October 9, 1940 - December 8, 1980: Age 40
"My role in society, or any artist's or poet's role, is to try and express what we all feel. Not to tell people how to feel. Not as a preacher, not as a leader, but as a reflection of us all."
John Lennon was a songwriter, musician, artist, writer, and peace activist who was probably most famous for being of the founding members of the Beatles.
He was born during an air raid. His dad, a merchant seaman, was in and out of the picture, in the end tried to "kidnap" Lennon to emigrate with him to New Zealand. His mother caught him in time and the scene climaxed in a heated argument, during which Lennon's dad many him choose between them. Lennon chose his dad, but then ran after his mom when she walked away. Lennon was 5 at the time.
He lived during most of his childhood and adolescence with an aunt, with his mother visiting nearly every day. When he was 17 she was hit by a car and killed.
Given the huge influence of the Beatles, especially on those of us where were alive in the 60s, it's a bit surprising to remember that the band really only existed for 10 years: 1960-1970, and then surprising again to realize that Lennon lived and worked for only 10 years after that. After the breakup of the Beatles Lennon went on to work on his own and in other collaborative projects, continuing to create groundbreaking music, art, and to exert as much influence as he could for peace in the world.
On December 8, 1980, after spending several hours at a recording studio, Lennon and his wife returned to their apartment at about 10 minutes to 11pm. His wife preceded him into the building, but as Lennon walked toward the entrance a man stepped forward and called out "Mr. Lennon!" Lennon turned around, and the man fired five shots. Four of them hit him, one piercing Lennon's aorta.
He staggered up the steps of the building, saying, "I'm shot," and collapsed in the reception area. The doorman called the police, who arrived within minutes. They put Lennon, moaning, into the back seat of their cruiser and rushed him to hospital. Ont he way, one of the officers asked "Do you know who you are?" Lennon nodded but couldn't speak, and lost consciousness shortly after that. He was dead on arrival at the hospital when he arrived at 11:15. He had lost more than 80% of his blood volume, making his blood pressure far too low to supply oxygen to his brain and other organs. According to the Chief Medical Examiner, nobody could have lived more than a few minutes with those injuries.
Sources: Wikipedia entries on John Lennon and his killer, Mark David Chapman.