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Tuesday, 12 December, 2000, 15:54 GMT
Why is John Lennon still so popular?

Memorials and vigils were being held all over the world to mark the 20th anniversary of the death of John Lennon.

The former Beatle was shot dead outside his New York apartment on 8 December 1980 by an obsessed fan. The killing shocked millions of his fans around the world.

His music - both as a soloist and his recordings with the Beatles - remain popular. The "Greatest Hits" album of the Beatles, released last month, has already sold more than 12 million copies.

Do you remember the day of the shooting? What does John Lennon mean to pop music today? Does his popularity go beyond his musical achievements?

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

Your reaction

"Imagine no possessions..." A bit rich coming from Lennon, considering he was shot outside his own New York mansion.
Henry Case, UK

Provided the soundtrack for a generation

Alan Bates, Springfield, OR, USA
I was a teenage paperboy, crouched on the floor sorting out my papers for the morning round in a quiet Lincolnshire town when I heard the news on BBC Radio 2. It was one of those "where were you when you heard the news" moments, because between them Lennon and McCartney provided the soundtrack for a generation. Lennon's persona has been open to as many different interpretations as he has fans - I feel he would be faintly amused by his "St John of Peace" reputation, if not a little angered: after all, a simple study of some of his lyrics would show he wouldn't be afraid to bite the hand that fed him if he felt fit.

Lennon's ability to speak universally ensure that the 40th anniversary of his death will be as remembered as his 20th - even if the reasons for doing so will be as diverse as his fans.
Alan Bates, Springfield, OR, USA

Seeing the list of the current drivel which are apparently the 10 most popular songs in 2000 we need music from people like John Lennon, and the Beatles, more than ever. The fact that their 1's LP is still number 1 ahead of those dreadful dirges by Westlife speaks volumes for music quality. RIP John.
Jamie Crampton, UK

I am cynical about this John Lennon phenomenon. Though his music with the Beatles and some of his solo work remain unsurpassable, his popularity, like so many other artists who have died young, has indefinitely increased by after his death. Other artists such as Bob Dylan, have produced music that is often equal to, and sometimes far better than Lennon's, yet do not receive the same amount of recognition.
Ruth, UK

The guy was a musical genius! And though he didn't quite manage to live his message of peace and love, it was still his driving ambition that we all put aside our hostilities and stand together as one. The Beatles were, are, and always will be the standard for excellence and achievement.
Mike Crowley, USA

John Lennon had the power to touch people - as simple, yet as magical as that. For the few who don't feel it, all you need do is look around at the evidence of the many who do. If you seek John Lennon's monument, LISTEN around you. I, like so many am still devastated by his loss, but my life is still enriched by what he did. It's not overlooking his flaws, it's not idle celebrity-worship - it is a real achievement of John Lennon for which so many of us are so grateful.
Peter Bird, UK

Trying is the important thing

Philip Lines, US (via UK)
A lot is thought to be known about John Lennon - much more is not. Therein lies his lasting appeal. He is all things to all people - whether he really wanted that is difficult to say. I adore most of his music, especially his early 70's work, but I try my best to leave it at that, like everyone else he wasn't perfect, but at least he wanted to be what he felt was a better person and should be remembered for that, even if he often failed miserably. Trying is the important thing.
Philip Lines, US (via UK)

I was only two when Lennon was killed, so I like to think of myself as a person not influenced by the 60s hysteria. However, just play the Sgt. Pepper album and you will realise how much today's music is shaped by the Beatles. In addition to this, I think it is brilliant how Lennon used his fame in a constructive manner, while still maintaining his humour (going on strike in his bed). So, its because of this that I say to people who only have bad words for him, "Go and play I'm just a jealous guy".
Kris Brown, England

He represents a non-religious caring humanitarian

PD, Sydney, Australia
John Lennon was a talent there is no doubt but he was also very visible in a time of much political change in the late 60s and 70s. Today in a world which is now revolving around the dollar he represents a non-religious caring humanitarian outlook seeking peace and harmony. Whether he actually held to those ideals as he grew older is anyone's guess but of course he died so we will never know and frankly no one will want to know.
PD, Sydney, Australia

