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Why Do We Kill The Music? Motives Behind 5 Notorious Murders

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On this day in 1981, Mark David Chapman was sentenced to a term of 20 years to life for the murder of John Lennon.

Why did he do it? Today Rocks Off explores the motives behind the attacks on some of the musical messiahs in our midst, and tries to explain just what drove their attackers to the ultimate act of censorship.


Chapman was a troubled boy all his life, but was a passionate Beatles fan at a young age. But when Lennon made his infamous remark that the Fab Four were "bigger than Jesus" in 1966, Chapman became very angry. Though he remained a committed fan, Chapman often found himself in a rage over what he considered "phony behavior" on the part of Lennon, such as singing "imagine no possessions" while being a multimillionaire.

Chapman identified heavily with J. D. Salinger's Catcher in the Rye, and likened himself to the book's main protagonist, Holden Caufield. Chapman saw himself as standing on a cliff and keeping others from falling into the folly of believing the thoughts and feelings expressed in Lennon's music, a fantasy that eventually led to Lennon's murder.

In later years, Chapman has come to terms with the fact that he killed a person, and not a cardboard cutout or walking album cover. He is up for parole again next month.


Few celebrity deaths have rocked Houston and South Texas like the murder of Selena in 1995. Rocks Off remembers his school barely noticing the passing of Kurt Cobain, but being launched into weeks of mourning over the loss of what many called the "Mexican Madonna" at the hand of her own fan club president.

Yolanda Saldivar has always maintained that Selena's death was an accident, although as a trained nurse she did nothing to aid the singer after she was shot. One signed confession said that the shooting happened during an argument over accusations by Selena's father that Saldivar was stealing money from Selena's bank account, and that Saldivar was a lesbian.

Saldivar is eligible for parole in 2025. She is currently in solitary confinement after receiving numerous death threats from incarcerated Selena fans.


Five years ago, Nathan Gale shot and killed Pantera and Damageplan guitarist "Dimebag" Darrell Abbott, as well as three other people, during a concert in Ohio before being gunned down by police.

Gale has several episodes of paranoid schizophrenia. In high school he would often tell classmates that the members of his favorite band, Pantera, regularly visited him despite overwhelming evidence this was a lie. His delusions about the band deepened over the years, and he became convinced that the band was video taping him through his windows.

By the time he shot Dimebag, he was certain that Abbott and other members were reading his mind, stealing his thoughts, and laughing at him. Though several other motives have been forwarded, such as a belief by Gale that Pantera stole songs he had written, or that he was angry over the band's break-up, his personal writings show a sad and very disturbed man deep in the grip of mental illness.


According to the official record, in December 1964 soul singer Sam Cooke busted into the manager's office at Los Angeles' Hacienda Motel wearing nothing but a sports coat and demanded to know the whereabouts of a woman who had been in his room earlier named Evelyn Carr. When hotel manager Bertha Franklin insisted she had no idea who or where Carr was, the drunken Cooke attacked her. After a brief struggle, Franklin shot Cooke and beat him with a broom handle until he finally fell to the floor.

Although Franklin was acquitted on justifiable homicide, controversy continues to permeate the circumstances surrounding Cooke's death. Evelyn Carr claimed that she escaped from the violent and drunk Cooke when he attempted to rape her in his room, grabbing all the clothes on the floor in her bid for freedom. She tried to alert the manger during her escape, but the manager took too long opening the door.

Carr then fled outside to a pay phone, where she got dressed and phoned the police. Carr was later arrested for prostitution, throwing some doubt on her story. Despite some conjecture by family and fans, there is no solid evidence of a conspiracy. Franklin shot in self-defense.


Raggae performer and unicycle enthusiast Peter Tosh had just returned home to Jamaica after winning a Grammy in 1987 when a three-man gang broke into his house demanding money. The gang's leader, Leppo Lobban, was a man that Tosh had previously helped find work after a lengthy prison term. Tosh insisted he had no money in the house, and the thieves remained at his home for hours attempting to extort money from him.

Many friends dropped by Tosh's house to congratulate him on his Grammy, severely agitating the thieves. Eventually, Lobban fired two bullets into Tosh's head at point-blank range, killing him instantly.

Lobban was sentenced to death, but his sentence was commuted to life in 1996, and he is still in prison today. His motive was greed and robbery, although there was a potent rumor that the Jamaican government sent the gang to assassinate the outspoken musician.

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