John Lennon was shot dead on this day in 1980. Here’s how The Irish Times paid tribute

We published six stories about the former Beatle, including the appreciation reproduced here

On Wednesday, December 10th, 1980, two days after John Lennon was killed, The Irish Times' front page led with the news that Mark David Chapman had been charged with his murder.

Inside the paper, all of page nine was given over to John Lennon. The articles included appreciations by Deaglán de Bréadún – headlined "Sixties die with Lennon in New York" – and by Joe Breen, which we reproduce below.

That day's front page also included several stories on topics that still make headlines: talks with Britain about Northern Ireland; electricity supply; farming subsidies; and public-transport fares.

Less expected is a teaser headlined "How to survive?", about a Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament meeting that asked what you do "if you find you are sharing your nuclear fall-out shelter with a corpse and it is still unsafe to go outside". Fionnuala O Connor's full report, from Belfast, appeared on page six.


Some of the front-page adverts are also for familiar names: one is for Apple, another for Louis Copeland & Sons.

Here, on the 41st anniversary of Lennon's death, is Joe Breen's tribute. You can see the original in the Irish Times archive.

John Lennon: rock music’s finest son

It is a bitter irony that John Lennon’s life should end in a hail of bullets fired by a mindless gunman, for one of the dominant features of his life was his continued appeals for world peace.

Restless, sardonic and yet very human, he was always the most controversial member of the Beatles, undoubtedly the greatest band rock music has ever produced. Along with Paul McCartney he formed a songwriting partnership that produced such classics as A Day in the Life, Here, There and Everywhere, Nowhere Man and many more. When the four members split ten years ago Lennon was still able to produce songs like Imagine, though he never sought or received the same commercial success that came McCartney’s way.

In recent months he had come out of a self-imposed exile and released his first album for over five years. Double Fantasy is a mixed set recorded with his second wife, Yoko Ono, and a small band, which emphasises his recent happiness.

The origin of the Beatles' name was simple: they were all fans of Buddy Holly and the Crickets and John came up with the British equivalent of beetles, changing the spelling to emphasise the beat angle

John Winston Lennon was born in Liverpool on October 9th, 1940, during a heavy air-raid. His parents, Fred and Julia, whose father was Irish, split up early in his life, and his mother's sister, Mimi, brought up the young boy. Although his home environment was stable, young John was a little wild in the streets. He became involved in petty theft and had trouble accepting the discipline of school.

Of this period he said: “I was aggressive because I wanted to be popular. I wanted to be the leader. It seemed more attractive than just being one of the toffees. I wanted everybody to do what I told them to do, to laugh at my jokes and let me be the boss.”

By the final term of his fourth year at Quarry Bank High School, he had dropped from the top class to being last in the bottom class.“Certainly on the road to failure,” wrote one of his teachers. Lennon duly failed his O levels, but owing to his aptitude for art was able to get into art school.

During this time music had not occupied much of his time, but inspired by the growing rock ’n roll craze he formed a small band, the Quarrymen, who all dressed in teddy-boy clothes. They played occasionally and only for fun. At one of these dates, one of John’s friends brought along another young Liverpool boy. Lennon doesn’t remember too much, he was drunk although he was years under age . “That was the day that I met Paul, that it started moving.”

A few days later Paul McCartney joined the Quarrymen, followed later by George Harrison. Time moved on and nothing much happened for the band. They were offered a short tour of Scotland, but their first taste of the bigtime ended in desultory fashion. Then they were offered a spot on a TV talent show, but it was still too early for the spotlights.

By this time they had changed their name to the Silver Beatles. The origin of the name was simple; they were all fans of Buddy Holly and the Crickets and John came up with the British equivalent of beetles, changing the spelling to emphasise the beat angle.

With their music the Beatles had unleashed a vibrant new feeling inside young people; they had triggered the independent self-assurance that would make that generation claim the decade for themselves

The band was still without a regular drummer though it did include on bass Stu Sutcliffe, an art college friend of Lennon's. Paul McCartney at this time was still playing guitar.