Read some bios by those who knew John for years, especially Cynthia Lennon's "A Twist of Lennon". We often get confused and worship those who are good at something rather than those who are good.
Craig, US

I've been attending Beatle-fests in the US since 1978 and have always been amazed at the number of teenagers attending. At first, it was kids who weren't yet born when the Beatles broke up. Now, there are kids who were born well after Lennon was killed. My conclusion is that it's just damn good music. It spans the generations. It's timeless.
Lon Hildreth, USA

He wrote some good songs, sang some good songs too. When he died it was just another day. His death was not particularly newsworthy, after all he was only a very rich singer/song writer.
Greg, British living in the Netherlands

Lennon was the driving force in a group that wrote and played songs that are becoming timeless. I remember being shocked by the shooting, and to this day maintain that his talent is on a par with the genius of Mozart and Beethoven. It's far better to worship the loss of true genius and talent than those who achieved greatness simply by birth.
Gavin Pearson, Detroit, USA

The man was simply a pop star who had a social conscious

Simon C, UK
I agree with a lot of what's been said already. The man was simply a pop star who had a social conscious, much like the rest of us. The media more than anyone, is responsible in some way for the popularity of these people by imposing on us these arbitrary celebrations of their lives. Personally I would much rather we celebrated the anniversary of someone of real importance such as Gandhi or Einstein.
Simon C, UK

A good artist who fell in the wrong hands. After he met Yoko, he simply slumped.
Lia Timis, Romania/ Canada

John Lennon was a rock star, an idol, a myth; but also human, pimples and all. He was flawed, as all of us are, but his vision was clear and his passion was truth.
Brett Ross, USA

A gifted man who had the rare ability to convey strong words, softly spoken.
Brian, UK

John's music has passed the test of time with flying colours

Pat Phillips, Canada
John's music has passed the test of time with flying colours. His life was proof that anybody can achieve fame and fortune if they want it badly enough. Much credit must go to George Martin and Brian Epstein for cleverly marketing the Beatles' success. John's music will never die.
Pat Phillips, Canada

John lost his mother when he was very young which left him emotionally vulnerable and it was this vulnerability which made his songs and personality great. But it was also his downfall because he needed a mother figure and found it in Yoko. His blind faith in her begat projects such as 'Sometime in NYC', his worst work.
Keith Wilby, UK

He had a chip on his shoulder and a very rare ability to express it sincerely.
Ruben Remus, British (in Japan)

John Lennon wrote two songs - Imagine and Happy Christmas - that have become international anthems of peace and solidarity. Those achievements alone are enough to explain his enduring popularity. He was a musician, yes, but one who struck a chord in the soul of humanity.
Sabrina Gledhill, Brazil

He was a real music genius and always true to himself

Ivan, Denton, TX, USA
I was shopping in a Hong Kong record store when I heard the radio news. I immediately bought the Lennon complete record set and told the owner the tragic news urging him to stock up inventory. Of course Lennon's contribution to the world was much more than record sales and business. He was a real music genius and always true to himself. Today's rock music is really boring, but his and McCartney's songs are as fresh as they were just out, and never out of time.
Ivan, Denton, TX, USA

I believe John is very popular even today not because his music is trendy but because people, especially the younger ones, still identify and connect with his theme of global peace, equality and non-violence. These are values which are not just valid for the Woodstock generation but for Generation X as well.
Srinivas Rangaraj, Canada

John Lennon, along with the other three Beatles, was a hero for a generation. They created and defined an era. Being what they were at that time, they had a tremendous and lasting influence on our society. The Beatles and John Lennon therefore pass the test of time.
Stuart Cook, Czech Republic

I was 6 months old when John Lennon was shot. However, being in Strawberry Fields in Central Park today and seeing everyone together, singing and dancing for a man who has been dead for 20 years is exactly why I respect and admire him. There is no artist alive today who can say they have had the same impact on the world that he and the other Beatles had and he will never be forgotton for that. He will be remembered by people like me, long after the baby boomers are gone.
Fred Wilson, New York City

