The heartbreaking moment Stevie Wonder announces John Lennon’s death to fans at concert

30 September 2020, 16:53

Stevie Wonder announces the death of John Lennon during live concert in 1980
Stevie Wonder announces the death of John Lennon during live concert in 1980. Picture: Getty / YouTube / Colin Locke

By Sian Hamer

In a time before mobile news updates and social media, the audience at Stevie Wonder's concert on December 8, 1980, found out about the death of John Lennon from Stevie himself.

The show that evening had been a struggle for Stevie Wonder, who had been informed of John Lennon's tragic murder beforehand.

But it was such monumental news that he felt the hundreds of excited fans standing in the stalls needed to know too.

"I want you all to understand that I'm not a person who likes to be the bearer of of any bad news," Stevie began, and the audience quickly quietened to listen.

"Someone has recently been shot," he announced. "He was shot, tonight. Three times."

Looking out into the crowd, his voice cracked as revealed the victim: "I'm talking about Mr John Lennon."

Watch: David Bowie's moving 'Imagine' cover, in tribute to John Lennon three years after his death

A reaction of confusion, shock and sheer sadness echoed throughout the Oakland Coliseum after Stevie's revelation.

"I'm very sorry to have to tell you that, but, when I found it out... it's still very hard for me to do this show, even now."

The singer continued: "But I know that he would want me to continue to express those same feelings, as he has in his life."

Read more: John Lennon's killer apologises to his widow Yoko Ono for 'despicable' crime he committed for 'self-glory'

After Wonder's final heartfelt sentiment about the legendary musician, the venue roared with rapturous applause and cheers from the audience.

The 'Superstition' singer dedicated his next song to the Beatles member, a song he said was "about people like him" that have "lived and died for the principle of unity for all people".

Stevie Wonder singing on stage in 1980
Stevie Wonder singing on stage in 1980. Picture: Getty

In a later interview, Wonder revealed he wasn't shocked by the news of Lennon's death.

Read more: The 10 greatest John Lennon songs, ranked

"Not saying that I expected for it to happen to him," he clarified. "But I expected that, in time, that kind of thing would begin to happen, unfortunately, to artists. To those that express how they feel in that form.

"I'm so very sorry," he continued. "I'm so very broken hearted that it happened.

"I think when a writer or an artist is able to express themselves through song, it really is the silent soul speaking in song."

Read more: The Story of... 'Imagine' by John Lennon

Two and a half decades later, the tragic passing of the music legend still hits Stevie hard.

In 2015, while performing a tribute of Lennon's famous 'Imagine', Wonder couldn't help but get emotional.

Sitting in front of a keyboard as he performed to the crowd in Canada, the star shed a tear as he sang the lyrics to the peace anthem.

He was so overwhelmed that he had to spend a moment with his hands on his eyes after the music had finished, while the crowd cheered and applauded.