This month marks what would have been John Lennon’s 80th birthday. To celebrate the life and career of The Beatles legend, his younger son Sean Ono Lennon has hosted a special Radio 2 programme called John Lennon at 80. In the first part broadcast this evening, Sir Elton John shared the moment he found out his friend had been murdered, how much he meant to him and what he thinks he’d be doing if he was still alive today.
During the conversation, Sean said to Sir Elton: “I never forgot that you had written a song called Empty Garden about Dad. I guess you wrote it with Bernie, I’m not sure.
The singer replied: “I wrote it with Bernie and it was something that I really, really wanted to do.
“I remember when we got the news of your dad’s death, we were on a plane coming from Brisbane in Australia to Melbourne and we were told to stay on the plane and I thought my grandmother had died.
“And then when we were told about John none of us could believe it and we organised a service at the cathedral in Melbourne at the same time as the service in New York…and we got up and we did it and we sang hymns and we paid our tribute at the same time.”
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Sir Elton continued: “I was very, very much affected by the death of your father, as everybody was. We couldn’t believe it.
“Just you know, there was no health issues. It was just a blatant, awful homicide.”
Following the tragic death of Lennon, Sir Elton set about writing that song in his memory.
The 73-year-old continued: “About a year after, Bernie said, ‘I’d really like to write a lyric about John, if you think that’s a good idea?’ And I said, ‘I would love to.’ And I love the lyric and I love the song.”
Lennon’s 44-year-old son added: “But I have to say that song really, really meant a lot to me at the time and I got to thank you for it because I listened to it a lot.
“And I think it was really healing for me because I was very young, but I knew you were friends, knew you were my godfather, I knew he was singing about dad and it’s a real powerful tune.
“And not everyone remembers it, but I, I listen to it all the time.
“And I think it was sort of part of my mourning process. You know, I gotta thank you for that.”
Praising Lennon, Sir Elton said: “Your dad didn’t… stand for any old nonsense. He was a peace loving, brilliant, funny, opinionated, just a treasure, really, I mean, I don’t want to get to maudlin, but we need people like him today and there aren’t that many people, there’s nobody around him.
“I think if your dad had still been alive he would have definitely been…maybe won the Nobel Peace Prize or something. That was what your dad was, he wanted to bring people together.
“He was a uniter and he was prepared to go to any lengths to make people see what his point was.”
John Lennon at 80 from 9-10pm airs Saturday 3rd and Sunday 4th October on BBC Radio 2 and BBC Sounds.