Posted: March 5, 2014 in History, Life
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,




A long time ago I was watching a piece on television about the assassination of John Lennon.  The report was claiming that, after taking two bullets from Mark David Chapman’s pistol, Lennon had staggered into the lobby of his apartment building, the Dakota, and exclaimed to a nearby concierge, “They’ve shot me.”

Apparently he never said, “They’ve shot me.”  Doing a search online about the last words of John Lennon will get you a couple of different stories.  One will claim that instead of “They’ve shot me,” he uttered, “I’m shot,” before collapsing on the steps inside the lobby of his apartment building.  Another story says that he was conscious but incoherent in his last moments, answering “yeah” or “yes” to officials asking him if he’s John Lennon in the back of an ambulance.

What a stupid question.  “Are you John Lennon?”  As an EMT, I’ll have you know that — Oh hell, that’s for a different blog altogether.

No matter which story is true… no matter what his last words were… it’s all irrelevant to this post.  I’m still hung up on “They’ve shot me.”

As witnesses to history, we are (usually) provided with information after the fact that tells us how and when things occurred and the motivations behind those things.  Today, we know that Mark David Chapman was an obsessed fan of Lennon who had planned on murdering the former Beatle for more than three months.  Chapman had other celebrities in mind for termination as well, including Walter Cronkite, Johnny Carson, George C. Scott, and Elizabeth Taylor.

Chapman’s grievous act caused him instant celebrity.  Anyone who followed the career of John Lennon also knows the story behind his assassination.  Notice I’ve used that word — assassination — twice now.  Does it seem out-of-place?  Most use the word “murder” when talking about the death of John Lennon.  Assassination is usually reserved for those who hold political office.  Lennon, although often political, did not hold office.

Today, Chapman’s motives are obvious to history.  This does not mean they’re condoned.  We simply understand why, even as we can’t empathize with the why.

“They’ve shot me.”

This simple misrepresentation of Lennon’s last words are always what I go to when I think of the death of the musician.  We might understand who Chapman was and why he did what he did, but his victim will never understand anything about his own assassination.

Yes, I get the whole “afterlife” thing.  I’m a Christian myself.  To die is to gain knowledge of everything.  This post is about the here and now.

How would Archduke Franz Ferdinand look upon his own assassination?  I’m sure he’d gladly die if his death could have prevented a world war, but what about starting one?

I feel like part of Len Bias might be waiting to wake up from his first experience with cocaine.  “Man, this buzz sucks. Let’s go to IHOP.”

I’m no conspiracy theorist.  I know there was nothing more than the work of a madman at work in the death of John Lennon.  But Lennon had no way of knowing who killed him or why they did it.  “They’ve shot me,” could mean so many things.

“I’m shot,” although more basic, can mean just as many.

We’ll never know what was going through John’s mind as he lay dying in the lobby of the Dakota.  I would like to think it was about Yoko and family, but I imagine it was something like, “Who the hell shot me?  What did I do to deserve this?  Holy shit, I’m bleeding out.”

RIP John.

  1. Marcia says:

    An interesting perspective on a sad event. I enjoyed reading your thoughts, and will probably be going over them in my mind for some time. Thank you. (And thanks for stopping by my blog today and Liking a post. I appreciate that, as well.)

  2. I enjoyed reading that, thank you. That really is a perspective I’ve never considered. The whole country was so busy asking “why,” I don’t think it’s ever occurred to any of us to wonder what John Lennon was thinking.

  3. I believe those were JFK’s last words too.

    • Alan Brech says:

      Not quite, but almost: what you’re probably thinking of was Jackie Kennedy’s remark about why she kept wearing her assassination-stained dress: “I want the American public to see what those bastards have done.” I.e., implying that more than one person shot JFK.

  4. losing john lennon was a painful rupture in the global music scene and popular culture, not to mention the loss suffered by his immediate family and those who knew him personally. although i have mixed feelings about some conspiracy theories, i concur that it’s unlikely lennon’s last words would be “they’ve shot me.” it’s like the character in “lolita” who says when shot, “please stop–that hurts terribly.” (i won’t say who, in case you haven’t read it yet.) somehow i imagine the shock and the pain would preclude the possibility of articulate reflection, along with paranoid surmisings. (lennon’s last words were probably a lot closer to what you guessed they were.) one theory i’ve heard about chapman is that he couldn’t tolerate his own anonymity when juxtaposed with lennon’s universal fame. it’s too bad we live in a world where murdering a famous person can instantly make you a “celebrity” yourself, even if a notorious one. thanks also for liking my latest blog post.

  5. Allison W. says:

    Very interesting read. Thank you for posting, Eric.

  6. WordCupid says:

    Hmm, this is an interesting take on ‘last words’. I don’t think many people take into consideration how much weight last words carry. By the way, thanks for stopping by my blog and liking my post. Most appreciated.

  7. An unusual angle to come at such a great and painful loss to us all. I wonder what made you think of questioning his last words? Most of us are simply shocked that brilliance can be wiped out in a few seconds by the hands of a man without reason. Great post, enjoyed reading it.

