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Week in Rock History: Altamont Ends in Tragedy

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December 8, 1980: John Lennon is murdered
John Lennon's death at the hands of deranged fan Mark David Chapman was a nonsensical tragedy for his millions of fans around the world. The attack occurred at 11 p.m. outside his New York apartment building, the Dakota, while Lennon and Yoko Ono were returning from a recording studio. Lennon was shot several times by Chapman, who had received an autograph from the singer earlier that day. He was pronounced dead on arrival at St. Luke's Roosevelt Hospital. He was 40.

Surreally, the first national announcement of Lennon's death was made by legendary sportscaster Howard Cosell, who interrupted the football game he had been commenting on to say gravely:

Remember this is just a football game, no matter who wins or loses. An unspeakable tragedy confirmed to us by ABC News in New York City – John Lennon, outside of his apartment building on the west side of New York City. The most famous, perhaps, of all of the Beatles, shot twice in the back, rushed to Roosevelt Hospital, dead on arrival. Hard to go back to the game after that news flash, which, in duty bound, we have to take.

Ono did not hold a funeral for Lennon and Chapman remains in prison.

December 6, 1988: Roy Orbison dies of a heart attack
Enigmatic and gifted, Roy Orbison cut a distinctive figure on the early rock & roll circuit of the Fifties and Sixties. Clad in black leather, hair styled in an inky pompadour, he exuded a toughness that contrasted his arrestingly sincere vocals. A crossover rockabilly star, Orbison's country inclinations melded with his complex balladry in a string of hit singles, including the enduring "Only the Lonely" and "Oh, Pretty Woman."

Orbison's truest asset was his remarkable voice – a pure, warbling tenor that slid into bright falsetto as easily as it dipped into gravelly despair. Later in his career he was a member of the Traveling Wilburys supergroup, in which he happily harmonized with George Harrison, Bob Dylan, Tom Petty and other rock legends.

In 1988, one year after being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and in the midst of his success with the Traveling Wilburys, Orbison took time off to visit his mother in Tennessee. He died of a heart attack in her home at age 52.



LAST WEEK: David Bowie and Bing Crosby Share a Strange Duet

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