dreamed the night before Lennon had died. The news must have been on and it crept into my dreams. I remember crying. I knew something important had been taken from the world. I loved the Beatles. My father and my older brother are huge fans. I love the Beatles even now and I miss John Lennon and his music. His song "Imagine" is my favorite of his. I can not think of a better place than what he describes in that song. 'Nothing to kill or die for.' I still hope we come to that someday." --Kerry Barnum, Lexington, N.C.

"I was decorating the Christmas tree. The TV was on and a news break said that John Lennon had just been shot and killed in New York. For a long time after whenever I heard 'Imagine' I would start to cry because it seemed so very cruel and ironic that a man who had composed those loving words and been an advocate for peace could be taken away in such a violent way that was the opposite of his life.'" --Carole McSweeney, Los Angeles, Calif.

With tears in my eyes I am responding to to this question. I like so many others, I heard Howard Cosell announce the news on Monday Night Football. I spent the next four days glued to the TV, I was numb, I couldn't function, I found it so very hard to perceive how this could have happened. To this day I still hold John's message near to my heart and attempt to live my life in pursuit of the ideals that he so boldly represented. So did John's music and message change my life? I feel that it had a very profound effect on my life and gave a voice to my own outlook on so many issues, i.e. peace, human rights, the sexes, religion, etc... He spoke for so many in our generation and so many in the world as a whole. The loss was very much like the loss of Gandhi not so many years before, and just as senseless. These were to men so commited to the belief that living in peace was completely within our grasp if only we would embrace it. To have their lives taken so violently was such a contrast to their message. When Johns life was taken a big part of all of us was taken as well. John, we wiss you more with each passing year. --Patrick O'Hara, New York, NY

"I was watching Monday Night Football and heard the news from Howard Cosell of all people. I was sitting in my basement apartment on the north side of Chicago. At that exact second, I lost my childhood ... and a profound sadness set in. Lennon represented the hope of the '60s that we all might live together in peace some day. And I knew that hope was gone." --Stew Oleson, Pacific Palisades, Calif.

I had been at a basketball game, my friend drove me home in a car with no radio. I walked into my apartment and my wife was up crying. She told me that John was dead. The next morning my friend Rebecca called and said, "What do we do now?" Did John's life and music affect me? I'm 55 years old, I have a loving wife, two wonderful daughters and a great life and I'm crying as I write this. --Michael Pardys, Chicago, Ill.

It is amazing how the emotions come flooding back at a time like this. The Friday before his murder several friends were over and we listened to "Double Fantasy" and discussed how great the tracks were, John had once again given us a gift of hope and optimism. The world would be OK. I didn’t hear about his death until I turned on the TV and heard “Imagine” in the background and the newscaster mention the late, John Lennon. I don’t remember much except being numb. I know there were tears and I know I spent my free hours listening to John’s music and the Beatles music searching for comfort. I just had a Lennon compilation disc in my car and was thinking how great and relevant these songs are even today. No offense to the music makers of today but the day the music really did die was December 8, 1980. God Bless John for his passion and for what he gave to all of us. --Bob Krouse, Defiance, Ohio

I was away at college, when I heard the news. Since I was such a big John Lennon fan, I first had a hard time believing that it happen, until I saw Howard Cosell announcing it during a football game. I mourned for weeks. I still love John Lennon music, and find that his music is real and plays an important part in my life. --Lynn Gregory, Canton, Mich.

I was in my mid-twenties when John Lennon was murdered and working at a small beverage center as a cashier. It was windy and rainy night and the customers were few in number. So I sat there listening to the radio, when all of a sudden I heard a breaking news announcement. It said that John Lennon had been shot by some lunatic outside his apartment in NYC. I couldn’t believe it! I sat there feeling numb and thinking maybe he will survive. But, a little while later, I was shocked to learn that he had died. I had been a long Beatles and John Lennon fan and to this day I still am. On the way home that night, I listened to Imagine for about two hours straight still not believing John was gone. He was truly a musical genius that the world will never see again.  --Carmine Paris, Rochester, N.Y.

I was living in Indianapolis getting ready for work when I truned on the TV and it was the big topic of the day. Having grown up with the Beatles touching some aspect of my life, I sat down an cried for John and a part of my youth dying right along with him. George’s death so many years later, had the same effect. --Mark W, Weed, Phoenix, Ariz.