I don't see why all the hype persists

John B, UK
I don't see why all the hype persists. I'm not a big fan of his music and after 20 years I think people should get on with their lives.
John B, UK

I was 13 when I saw the Beatles at Shea Stadium in New York. Nothing I had seen prior to or since has equalled the unbridled passion (not to mention the decibel level of the screaming fans). John may have only been a singer, a poet and a political activist and MAY, to some, be unworthy of all the all the hoopla. However, to those of us who grew up in the 60's as teenagers, John and the Beatles, through their songs, made us think, made us dream and made us laugh and cry. The first time I heard the words to Imagine, a plea for global peace and tranquillity, I remember tears running down my cheeks. The night he was killed, I was putting up my Christmas tree with my then 2-year-old son. Once again the tears streamed down my cheeks.
Barbara Barrett, USA

Was Beethoven just a musician? Was Michael Angelo just a sculptor/ painter? Timeless artists have a way of touching our emotions and John Lennon did just that. We all have personal problems, but that doesn't take away his enduring contribution to music and culture. "Just Give Me Some Truth", "Jealous Guy", "Imagine", "Cold Turkey", "Strange Days". These relevant and timeless songs are why his legacy has endured. He touched us deeply and emotionally. Long live the spirit of John Lennon.
Tom West, USA

When I listen to his records I can't help but feel sorry for those 20 years of beautiful songs that the world lost

SZ, Peru
It's funny how the people who apparently don't like Lennon criticize "fame worshipping" or say that he was just a singer. He was also a composer and an activist. I was a baby when he died, but now when I listen to his records I can't help but feel sorry for those 20 years of beautiful songs that the world lost. His music is, to me, as valuable a contribution as can be any scientific discovery.
SZ, Peru

I do not know why I like his songs, his face. His word, his melodies are still relevant today. When I hear the name of John Lennon I always remember his songs and his image.
Arisdoyan, Indonesia

I have just returned from my first trip to the UK and of course Liverpool, home of my heroes the Beatles. It was a very emotional moment for me especially as John Lennon was my favourite Beatle. I think of him as a very gentle, witty, sarcastic but most of all musical genius. I just think it wasn't fair that we were robbed of this man's talent especially in such a senseless way. Lennon will live on forever.
Barbara McGuire, Western Australia

His songs are crude, simple and direct

Bruno Matos, Brazil
He said what people wanted to hear. His songs are crude, simple and direct. And he was so charming! He's the image of Rock' n' Roll still after these years. And this image captivates everyone, young and old.
Bruno Matos, Brazil

John Lennon was just a tough charming guy, very fragile because of lack of love, and very strong thanks to his pain and sorrow. A real poet as well, able to open us to new worlds and beautiful images through his writing talent. I was a young boy in Montauban, south of France when it happened, and it really broke my heart. So long, John!
François Assemat, France

If humanity has a memory then it's history. If history should remember something then it's that day. If that day is remembered, then Lennon is not dead, for his music lives through the minds of millions, inspiring more artists than it ever did before.
Mourad , Egypt (living in US)

He was my first love and with him, my youth died

Marianne Eriksen, Denmark
John Lennon was my youth, I grew up with him. He was the music in my life, saying the right things at the right time. He was my first love and with him, my youth died. On the 8th December 1980 I encountered grief for the first time in my life.
Marianne Eriksen, Denmark

I love the Beatle John Lennon, not the "Ono" John Lennon

Atif Rahman, Pakistan
I mourn him because with him died any chance of a Beatles reunion. We all love him because he was a Beatle. If he started his career writing the kind of songs he did when he went solo in 1970, no one would remember him now. The Beatles made him; we then consider all his self-contradictory post-Beatles ramblings as profound statements of a man who knew it all. In reality he was very confused. In reality, he was a jerk. I love the Beatle John Lennon, not the "Ono" John Lennon.
Atif Rahman, Pakistan

How many other people can lay claim to such a massive influence on popular thinking? He woke up the people to the ridiculousness of violence, hypocrisy and pomposity. We are still learning but, thanks to Lennon, we have advanced a little.
Neil Stoneham, Thailand

