radicals began congregating at John and Yoko's West
Village apartment. They included Abbie Hoffman,
"Yippie" leader Jerry Rubin, rock "activist"
David Peel and Black Panther Chairman Bobby Seale,
radicals who had fallen under the intruding eye
of government agencies such as the FBI. These men
shared an interest in bringing down the Nixon administration.
Discussions would go on late into the night. Out
of this came John and Yoko's involvement in protest
rallies and several benefit concerts and Lennon's
most radical music to date. The new songs alluded
to the causes that had been brought to John and
Yoko's attention: Northern Ireland, women's liberation,
the imprisonment of John Sinclair and Angela Davis
and the Attica State Prison shootings.
government officials were keeping strict tabs on
the ex-Beatle they termed "Mr. Lennon."
Earlier in 1972, John and Yoko had been served with
deportation orders on the grounds of Lennon's 1968
cannabis conviction while still in Great Britain.
What Lennon didn't realize at the time was that
President Nixon himself was making moves to have
fact, as documented in Jon Wiener's Gimme Some
Truth: The John Lennon-FBI Files (University
of California Press, 1999), in 1972, FBI Director
J. Edgar Hoover was reporting to the Nixon White
House about the Bureau's surveillance of Lennon.
Hoover explained that Lennon was a "former
member of the Beatles singing group."
the FBI and Nixon's advisors informed Nixon that
Lennon had fallen in with bad company; that is,
with people who would stop at nothing to undermine
the Republican Party's chances of winning the upcoming
election. With a growing number of Americans backing
the ex-Beatle, the anti-Nixon faction was becoming
more than just a nuisance; it was starting to be
perceived as a major threat.
Memos and reports flew back and forth between senators,
the FBI and the U.S. Immigration Office, all revolving
around the paranoid order to have Lennon deported.
At first, Lennon thought he was imagining that his
phone was tapped and that he was being followed.
But soon he began to get the message.
With Gimme Some Truth, Jon Wiener,
a history professor at the University of California,
has made Lennon's FBI file public. The subject of
the file is the Nixon administration's efforts to
"neutralize" Lennon. The term "neutralize"
was never really defined, but it carried ominous
overtones. The file includes lengthy reports by
confidential informants detailing the daily lives
of anti-war activists, memos to the White House,
transcripts of television shows on which Lennon
appeared, and a proposal that he be arrested on
drug charges. The book also delineates efforts by
the Reagan, Bush and Clinton administrations to
preserve government secrecy, and details Wiener's
fourteen-year court battle to win the release of
the Lennon files under the Freedom of Information
Act. Eventually, the case went all the way to the
United States Supreme Court.
the government efforts against him, Lennon dug in
and fought back. Every time he was ordered out of
the country, his lawyers delayed the process by
filing an appeal. Nixon's pursuit of Lennon was
in large part based on the perception that Lennon
and his comrades were planning to disrupt the Republican
National Convention in Miami in August of 1972.
The authorities' paranoia, however, was misplaced.
When Rubin, Hoffman, et al. revealed
that they were planning to cause a riot, Lennon
balked. "We said, We ain't buying this,"
Lennon told Playboy in 1980. "We're
not going to draw children into a situation to create
violence so you can overthrow what? And replace
it with what?... It was all based on this illusion,
that you can create violence and overthrow what
is, and get communism or get some right-wing lunatic
or a left-wing lunatic. They're all lunatics."
1976, Lennon won his battle to get a green card
and stay in the country. Afterwards, he said: "I
have a love for this country. Two thousand years
ago, we would all have wanted to live in Rome. Not
in the hills, but in Rome and now, this is Rome.
This is where the action is. I think we'll just
go home, open a tea bag, and look at each other."
at each other they did, in the privacy of their
apartment at the luxurious Dakota apartment building.
But in 1980, after about five years of silence,
Lennon had some new songs, and he and Yoko released
what would be his final album, Double Fantasy.
have to give thanks to God, or whatever it is up
there, the fact that we all survived," Lennon
mused in his final interview on December 8, 1980,
for Playboy. "We all survived
Vietnam or Watergate or the tremendous upheaval
of the world.... The whole map's changed and we're
going into an unknown future, but we're still all
here, and while there's life there's hope."
night, when Lennon returned with Yoko around 10:50,
Mark David Chapman was waiting for him in the shadows
at the entrance to the archway of the Dakota. Instead
of driving through the passageway, Lennon decided
to stop by the sidewalk to greet the fans congregating
outside. As Lennon stepped outside the car, Chapman's
voice called out, "Mr. Lennon!" Lennon
turned and was met by a barrage of gunfire as Chapman—squatting
in combat stance—emptied his .38-caliber pistol
and pumped four bullets into his back and left arm.
Lennon stumbled and staggered forward, still clutching
the tapes from that evening's studio session. With
blood pouring from his mouth and chest, he collapsed
to the ground.
Lennon was pronounced dead on arrival at the hospital.
He had finally been "neutralized."