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Shaw: Mourning John Lennon's tragic death 41 years later

Shaw reflects on the loss of John Lennon on the 41st anniversary of his death.

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Former Beatle John Lennon was murdered on December 8, 1980. Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

It was 41 years ago next week that I was watching the New England Patriots play the Miami Dolphins on Monday Night Football, when Howard Cosell made the shocking announcement that John Lennon was shot dead. It remains the most stunning thing I have ever heard on television. I greatly admired Lennon, and never expected to hear that he was murdered.

Also watching that football game was Fargo native Michael Newgren, who used to be a reporter and editor at The Forum.

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Michael Newgren

“I first saw the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show in 1964. It changed my life. It electrified me,” Newgren said. “John was my favorite. He had this incredible wit and intelligence. I identified with him.”

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When Lennon was killed, Newgren was working as Sunday sports editor of New York Newsday, and lived in Manhattan. “I was stunned when Cosell said John was dead. I couldn’t believe it,” Newgren said.

As soon as he heard Cosell’s announcement, Newgren realized he needed to head to the Dakota Apartments, where Lennon lived and was shot outside of. He hailed a cab, and arrived shortly before midnight.

“I was one of the first on the scene. A short time later, I turned around to see thousands of people behind me,” Newgren said. “We hugged, cried, prayed, lit candles, consoled one another, shared our favorite Beatles and Lennon stories, sang our favorite Beatles and Lennon songs and tried to make sense of it all.”

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Thousands of John Lennon fans gathered outside his New York City apartment at The Dakota shortly after he was murdered. Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

At about 6:45 a.m., Newgren made his way through the enormous crowd and walked home.

“That night is etched in my memory, and it seems as though it happened only yesterday,” he said.

The following Sunday, Newgen and 100,000 other people attended a vigil for Lennon at New York City's Central Park. The music of Lennon and the Beatles was played, several people spoke, there was 10 minutes of silence, and the crowd sang, “Imagine,” and “All we are saying, is give peace a chance.”

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“John Lennon was one of my heroes. I felt like I had to be there,” Newgren said. “Between his anti-war stance and his ‘All you need is love,’ I felt connected to John. I grew up with him and the Beatles.”

Attending the vigil was very therapeutic for Newgren. “I felt really sad. I felt a sense of camaraderie,” Newgren said. “I was grieving. I was not grieving alone.”

The senseless murder of John Lennon at age 40 remains very painful to Newgren and myself. Lennon and the Beatles were unique, extremely talented, and very special. Between his music, humor, and his advocacy for a better world, Lennon had so much more to give.

“I make sure to listen to at least one Beatles song every day,” Newgren said. “I still get sad on the anniversary of John’s murder. Who knows what might have been. I will never get over his death.”

Click here for more from columnist Jim Shaw.

Shaw is a former WDAY TV reporter and former KVRR TV news director.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Forum's editorial board nor Forum ownership.

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Jim Shaw
Jim Shaw

Related Topics: MUSIC
Opinion by Jim Shaw
InForum columnist Jim Shaw is a former WDAY TV reporter and former KVRR TV news director.
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