You get the feeling listening to his music that he really and truly believed the things he said. And like Monroe and Kennedy he was killed still young and with promise. It is that promise that lingers on and on in the minds of the people. We mourn them just as the Romans mourned the death of Marcellus.
Osiris Johnson, Hawaii, USA

Just read the lyrics of such songs as "Nowhere Man", "Strawberry Fields", "Tomorrow Never Knows", "Give Peace a Chance", "Imagine" and so many others and you will understand why he is so popular. All his lyrics are incredible and very much relevant for today's youth. I was born in 1980 and I enjoy his work more than any other artist's. He's the best artist of the century.
Savvas, Greece

Yeah his music was great ... shame about the morals though!

Dave Howe, UK
No one can doubt Lennon's musical ability. He is rightly a musical idol to many, including myself. Yet people seem to forget that he was a lousy human and father. Let's not forget Julian who he dumped and left without a father for most of his life. Yeah his music was great ... shame about the morals though!
Dave Howe, UK

What is the world without heroes? Thank you, John, for your everlasting inspiration.
Vimala Anderson, USA

I think Lennon would laugh his socks off at the amount of attention he was receiving 20 years after his sudden death. After all the man was definitely a highly talented man who never saw the problem in making a lot of money but as he would say "He ain't no Saint ".
Sam Wren, England

Lennon wrote about the human condition in the most touching ways possible

James Newman, UK
Lennon, like all the greatest poets before him, wrote about the human condition in the most touching ways possible and like all great poetry it never dates. The only difference is he was a world famous 20th-century museum, who's life and untimely death have given people who believe in what he wrote an image to rally behind.
James Newman, UK

Who is this John Lennon people are talking about? Is he the one who's wife, Yoko Ono, my friend, a Beatles die-hard, hates so much? Who is this Lennon character? A person of love, peace and power to the people? A man who showed how absurd the music charts could get? Is he the one?
Richard Ramos, Ecuador

Imagine there were no Beatles, it's easy if you try

Steve, UK
He's still popular because he is still grossly over-rated, just as The Beatles were. Adored by the baby boomers, they played the kind of pop music those same baby boomers snobbishly despised in the seventies, unless it was churned out by George Martin (oops! sorry. Lennon/McCartney). Imagine there were no Beatles, it's easy if you try. Then more credit would have gone to their contemporaries, many of whom were producing music at least as good, if not better.
Steve, UK

John was the GURU of music and when somebody of that stature is gone, there is a void in the world which will take a long time to fill.
Mo Bhamra, Canada

He seemed to play the role of a business savvy adolescent to the end

S.W. Jones, US
Why, in this apparent p.c. world, is a dead-beat dad so popular among those fans who are probably parents. He seemed to play the role of a business savvy adolescent to the end.
S.W. Jones, US

The greatest musician of the modern age. Simple as that. I remember waking up on a horrible December morning much like this one, and Dave Lee Travis was playing Beatles records without telling anyone what had happened. Can you imagine what would have happened if John wasn't dead? Live Aid, 1985, the last act..."Ladies and Gentlemen ...back together...THE BEATLES!"....
Garry, England

I remember feeling silly & self-conscious, placing a flower into a makeshift shrine in front of the Dakota; I remember the grave gentleness of the policemen (so uncharacteristic of tough NYC cops), guarding the sidewalk and ensuring that each mourner had a moment to pay his respects. But a great man had passed and, to paraphrase Arthur Miller, attention had to be paid. It must still be paid.
Phoebe, Canada

On Dec.8,1980 I was at home here in California. The bulletin came on TV that Monday night and I gasped in pain, my heart stopped. SHOT? JOHN? HE CAN'T BE...GONE. I spent the next days travelling to NYC on my own pilgrimage, to the scene of the crime, to the 10 minutes of silence in Central Park that following Sunday. 400,000 of us in the park. The bandstand was decorated with XMAS greens in garland and the portrait of JOHN in his NY Tshirt. 10 minutes of silence, in NYC! IMAGINE IT! It was HOLY.
Ladybear, USA

