Forty years ago, on December 8th, 1980, John Lennon was murdered outside of his New York City apartment building. Three days prior to the tragic event, he spoke with Rolling Stone for nine hours. He was famously photographed by Annie Leibovitz for that story, naked and curling up in a fetal position next to a fully-clothed Yoko Ono. “This is it,” he told the photographer. “This is our relationship.” The image would become the cover of our January 22nd, 1981 issue, a heartbreaking tribute to the legend whom RS founder Jann Wenner called the magazine’s “North Star.”
All these years later, Rolling Stone has continued honoring Lennon’s legacy, publishing that final interview in full and a new remembrance by Ono in 2010. We also unearthed a moving essay by Scott Spencer from our 1981 issue, now published online for the first time. Last fall, we spoke to Sean Ono Lennon, who produced Gimme Some Truth. The Ultimate Mixes, a comprehensive box set containing remixed versions of his father’s solo catalogue to commemorate what would have been his 80th birthday.
“Part of what has been interesting in looking at this release is coming to terms with the reality that we’ve got to make an effort to make sure that kids have an opportunity to be exposed to his music and his message,” Sean said. “We’re living in an age where enough time has passed. No one bothers to make sure that the younger generations have an opportunity to be exposed to it. I just always assumed the Beatles and John Lennon — no one is going to forget those stories. I don’t think my dad would have been satisfied with just being somebody that you have to discover through your own research.”
Notes from a Tragedy
John Lennon: The Last Interview
Three days before he died on December 8th, John Lennon talked with Rolling Stone for nine hours. Here’s the extraordinary interview.
John Lennon’s Last Days: A Remembrance by Yoko Ono
Ono recalls making Double Fantasy and private moments from Lennon’s final week.
John Lennon: The Last Session
A look inside the final recording session for Double Fantasy.
Dave Marsh: Thoughts on the Death of John Lennon
What happens when the world stops seeing the Beatle as a man and only sees him as a symbol?
From the Archive
Sean Ono Lennon Reflects on 10 John Lennon Solo Classics
With the release of new compilation Gimme Some Truth, Sean combs back through his father’s post-Beatles catalog, and gives his personal take on “Isolation,” “How Do You Sleep?” and more
Inside Lennon’s history with Rolling Stone
John Lennon was the “North Star” for Rolling Stone since the magazine’s earliest days, and his interviews in these pages made news around the world.
Lennon Remembers, Part One
In a raw, candid 1970 interview with RS founder Jann Wenner, he talks about Beatles’ breakup, Yoko, and why John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band is “the best thing I’ve ever done.”
Lennon Remembers, Part Two
In part two of a raw and remarkably candid interview, Lennon tells the stories behind some of the Beatles’ biggest songs, goes in depth about the ongoing legal slog with his former bandmates, and explains why he “[doesn’t] believe in the Beatles myth.”
John Lennon: The Rolling Stone Interview
In a 1968 interview, the Beatle opens up about his songwriting process, Bob Dylan, India, and that infamous Two Virgins cover.
20 Underappreciated John Lennon Solo Songs
A batch of tracks from Lennon’s official studio albums that deserve extra limelight.
John Lennon Recruits George Harrison for Paul McCartney Dig ‘How Do You Sleep?’
We look back at a 1971 Imagine session that involved half the Beatles, a can of Dr. Pepper, and many beards.
John Lennon Writes and Records ‘Instant Karma!’ in One Day
John Lennon pounded out a new song — and saw a new future for himself outside the Beatles.