I was at work, shocked and stunned, I remember starting to cry and reflecting back on his music, and what a wonderful person he was, a true “genuine” person full of love and life. It was such a tragedy to know that we would no longer be graced by his wonderful voice. When I heard his son Julian Lennon on the radio it brought back such wonderful memories of his dad, that again I started to cry....(they sound so alike). Life is full of pitfalls, and losing someone so tragically as John really makes one wake up and wonder what this world is coming to.  --Cissy, San Diego, Calif.

I was 11 years old and putting up a Christmas tree. I distinctly remember the shock and overwhelming sense of loss that comes with someone you know and love dying. John had always been the Beatle I most identified with. I was deeply saddened and feel the loss to this day. “Shaved Fish” was one of the first albums I had ever purchased on my own, and I still have the vinyl to this day! Chapman robbed the world of one of the most sensitive, talented and fascinating people it has ever known.  --Dawn Cordova, Albuquerque, New Mexico

I was married with two children, living just outside of Danbury Ct., When I heard the news, it didn’t quite register. I was at the Shea Stadium concert in 1965. I thought, this could not be happening. My family called to make sure that I was alright. They knew how this would be affecting me. I didn’t think the tears would ever stop falling. We lost John that day, so many of us that loved him even though we never got close enough to shake his hand or share a cup of coffee lost our youth too. Music changed that day, along with the way we looked at our world. --Cynthia Rodgers, Philadelphia, Pa.

I was 10, and a huge Beatle fan ever since I could remember. I was at a friend's house playing in the back yard, when my friend's Mother ran out of the house crying and shouting "some monster shot that beautiful man." My friend and I, of course, a little scared asked who and she said "John Lennon" and then crying she just kept repeating "why?" It was very sad. I still wish he was alive, the world could use more people like John, especially now. --Tom Lytle, Canyon Country

I was 16 and not really that knowledgable about who he was. I remember hearing the news that morning and then saying to myself "wasn't he one of the Beatles?". Then I went to school and the kids were crying and then I figured out why. About six years later I became a fan just as the CDs started to be released (in 1986) a few at at time and since then, I've been hooked. their music changed my life and it has never been the same. I love their music more than ever.  --Fred Longoria, Centerville, Ga.

I was a young teenager. I  was half asleep in my bed after doing homework. It was around 10:30 or 11:00 when the news broke from a local radio station. Q102.. They said that John Lennon may have been shot! I  laid sleepless all night. Then heard that it was confirmed. I remember being very upset. I missed the next two days of school. I called a friend and we took a bus to fountain square, downtown Cincinnati for a candlelight vigel. There were a lot of people there and after awhile we all set our candles around an image of John and began chanting "All we are saying is give peace a chance." Yes, Mr. Lennon changed a lot of peoples lives. John, Mr. Lennon, (our) memories will live forever, it is just too bad that the gifts you gave us, with your music were cut so short. You were just starting over.. --Mark H., Edgewood K.Y.

It was my first Christmas on my own. I was 18 years old and putting up my first real Christmas tree. I had the TV on and there was an announcement that John Lennon had been shot. I was shocked and had to sit down. It really stays with me as part of my first Christmas experience. --Susan Daniel, Vacaville, Calif.

I had just walked into my home after a late movie. My bestfriend was pale staring at the television. The Johnny Carson Show was on and our local NBC station was running a crawl that John had been shot. We stood there and read when they changed the crawl to say that John Lennon was dead. I was six months pregnant at the time. I cried all night long and for days afterwards. I was nine years old when the Beatles appeared on The Ed Sullivan show... my life changed that day for the better. In John's songs we found joy, fun, solace, comfort and even an avenue to vent anger. John still lives on through his music and in the memories of everyone who has been touched by his songs and life. My two sons who are adults now, grew up knowing the Beatles through me. Their iPods today contain many Beatles songs. My youngest son and I play Beatles songs together —he on bass, and me on guitar. And guess what my 6 month old grandson listens to? John lives on! --Patricia Guillermo, New York, N.Y.

That night, I had broken up with my girlfriend of two years. I came home in a melancholy mood and went upstairs to my bedroom. Within minutes, my brother came running up the stairs to tell me about John Lennon's shooting. He had heard it on "Monday Night Football." Soon after, a friend of mine from college called to tell me. I turned on the radio and the awful news was confirmed. The whole night seemed like a bad dream and it's true, it was a nightmare. 25 years later, it seems as vivid as it did in 1980. --Rodger Mullen, Fayetteville, N.C.

