This year, had John Lennon survived being shot four times by a deranged fan on Dec. 8, he would have been 79 years old. Instead, the former Beatle in 1980 succumbed to his wounds and died at the age of 40.
One story that is little-known about that night in 1980 was from singer James Taylor, who lived close to the Lennons’ Dakota building in New York City. Taylor relates that he spoke with Mark David Chapman, the man who would eventually murder the English singer.
Find out about the unsettling exchange Taylor states he had with the man who was obsessed with and killed Lennon, plus remembrances from Taylor’s former wife, Carly Simon.
Carly Simon’s memories of Lennon
Taylor’s ex-wife, singer Carly Simon remembered Lennon in speaking with The Independent in 2005.
“James [Taylor] and I spent New Year’s Eve with John and Yoko and 10 others at the Shun Lee Dynasty restaurant in Manhattan, and I happened to sit next to John. It was the first chance I had to sit close to him and study his face and have a good talk.”
“At midnight, everybody put on goofy hats and blew noise-makers, and John had on this little pointed hat that brought all his features, including his nose, into a kind of pointed focus. I was pregnant with [son] Ben at the time, and John began to give me the compelling, potentially grim story of Yoko’s problematic delivery of Sean.”
“It took 20 minutes to tell, and all the while he wore that silly hat. It would have been difficult to take anyone else but John seriously.”
James Taylor on the price of fame
Taylor spoke with the BBC in 2011 about the price that John Lennon paid for fame. He reflected on how fame changes the person, certainly not always to the point of death, as in Lennon’s case. But to the point of no longer recognizing who you, or your career, are.
“The more well-known you are, it just becomes statistically more probable that someone crazy will get attracted, you know? I think there is a point of diminishing returns to fame and success, there’s a point where you can’t do your job anymore, you’re just maintaining the thing, the form that you’ve created, that you’ve been cast in.”
“Again, that’s the main thing about John Lennon and the Beatles, in general, but I think mostly John. It’s that he carried on, far beyond what would have been expected, you know? He kept one step ahead of what the public perceived him to be.”
James Taylor’s memories of the day before, and of, Lennon’s death
James Taylor told English journalist Tom Brook about that evening and how the horror of that night was literally too close to home. The artist told police he heard popping sounds the night of Dec. 8 in the conservative, quiet Upper West Side neighborhood. It must have stunned Taylor to learn that what he heard were the sounds of his friend being killed.
“It seems amazing to me now, but I lived in the building one up from the Dakota and I heard [John] shot – five, just as quick as you could pull the trigger, about five explosions.”
Even more eerily, Taylor revealed to Brook about running into Lennon’s killer in the NYC subway on Dec. 7, one day before Lennon’s death.
“[John’s] assassin had button-holed me in the tube station, the subway stop, right in front of 72nd Street the day before [John’s murder].”
“The guy had sort of pinned me to the wall and was glistening with maniacal sweat and talking some freak speak about what he was going to do and his stuff with how John was interested, and he was going to get in touch with John Lennon.”
“And it was surreal to actually have contact with the guy 24 hours before he shot John.”
Read more: The Classic Beatles Song John Lennon Described as ‘a History of Rock ‘n’ Roll’
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