Why John Lennon’s Widow Yoko Ono Feels His Utter Honesty Led to His Death

If you ask anyone born before the early 1970s what they were doing when they heard about John Lennon’s death on December 8, 1980, they will most likely remember every detail.

John Lennon
John Lennon | Vinnie Zuffante/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Lennon’s death was comparable to asking someone born in the 1950s about President Kennedy’s assassination. Details such as smells, what they were wearing, who they were with, almost certainly remain in that person’s memory.

On that December evening, after the news had spread of Lennon’s shooting, one could almost feel the ripples of loss and grief that New York City evening wherever they were.

Yoko Ono was with her husband when he was murdered and has said countless times since then that she feels Lennon’s absolute frankness is what contributed to his being killed.

What she meant by that is sure to cause some controversy among Beatles fans. Find out what she said.

A fan’s unsettling recollection of Dec. 8, 1980

Lennon died at the age of 40 on what had been a beautiful December day.

He had been approached by a fan to sign his copy of Lennon and Ono’s new album, Double Fantasy. Paul Goresh, a longtime Beatles fan, was standing outside the Dakota, as so many of Lennon’s fans did, to meet the Beatle and take a photo of him.

Goresh spoke with People in 1990 about his unsettling memory of that night.

Amateur photographer Paul Goresh (left) is shown with former Beatle John Lennon
Amateur photographer Paul Goresh (left) is shown with former Beatle John Lennon

“I got there about 12:00 PM and [Mark David] Chapman was there. He was standing right in the middle of the archway, holding a copy of Double Fantasy like a billboard. At about 5:00 PM, it was almost dark, and the Christmas lights started to come on on 72nd Street.”

“John and Yoko came out with a bunch of people. John saw me and said, “Paul, have you been here long?” As we were talking, Chapman came up. He leaned forward and held the album out.”

“John just looked at him and said, “You want that signed?” Chapman nodded. Later, Chapman went to a little ledge and slid the album onto it and said to Jose the doorman, “Do me a favor and remember where I put that, because you’ll want to know.”

“When I was getting ready to leave at about 8:00 PM,” Goresh continued, “Chapman said, ‘I wouldn’t leave if I were you. You never know, something may happen, and you’ll never see him again.’ I said, ‘What are you talking about?’ And he caught himself, and he said, “Well, you never know, he may go to Spain or something, and you’ll never see him again.”

Lennon’s utter honesty

Ono has said that her feeling is that her husband may have died because he said things people didn’t want to hear.

She spoke with Inside Edition about her thoughts in 1998. “The fact that he was too honest may have offended some people, may have shortened his life, I don’t know.”

Host Deborah Norville asked Ono if she felt Lennon’s lyrics may have encouraged Chapman to murder Lennon. 

“I don’t know, I don’t know,” Ono said. “[John] was very upfront, extremely open to people. I think that sometimes you have to pay a high price for it. And he did it, he just gambled on it, I think.”

His killer’s sick motive

After his arrest, Lennon’s killer was, naturally, questioned as to why he would commit such a senseless act. Why would he murder someone that he himself has called his idol?

Chapman has irrationally said in his earliest parole hearings (he has been denied parole now ten times) that he murdered Lennon because he felt the star was a hypocrite singing about love and peace and having no possessions and yet living a lavish lifestyle. 

According to the transcript of his latest parole hearing in 2018, Chapman told the panel he was looking for fame in killing Lennon.

“Top of the list, super famous, just the right kind of a person if you want to become infamous yourself, bottom line,” the shooter said. “It was nothing at that point of anger or any bad feelings toward him. He was just the most famous guy at that time.”

Perhaps Ono was right in her theory or perhaps her beloved husband died simply because he trusted people too much and didn’t think any harm would come from living so accessibly to fans in New York City.

Read moreWhat Ringo Starr Thought When John Lennon Died