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- Posted on Dec 8th 2010 7:30AM by James Sullivan
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John Lennon's murder also took an enthusiastic adopted New Yorker from the city he had come to love as his own. That's the approach author Keith Elliot Greenberg took for his new book, 'December 8, 1980: The Day John Lennon Died.'
"I'm not a Beatles scholar, by any means," Greenberg tells Spinner, though he nevertheless does an admirable job of portraying the key moments and relationships in Lennon's life that led to his contented, newly refreshed frame of mind on the eve of his murder. "I am a crime reporter, and a New Yorker. I felt I had the ability to tell the story in true-crime fashion, as well as the passion to convey what life was like in New York in 1980."
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"It was most important to me to create context," says Greenberg -- "what New York and John Lennon were like in 1980."
As Lennon and Ono returned to their apartment from an evening recording session, Chapman, who had been lingering on the block for days, emerged from the Dakota's archway to shoot the former Beatle in the back. Though Lennon had been in the habit of addressing his own mortality -- on the day of his murder, he'd told a visiting interviewer that he hoped to die before Yoko -- the author is careful not to read too much into it.
"I think John was always referring to his own mortality," he says, pointing out that Lennon lost several people close to him, including his mother, onetime bandmate Stu Sutcliffe and Beatles manager Brian Epstein, during his short lifetime. "If you looked at a transcript of my conversations, you might say the same thing about me."
John and Yoko's life together, and Yoko's grief over the death of her husband, have been covered extensively, acknowledges the author. "I wanted to work the story along the margins. I wanted to tell the little stories in addition to the big story. To me, they add richness to the bigger tale."
Greenberg, a native New Yorker who who was born in the Bronx, raised in Queens and currently lives with his family in Brooklyn, once worked in television for Geraldo Rivera, a friend of the ex-Beatle and his wife. The author was a teenager in the late '70s, when John and Yoko were celebrated (and sometimes hounded) by the New York media.
"John Lennon made me proud to be a New Yorker," he says. Unlike some public figures, Lennon accepted the city on its own terms. Sadly, that's what killed him.
The fact that Yoko Ono did not flee -- she still lives in the Dakota -- is a tribute to the city's resilience, Greenberg says.
"She has enhanced the city by contributing a million dollars to build Strawberry Fields. She made New York a more beautiful, serene, positive place."
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