WHEN JOHN LENNON WAS MURDERED
in December, 1980, TIME's Chris Porterfield summed up
the tragedy, "Of all the Beatles, Lennon was the one who showed the greatest depth and complexity. His was the growth I expected the most from, and now that growth has been cut short." Some highlights from our coverage of John and the Beatles over the years:
Although no Beatle can read music, two of them dream up half the Beatles' repertory. The raucous, big-beat sound they achieve by electric amplification of all their instruments makes a Beatle performance slightly orgiastic. But the boys are the very spirit of good clean fun. They look like shaggy Peter Pans, with their mushroom haircuts and high white shirt collars, and onstage they clown around endlessly—twisting, cracking jokes, gently laughing at the riotous response they get from their audience.
From The New Madness
Nov. 15, 1963
The Beatles are being fueled by a genuine, if temporary, hysteria. In every part of the U.S., teen-agers are talking about little else.... But part of the Beatles peculiar charm is that they view it all with bemused detachment. If they are asked why they think they qualify as, well, four Rockmaninoffs, they disarmingly concede that they have no real talent at all. They are pure and classic idols. All they have to do is lift their arms or shake their waterweed hair to provoke screams that would blot out an allclear signal.
From The Unbarbershopped Quartet
Feb. 21, 1964
IN HIS OWN WRITE by John Lennon.... Puffing and globbering they drugged theyselves rampling or dancing with wild abdomen, stubbing in wild postumes amongst themselves. It was not the Jumblies setting to sea in a sieve, nor was it the mimsy borogoves. John Lennon, the writing Beatle ("He's the arty one"), is—in his own way—describing the members of the Neville Club as they sit in hubbered lumps smoking Hernia and taking Odeon. In this startling collection of verse and prosery, Lennon has rolled Edward Lear, Lewis Carroll and James Thurber into one great post-Joycean spitball. All those jellybean-lobbing, caterwauling Beatle fans are not going to understand it at all.
From All My Own Work
May 1, 1964
With characteristic self-mockery, the Beatles are proclaiming that they have snuffed out their old selves to make room for the new Beatles incarnate. And there is some truth to it. Without having lost any of the genial anarchism with which they helped revolutionize the life style of young people in Britain, Europe and the U.S., they have moved on to a higher artistic plateau.
From The Messengers
Sep. 22, 1967
The sad thing is that John Lennon now remembers only the pain. As the No. 1 Beatle, he lived one of the most exciting, financially successful and creative lives of the rock era. But what sticks in his mind today is not the joy of the pop classics he wrote with Paul McCartney, but the misery that fame brought him, as well as the suppression of ego required by working in the group.
Jan. 25, 1971
After he shot Lennon, Chapman said, 'I've got a good side and a bad side. The bad side is very small, but sometimes it takes over the good side and I do bad things.'
From A Lethal Delusion
By Gerald Clarke
Dec. 22, 1980
For all the official records, the death would be called murder. For everyone who cherished the sustaining myth of the Beatles—which is to say, for much of an entire generation that is passing, as Lennon was, at age 40, into middle age, and coming suddenly up against its own mortality—the murder was something else. It was an assassination, a ritual slaying of something that could hardly be named. Hope, perhaps; or idealism. Or time. Not only lost, but suddenly dislocated, fractured.
From The Last Day in the Life
By Jay Cocks
Dec. 22, 1980
Lennon loved language, the sounds and rhymes and elastic elusiveness of words, and, like a dandy with a lace handkerchief, he liked to keep a pun up his sleeve.
From Always a Pun up His Sleeve
Dec. 22, 1980
The mourning, and all the indulgence that goes with it, ought to have been set aside. But patience, sympathy and sentiment—in finally impossible amounts—are what is needed for listening to Milk and Honey, twelve songs by John Lennon and Yoko Ono intended to follow up their Double Fantasy alburn, before murder intervened.
From Last Songs
By Jay Cocks
Jan. 30, 1984
Albert Goldman's controversial new biography offers unsettling evidence of how thoroughly John and Yoko distorted the messy details of their lives for public consumption. Apparently the mythmaking machinery was working overtime during the fall of 1980.
From Challenging The Myth Machine
By Paul Gray
Sep. 12, 1988