In History: John Lennon on the Beatles reuniting

Mark Chapman was there waiting for him, holding a copy of JD Salinger’s novel Catcher in the Rye and the LP that Lennon had signed for him hours earlier. As the musician walked past him, Chapman pulled out a handgun, and fired multiple times into his back.

The senselessness of the murder sent shockwaves of disbelief around the world. It is difficult to overstate the profound effect The Beatles had as a cultural phenomenon, and what they meant to people. They weren’t merely pop stars. They changed the landscape of popular music. Their experiments with music, film, fashion, drugs and religion had been at the forefront of the 1960s, when the world seemed to be going through seismic changes. Their music had soundtracked a whole generation of people’s lives, helping them to connect to what was going on around them and to each other.

Following the shooting, grief-stricken fans flocked to the Dakota building to leave flowers and cards. For days, radio stations played nothing but The Beatles and John Lennon songs. In his hometown of Liverpool, 30,000 people gathered to hold a 10-minute silence, as did more than 225,000 in Central Park, close to where he was shot dead.

A deeper significance

His music, which had meant so much to people during his life, took on an even deeper significance after his death. In the UK, the song (Just Like) Starting Over from the Double Fantasy album went to number one in the charts, only to be quickly knocked off the top spot by 1971’s Imagine, which in turn was followed by Woman. His last record became a worldwide hit, and went on to win a Grammy for album of the year.

In the decades since, the one question that has haunted fans is this: if Lennon hadn’t been killed that day, would the Beatles have eventually got back together to make more music?

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