“Instant Karma” (also known as “We All Shine On”) was Lennon’s third solo single (that is, single as a non-Beatle – although George Harrison contributed electric guitar, piano and backing vocals), and the first to be a great success. It sold over a million copies in the US alone, and was a top ten hit in eleven different countries. It was also one of the quickest produced songs of all time, taking literally only ten days from recording to release (February 6 was its debut in the UK).
Like much of Lennon’s work, it is a vague hippie anthem, raising philosophical questions and radiating optimism – although not without its sly touches, such as the lines “Get yourself together / Pretty soon you’re gonna be dead”. Two months later, Paul McCartney would announce the official end of the Beatles, but until them, “Instant Karma” would compete with “Let It Be” (the second last Beatles single) on the charts.
John Lennon’s 30th birthday fell in one of the most tumultuous years of his life. Although he had actually left the Beatles the previous year, he had agreed not to publicise it while the band re-negotiated its contract. So he’d been surprised when Paul released his first solo album in April of 1970, and the media attention surrounding it largely credited Paul with breaking up the band.
His own first solo album would not be released for another two months, and while Lennon’s relationships with his former bandmates (Paul most of all) were strained, he was apparently both pleased and touched when Harrison presented him with a recording of “It’s Johnny’s Birthday” on his birthday.
Mark David Chapman is, by any standard, an idiot. On this day in 1980, he shot John Lennon five times, in the back, while Lennon’s wife Yoko Ono looked on helplessly.
Whatever his actual motive for shooting John Lennon – and Chapman has contradicted himself on several occasions regarding it – the fact remains that he achieved only two things: depriving the world of a truly great musical talent, and giving the rest of the world one more reason to loathe American culture.
The fact that he has not been shanked in the yard at Attica State Prison only serves to underscore the massive injustice of Lennon’s death.
One of the most controversial celebrity biographies of its era, Albert Goldman’s “The Lives of John Lennon” was almost universally denounced as a hatchet job. Goldman alleged, among other things, that Lennon was manipulative, anti-Semitic, dyslexic and schizophrenic. Lennon was also, apparently, involved – in a highly negaitve way – in several suspicious deaths, including those of Stuart Suttcliffe and an unborn child of Yoko Ono (who he apparently caused the miscarry by kicking her in the stomach during an argument).
Lennon’s associates, friends and family were near unanimous in their condemnation of the book. Cynthia Lennon (his ex-wife) and Yoko Ono both denounced it – Ono even threatened a libel suit at one point. Paul McCartney advised people not to buy it when asked about it in interviews (and he was one of the few people treated well in its pages). Other Lennon biographers have largely dismissed the book, and many of those Goldman interviewed in researching it later claimed that their words were misquoted or otherwise misrepresented.
This date is approximate – I have been able to narrow it down no more precisely than “late August”, and have thus chosen the latest possible date in August.