Music History

40 years ago today, John Lennon was assassinated by Mark David Chapman. Here’s how the world heard.

I remember it very clearly. I’d come home from drum lessons to find Monday Night Football on the TV. The Dolphins and the Patriots were tied at 13 with just a few seconds left in regulation time in their game at the Orange Bowl in Florida. Then this happened.

Howard Cosell and Monday Night Football had scooped the world with the news of John Lennon’s death. And with the huge audience commanded by MNF back in those days, this is the way millions upon millions first heard the news. So how did this happen?

Alan Weiss was a young producer at WABC-TV in New York City. Earlier in the evening, he’d gotten into a bad motorcycle accident and was sitting in the ER of Roosevelt Hospital. Minutes later, John Lennon was wheeled in. Weiss only knew this because he heard some cops talking about what happened. Then Yoko appeared and was told that John had died. Weiss saw and heard her reaction.

Despite being badly hurt, Weiss found a phone and called in the story. The news was relayed to the booth at Monday Night Football. Initially, Cosell didn’t want to make the announcement despite the fact that he considered Lennon a friend but was convinced by colour man Frank Gifford to do it. And–well, you know the rest.

Here’s the WABC-TV report.

Walter Cronkite delivered it this way.

This is how the BBC covered it.

Stevie Wonder had to give the news to his audience.

Here’s how radio reacted.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

Alan Cross has 38336 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

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