I was 22 years old. I had been married two weeks earlier and the night before we were putting up the Christmas tree. Everything felt good. We woke up the next morning and heard the news. Everything had changed. What had been so happy and promising the day before seemed lost. The world didn't seem the same.As a long time Beatle fan you couldn't even comprehend it. It's as sad today as it was then. What a loss for us all. --Cissy, Chesterfield, Va.

I was doing a "fill-in" as a singer for a local rock band that night in a small bar. We took a break between sets, and I called my girlfriend, who told that he had been shot and had died. I was a smoker then, and as I hung up the phone, I accidentally knocked the burning head of the cigarette off and it landed on my hand between my thumb and index finger - I was so numb I didn't even realize I had burned myself. The next day, all you heard on the radio were his songs. When "In My Life" off of the Rubber Soul album started, I began to cry so hard that I had to pull my car off of the road, where it felt like I wept for an hour. It's still one of the saddest days of my life. --Michael Monahan, Newnan, Ga.

I was a high school freshman and woke up to the news on my alarm clock. There was just a hollow feeling that morning. At school a group of us gathered in a circle holding hands and said a prayer for him and his family. I don't think I let myself cry until I heard Elton John's tribute song "Empty Garden" - I played that over and over and sobbed. To this day that song still makes me cry. John Lennon brought a hope of peace for the world and the words of "Imagine" are just as true today as ever. --Donna Zane, Colora, Md.

On Monday, December 8, I purchased "Double Fantasy" during my lunch break. That evening I was watching "Monday Night Football" when I heard the horrible news. I was devastated and still, to this day, I cannot forget what happened. From being a 10-year-old boy watching the Beatles on Ed Sullivan in '64, to a young man walking past the Dakota in New York hoping to catch a glimpse, to a now fully-formed and fully-realized adult, John Lennon is a source of joy, inspiration and awe. --Joe Tegreene, Cleveland, Ohio

I was working at a bar as a bartender when the news that John Lennon had been shot come over the tv. I yelled at all my costumers to shut up. Then they announced he was dead. Tears streamed down my face I was in shock. I told one of my customers to take over and went home. Not even knowing how I got home. I grew up with the Beatles I still have my ticket stub from seeing them live at Busch Stadium in 1966. I felt I lost a parent a part of my innocence of those days gone by was taken. I wonder how many masterpieces of music we have missed over the years. I still can not understand why John Lennon a man who gave so much to the world of music. Who wrote about Love and Peace something we all need more than ever in this world right now,was taken away. But I wonder could John ever Imagine how the world has changed. I wonder if he knows that not only moments after hearing about 911 the radio started playing Imagine. And I wonder waht other music the world has missed out on. I know that IN MY LIFE his musical influnce has been a big part of it. After watching your special tonight tears came to my eyes once more now as a 53 year old woman. Through the special, memories of my life since The Beatles came into it at the age of 14 passed through my mind. No words can express what John Lennon gave to the world of music. He has taken me threw my teenage years with words of Love,the innocent years when All My Loving mant a kiss goodnight. There my early adult years with my friends in Vietnam to Give Peace A Chance, to my getting older years and loosing my parents and playing IM MY LIFE. And now my grandma years to the birth of my first Grandson the words Beautiful Beautiful Boy where my first thoughts when I held him. You left us in 1980's John but your music still lives on stronger than ever. John you can't Imagine the effect you made on the world. --Norma Jean Marr, St. Louis. Mo.

I was at home and my brother, who was living in Hawaii at the time, called me long distance and broke the news to me. He wanted to be the one to break the news to me, and he broke it to me like he was telling me about a beloved family member that had just died. Even my mother felt sorry for me. I remember getting very, very upset. I remember some people I grew up with being bewildered about why I would be upset about something like that. I've always loved all kinds of music, but being African-American and living in a conservative midwestern state, it was sort of unusual for the time. Members of my family were not afraid to say they loved the Beatles, and I was a rabid fan of the Beatles, and John and Paul when they took solo careers. Paul McCartney was (and still is) my favorite of the Beatles; however, I identified more with John on an intellectual level, because of his outspoken nature and ideas about life. He said what he meant and let the chips fall where they may. It didn't hurt that we were born on the same day either, and up until that time, I had never known anyone who was born on the same day I was. John was 11 years older than me. How I remember feeling was -- what can you believe in now? It was like a part of my childhood was snatched when he died and December 8, 1980 was a very sad day indeed for me. I was hard to get along with for a couple of weeks because of it, and didn't care who knew it... --Earline Wayne-Titsworth, Omaha, Neb.