John Lennon still seems to be popular because the Beatles are still popular. They created what I think was the most influential music of the second half of the 20th century. And I think Lennon's solo work also signified a lot of hopefulness for people. His death gave baby boomers a sense of mortality. And the violence of it was in contrast to the philosophy he publicly preached: peace.
Brian Richards, USA

He was an unstable hippy with a fabulous outlook on life and how it should be. He will be remembered long after his record titles.
Chris (UK), Germany

Lennon's music was fantastic

Collin, Canada
As one of the Beatles, Lennon's music was fantastic. But like the rest of the Beatles, I have not liked much of their solo work at all. The Lennon tragedy, to me at least, is partially due to the fact that a man of non-violence and peace was assassinated.
Collin, Canada

Unlike many of today's modern artists, this man was a musical genius. The partnership he shared with Paul McCartney is arguably the greatest during the last century, and one which none of today's modern artists are even close to.
Simon, UK

I don't understand why John Lennon, or any other entertainer for that matter, is so popular. But, for whatever reason, we commoners find it necessary to invest so much personal worth in celebrities we like. My god, look at the Elvis cult. Now, don't get me wrong, entertainers' abilities to distract us from our mundane lives is no small accomplishment. But, one should hope we'd be better able to put into proper proportion what entertainers do and don't do for us.
Rich Webster, USA

John Lennon means nothing to me

John Lennon means nothing to me. A deadbeat dad whose love affair with the US was his ultimate downfall. The moment a musician becomes more important than their music is when the cult of celebrity takes over and you're 5 seconds away from a guest appearance on Ready Steady Cook.

Lennon was not just a musician, but a truly gifted artist. His words and melodies are still relevant today. Technically, McCartney was a better musician, but Lennon had that special something that only few have - a divine spark, one might say. This is why he was different from most other musicians, and why he still means so much to people all over the world. Yeah.
Rasmus B. Petersen, Denmark

Lennon went from 'From Me To You' to 'Tomorrow Never Knows' in three years. Very few singers can communicate a song as well as he could. His voice is still clear and strong. Power to the people. RIP John
Gareth Parry, UK

He was a poet, a musician and totally involved in the world

Linda Thomas, British (living in US)
Politically incorrect, and not afraid to show it. He was, and perhaps continues to be, symbolic of the down to earth "lad" of the 60's who questioned authority and pointed out the absurdity of the system. He was a poet, a musician and totally involved in the world. You could love him or hate him, but he couldn't be ignored. He may have faded into middle-aged mediocrity had he lived, but somehow I doubt it, and now we will never know.
Linda Thomas, British (living in US)

Lennon was a musical, artistic and literary genius. Look beyond the long hair, the arrogance, the acid and Yoko. I suggest reading "A Spaniard in the Works!" The man lives on.
Nic, USA

He is so popular because we constantly worship fame. It's sad, really. All he did was sing - some people devise cures for diseases and receive no recognition.
Lance Strangely, UK

He was a singer for goodness sake

Gareth Sinclair, Wales
He sang songs, some of them good. But I don't understand why people worship him so much and treat him like some sort of personal saviour. He was a singer for goodness sake, a self-obsessed drug user who, like all of today's singers, thought that he had the right view of what society should be and sang about it.
Gareth Sinclair, Wales

Haunting melodies, great lyrics and beautifully sung. That's why his music is still popular.
William Cater, England

Is it already 20 years since his death? I was 13 when he died and I remember the shock around the world. My school dedicated an assembly to him. I still have the original newspaper of the day reporting his death and a Newsweek magazine. When I visited the Dakota building a few years ago I stood and looked at it and found it hard to believe John Lennon was dead. I think the senseless killing robbed the world of one of the most incredible people of the 20th century.
Martin Ashton, UK

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See also:

08 Dec 00 | Entertainment
Lennon fans gather... and imagine
06 Dec 00 | Entertainment
Julian Lennon reflects on John
03 Oct 00 | Entertainment
John Lennon's legacy
06 Dec 00 | Entertainment
Yoko's anniversary peace call
09 Oct 00 | Entertainment
'Happy Birthday' Lennon
03 Oct 00 | Americas
Yoko Ono: My fears
03 Oct 00 | Americas
Lennon killer denied parole
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