  8. suspendedinsunbeams says:

    Love a fresh perspective and, if I were a publisher, I would take on your work simply for the ability you show for empathetic imagination of others’ mindsets, real or imagined.

  9. prayingforoneday says:

    I actually researched this for a month (off and on) for an online agency.

    I think he was going to out “Something”
    Now ANYONE who wants to say “Rubbish” please, read it all before posting.
    I don’t do these types of blogs. I live 400 miles away from Abbey Road where I am in Scotland…
    This has done the rounds for years. My Dad told me it when I was a it was good to research and I am 50/50 on it. But there are clues ALL OVER…They either (As a band) had fun with a crap story, or Paul (The one we don’t know) Died…


  10. InfiniteZip says:

    I saw those glasses at the rock and roll hall of fame….brought tears to my eyes.

  11. As a great great beatle fan I had to read your post on John Lennon, I enjoyed the read,I feel that some how he knew that his time was near, if you listen to his last album, the way he used his music to express his feelings to the people he loved and adored his family.Some how he knew ……..also thank you so much for reading my blog,I am very grateful and will continue to visit yours in the future. Great work

  12. Unsungpoet says:

    We hardly ever get the straight truth about things through historic records and the media…most of it is molded and twisted to what someone else wants us to believe. Trust your intuition! The “conspiracy theory” thing is some sort of Hollywood-created hoopla designed to discredit and label as “paranoid” individuals who are able to see right through the fabricated nonsense…

  13. Jodine says:

    I agree he would have said “They’ve shot me”, he had been targeted by the then Nixon government for years because he was so politically outspoken and potentially painted as a ‘Commy’ as part of their plan to discrefit him, attempting to turn the masses against him. It backfired. He was an activist who was charismatic, loved and respected. His songsvresonated with youth. He was also mass educating the public through his writing, songs and activism. They tried to deport him from America using several corrupt means, under false pretenses that took him years for him to fight. He was the thorn in the side of the Nixon government and they wanted him gone. He was bugged, intimidated, denied rights and threatened outright. His ‘bed in’ was another politically motivated public statement. His message, ‘All we are saying, is give peace a chance’. John and Yoko Ono got a hell of a lot of exposure during the Vietnam War period and it went a long way to exposing the corruption within the Nixon government, climaxing with the Watergate debacle. Of course ‘they shot him’. Any fool with a brain can see that. The government’s want us to remain ignorant (a decidedly Marxist comment). It wasn’t the only cover up during that era…Marilyn Monroe knew too much, the Kennedy assassinations, Malcolm X. The government were sanctioning assassinations otherwise known as ‘murder’. No governments should have that much power. No one person should have that much power, to simply change the law to avoid being tried for war crimes, they hold other countrues accountable to ie: George W. Bush. There, that’s my rant. I was born in New Zealand in 1968. I had stacks and stacks of Nixon and cheeky Watergate stickers…from some place they called USA (on my Uncle Sam Sticker). A place I know nothing about… Great article. Great read! Jx

  14. Hi there. Really interesting post that brings one iconic man’s existence down to his individually expressed single life- or in this case, death. It’s easy to forget that these “characters” in history were more than the story they left behind. I think about this topic, being one’s self, following one’s call, leading to death, in the context of Martin Luther King often. Another amazing person whose life was ended too soon. Thanks for visiting me and sharing.

  15. PS- I saw these glasses in real life at the Cleveland Rock and Roll hall of fame many years ago for Beatles exhibit. Haunting.

  16. floridaborne says:

    Too many losers are seeking notoriety by killing famous people. Charles Manson comes to mind. I wonder if it would be deterrent to glory seekers if their names and entire histories were removed from existence, doing just the opposite of what future glory seekers would want to accomplish?

  17. Susan says:

    This really got me thinking, not just about what Lennon thought as he lay dying, but, as others have mentioned in their comments, what does anyone think in their last moments, do they actually understand they are dying? Real “Food for thought! Thanks!

  18. Colltales says:

    Thanks for this post. Everything I’d say is already on the comments above, which thank goodness, don’t include hateful diatribes or wacky conspiracies theories. One thing I’d add, though, is that Sean Lennon did believe for a while that John had been assassinated, that is, that there was indeed a concerted effort to silence his voice. I tend to see it more as a circunstancial tragedy, in what MDC was somehow ‘inspired’ to seek cheap notoriety by killing one of the most important artists of the century. In every which way we lose, though. Yes, the Nixon administration was afraid of his influence, but they did not order a hit; just benefited from it, unfortunately. To my generation, it was the biggest, most brutal loss, and we’ll never fully recover from it. One can only imagine how things would be with him still around, but life does go on. We’ll always have his music. Cheers.

  19. ssnovatamara says:

    Lennon’s words, lyrics and actions brought so many of us comfort. He wasn’t just an artist, he supports us in our misery when we listen to his songs. He lifts us up. He helps us.

    That’s part of why it hurts that we couldn’t help him. That he died and we weren’t there to tell him what we hope he knew.

    It’s not just the words that he didn’t say that stay with us, it’s the words we couldn’t say to him.

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