I lived in NYC then and on Monday nights I worked in the darkroom, shooting pictures on the stat camera, for the Soho News, a local downtown paper that was still in publication at that time. About the time I was getting off work, 11:00 PM or so,I heard that John Lennon had been shot.It was not yet clear if it was fatal, but some reports were indeed that he was dead. I remember feeling incredibly empty, like a part of my youth had suddenly vanished. I was only 23 years old at the time. I left work, unchained my bike, and instead of riding home to east 4th street, I started slowy riding north, uptown. It seemed sort of pointless, but I felt compelled to ride up to the Dakota on 72nd street to check things out. For some reason, I needed to do it. When I got to the Dakota it didnt seem like there were more than a few dozen people there, all sort of stunned in silence. I think it was about 11:30 or even earlier. I stayed for a little bit, walking my bike around. It seemed like a sad sad dream, with nobody saying much of anything. It was such an empty feeling, a feeling of impending emotional pain for the loss of someone I never met or knew, yet who seemed so important in my life, almost without me really being aware of it. I thjink that in a way that was the biggest shock - it was a felling like "I didnt really know i could lose this, or that it would feel this way." It was a strange surreal night. By the time i got hone to 4th street on my bike and the next day too, I was crying. Still I'm glad I rode my bike up there for a few moments that night. And i never had any desire to go up again over the next few days as all the huge crowds gathered, swaying, singing, flashing peace signs, etc. That kind of mass group-behavior always made me feel uncomfortable. Later, felt that, in a very tiny private way, I got to pay tribute, or say goodbye, to "my" John Lennon. It was a night I'll never forget. For the next few days, people in NYC were calmer and kinder to each other it seemed, for a little while anyway, united in one grief - the mourning of our past. Something ended that night, the Beatles were over-- this time for good. --Jim Woodside, Natick, Mass.

Where was I when I found out that John Lennon was shot? This question still haunts me to this day. At the time I was attending New York Institute of Technology @ Old Westbury where I majored in Communication Arts. I was a DJ on the college radio station (WNYT) and also interned at WLIR (a Long Island progressive rock radio station)so you can understand that music meant the world to me. I had just gotten off the air when a few of the other air staff invited me to go on a mission to find a Christmas tree for the production studio of our college station. After a few hours of searching, we found the perfect one. We dragged it back to the studio where we decorated it with items from around the studio like using audio tape for tinsel, etc. Being that it was fairly late in the evening and all of our newspeople were not there, it was our job to monitor the AP wire in the production studio for the on-air jock. It was then that I found out that John Lennon had been shot and ultimately died. What was supposed to be a celebratory evening turned out to be a tragic event that will forever be etched in my mind. Growing up in the '60s, The Beatles had a profound influence in my life. From wearing my hair like the Beatles at the age of 5, to entertaining my 5th grade class singing "Let it Be" with 3 of my classmates to dancing at my senior prom to "In My Life" John Lennon and the rest of the Beatles had touched almost every aspect of my life. Other artists have passed before and after John Lennon (some I even had the pleasure to meet while working for the radio stations) but none with so many unanswered questions. The one that haunts me the most is WHY? --Tom Wright, Patchogue, N.Y.

John Lennon was always just John Lennon to those of us in Liverpool. We loved his music. We all took it very hard in Liverpool when hearing of his murder in 1980. One of our own was gone. God rest John. We still care about you.--Sarah, Iowa

I was a gawky freshman in high school. I had grown up with the Beatles, because my sister - a big fan - had all of their albums, and I recall laying in the living room on the floor, in front of this huge 60's era sideboard stereo with an ornate fabric over the speakers, listening to Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. I was trying to change my image, listening to punk and new wave and distancing myself from the music of the previous generation as a way to differntiate myself, claim my own identity, while still trying to fit in with my peers. Secretly, I still loved the nights when we sat in front of the stereo and I could indulge myself. My sister was a Paul McCartney fan. My act of independence was loudly admiring the "weird one": John. I was at the home of a friend, whose father was vice-principal of our school. Her older brother came in and said something off hand about somebody having been shot. I vaguely heard the name, and was unnerved: Jack Lemmon? He was one of my favorite actors. I had the self-conscious sadness of a dramatic teenager perfected when I came home and told my parents the news. They set me straight. The facade just fell. My father's eyes were misty, and I had never seen him cry. He said something about the end of an era. I don't know that I cried about it for a good two years, until "Starting Over" came on the radio when I was driving alone for one of the first times. Then, it just poured. --Brooke Biggs, San Francisco, Calif.