John Lennon left us 40 years ago, on December 8. We're fast approaching the day, sometime in February 2021, when he'll have been gone longer than he was with us. As time continues to pass at an ever-accelerating pace, I find myself looking back, as I often do at this time of year, on the night when the unthinkable happened.
Like John, I was a compulsive diary keeper. Below are two excerpts from my diary from the days immediately after John's murder. Both excerpts appear in Nowhere Man: The Final Days of John Lennon. The "Fred" I refer to is Fred Seaman, John's personal assistant. The book I mention would, 18 years later, become Nowhere Man.
I post these excerpts now to share with you a sense of what it was like at a time when the world changed and my own life would never be the same.
12/9/80 John Lennon was killed last night. At around 7:00 I'd smoked the last bit of dope Fred had given me, my "Lennon Dope." I looked at those crumbs in the bag and said, "What the fuck am I saving this for, sentimental reasons? This stuff is for getting stoned." It was Jim Morrison's birthday and I was listening to a Doors special on WPLJ. When news of the murder came over the radio, all I felt was a chill. Around 2 A.M. I went down to the Dakota. I felt it was important to observe the scene. I shed a few tears, I couldn't help it. God help you, John Lennon. Thank you for touching my life. At 5 A.M, when I got home, I tried to call Fred at the Dakota. I got the accountant. He said Fred wasn't available. I said, "Tell him I called and that I'm sorry." There was nothing to say then and there's nothing to say now. There is only sickness in a sick world.
Yet as I absorbed the unfolding events, I couldn't help but consider my own role in them.
12/10/80 I'm an eyewitness to history. I would not be human if I were not fascinated by Lennon's death. My perfectly human desire is to want to be part of the scene, to be part of history. There is a possibility Fred will ask me to begin work on the book. He called this morning to say he's quitting his job at the end of the week to begin writing it. "It's what John wants," he said. "John knew he was going to die and he poured his heart out to me. He knew I was working on a book." I'm not going to ask to participate in this project. If I'm not part of it, my life will go on as it has. But if Fred does ask me, there's no way I can say no. I believe I can execute such a project in a spirit true to John Lennon's memory.
I hope that Nowhere Man is sufficient proof that the last sentence is correct.