They were playing gigs wherever they could find them. One such place in Liverpool caught the growing rock ’n roll scene perfectly. Called the Casbah and run by the mother of future Beatle drummer, Pete Best, it drew large crowds whenever Lennon and his friends played. They were also playing the occasional gig at the Cavern though it was still mainly a jazz club.

Then they were offered a stay in Hamburg. They jumped at the chance and asked Pete Best would he like to join them. He agreed, and the five young hopefuls made their way to the German city for a short period that ended in poverty and failure. They came back to Liverpool no richer, and with doubts about whether to carry on.

They did, and their local popularity boomed. They returned to Hamburg many times, each time more successful than the previous.

Stu Sutcliffe had left the band by this time to study art in Hamburg, and in April, 1962, he died there from a brain haemorrhage.

Meanwhile, Brian Epstein had come into the picture. Although it went much against his grain, John Lennon was forced to wear suits and smarten up generally while Epstein did likewise with their business affairs. He got them an audition with Decca, which they failed. Later numerous other record companies also turned down the chance of signing the Beatles. Pete Best departed and was replaced by Richard Starkey, later to become Ringo Starr.

Then came their big break. George Martin, resident producer at Parlophone, was looking for a band to cash in on the beat boom which Cliff Richard and the Shadows were leading at the time. He met Epstein and arranged a recording test for the band on June 6th, 1962. He was impressed, but it wasn't until September that they recorded their first British hit, "Love Me Do", which eventually reached 17 in the charts. It was a start.

“Please Please Me”, their follow-up, didn’t hang around the edges, it went straight to No 1, the first of many of their singles that would do the same. “From Me To You” released in April and “She Loves You” released in August both did likewise. The Beatles were now well on the way. The struggles were over.

It is hard now to understand the mania that followed the Beatles everywhere they went from 1963 until 1966 when they stopped touring. With their music they had unleashed a vibrant new feeling inside young people; they had triggered the independent self-assurance that would make that generation claim the decade for themselves.

As hit after hit rushed up the charts, it became clear that the Beatles were much more than just a popular phenomenon; in Lennon and McCartney the band included two of the most consistently brilliant songwriters to grace popular music this century.

For Lennon, success, though sweet, was tempered by his own outspoken convictions. While Brian Epstein tried to dress up the band and maintain their image of nice boys playing nice music, Lennon was always thinking of the sharper angle. He resented the clean image. For instance in 1965 the band was awarded the MBE, which Lennon duly returned four years later because of the Vietnam war and British policies in the North. “We had to do a lot of selling-out then. Taking the MBE was a sell-out for me.”

Lennon was always caustic about success, and he was prone to saying something sensational, like the time he said the Beatles were bigger than Jesus. Or then there was the time he and Yoko stayed in bed for a week for peace

Unlike the other three in the group, Lennon was always caustic about success. Maybe it was this cynical backbone in his personality that made him the most popular Beatle among rock critics. He was always prone to saying something sensational like the time he said the Beatles were bigger than Jesus. Or then there was the time he and Yoko stayed in bed for a week for peace.

He could also be honest, refreshingly honest. When asked what was the reason for the success of his music, he replied "Well, at the time it was thought that the workers had broken through, but I realise in retrospect that it's the same phoney deal they give to blacks, it was just like they allowed blacks to be runners or boxers or entertainers. That's the choice they allow you – now the outlet is being a pop star, which is really what I'm saying in Working Class Hero. As I told Rolling Stone, it's the same people who have power, the class system didn't change one little bit. Of course they're are a lot of people walking around now with long hair and some trendy middle class kids in pretty clothes. But nothing changed except that we all dressed up a bit, leaving the same bastards running everything."

If Lennon did not stamp his genius on the last decade with the consistency of his early work, he had contributed enough to make him one of popular music’s greatest figures and one of rock’s finest sons (if not the finest). Rock will not be the same without him.