A panoramic view of the events leading up to the infamous murder of John Lennon (1940–1980).
Lennon plainly said that one reason he relocated to New York City was that he could be, if not anonymous, at least left alone there. He didn’t bank on the dozens of die-hard Beatles fans—never Lennon-as-solo-artist fans—who camped out on his doorstep, a few of whom he even befriended while gently encouraging them to get a life. He had had premonitions for years, saying at the height of his Beatles fame, “We’ll either go in a plane [crash] or we’ll be popped off by some loony.” Unfortunately so, and as America’s Most Wanted producer Greenberg (co-author: Perfect Beauty: A Glamorous Socialite, Her Handsome Lover, and Brutal Murder, 2002, etc.) writes, each of the Beatles, and particularly George Harrison, lived in understandable fear of being killed by a deranged admirer. The author’s account is sometimes moment by moment, sometimes a sweeping view of decades, and it often jumps backward and forward in time, occasionally yielding reader whiplash. Yet, in the space of a relatively short book, he ably captures all the right themes, from the hazards of fame to the curious reception of Beatles lyrics among a certain class of fans, who regarded them as life instructions. Greenberg does not shy from remarking on some of Lennon’s less likable features, including his de facto abandonment of son Julian, but neither does he paint Lennon as a monster deserving of comeuppance, in the manner of the loathsome Albert Goldman. The author is also evenhanded in his portrayal of murderer Mark David Chapman, who, of course, has found Jesus in prison and is said to be lobbying for release. However, Greenberg attributes the celebrity-killing meme of the 1980s and beyond—to say nothing of the breakup of Wings—to Chapman’s example, noting also that Chapman liked the Beatles less than he liked Todd Rundgren.
Timely and significant—a dark look through a dark glass onto the events of 30 years past.