Ringo Starr, reflecting on his career, remembered his former Beatles bandmate John Lennon and the moment he found out he had been murdered.
At around 5pm on December 8th, 1980, Lennon signed a copy of his album Double Fantasy for fan Mark David Chapman outside his Manhattan home while heading out to the recording studio. Later that day, after returning home from the session at 10:50pm, Chapman shot Lennon four times in the back at close range. The iconic musician was then pronounced at Roosevelt Hospital just ten minutes later.
The very next day, with the world in a state of shock, Ono issued a statement, saying: “There is no funeral for John,” before following it up with: “John loved and prayed for the human race. Please do the same for him.”
At this moment, miles away in the Bahamas, one of Lennon’s oldest and dearest friends, Ringo Starr, had just discovered the news after one of his stepchildren telephoned him to break the news. “When John went, I was in the Bahamas. I was getting a phone call from my stepkids in L.A. saying, ‘Something’s happened to John’. And then they called and said, ‘John’s dead’. And I didn’t know what to do,” the Beatle’s drummer explained in a past, wide-ranging interview with Dave Grohl for Rolling Stone.
“And I still well up that some bastard shot him. But I just said, ‘We’ve got to get a plane’. We got a plane to New York, and you don’t know what you can do. We went to the apartment. ‘Anything we can do?’ And Yoko just said, ‘Well, you just play with Sean. Keep Sean busy’. And that’s what we did. That’s what you think: ‘What do you do now?’,” Starr added.
“The interesting thing is this guy Jack Douglas, the producer, brought this track of John’s to me [‘Grow Old With Me’, from Lennon’s 1980 ‘Bermuda Tapes’ demos] just this year; I’d never heard it. So he’s still in my life. And so it’s on the new album. But why he gave me this CD is [because] at the beginning, John says, ‘Oh, that would be great for Richard Starkey’.
“I well up every time I think [about it] — he’s talking about me. He says [imitates Lennon], ‘Hey, Ringo, this’d be great for you’. And I can’t help myself. [He chokes up.] I’m emotional now thinking of him 40 years ago talking about me on his tape and thinking of me. The four of us were great friends with a couple of side issues. And it was far out. So anyway, I didn’t know how to act. And then I got back to L.A., and I grieved, and then of course you always go through the grief.”
Read the full interview between Ringo Starr and Dave Grohl, here.