The Last Day in the Life

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Chapman outside the Dakota. Said one, "He just seemed like a really nice, genuine, honest person who was there because he admired John." Others, like WPLJ Disc Jockey Carol Miller, who lives near the Dakota, had noticed Chapman and thought "he looked strange. He was older than the kids who hung around there." When Miller first heard that Lennon had been shot, Chapman's face flashed in her mind.

On Saturday night, Chapman hailed a cab and told Driver Mark Snyder to take him to Greenwich Village. On the way he boasted that he had just dropped off the tapes of an album John Lennon and Paul McCartney made that day. He said that he was the recording engineer and that they had played for three hours.

On Monday afternoon Chapman spotted Lennon and asked him to autograph an album. Lennon hastily scribbled his name and climbed into a waiting car to take him to a recording studio. Did Chapman feel slighted by Lennon? Possibly. But the night before he had suddenly checked out of the Y and moved into the cushier Sheraton Center hotel and bought himself a big meal. It was as if he were rewarding himself in advance for some proud accomplishment. Now on Monday, only hours after getting Lennon's autograph, Chapman was waiting again, this time in the shadows of the entryway with a gun. When the police grabbed him after the shooting, they found he still had the autographed album with him. He also had a paperback copy of J.D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye.

Lennon was no stranger to threats on his life. As early as 1964, at the first Beatles concert in France, Lennon got a note backstage that read, "I am going to shoot you at 9 tonight." He had only lately become accustomed to the freewheeling anarchy of New York street life: "I can go out this door now and go into a restaurant . . . Do you want to know how great that is?" he told the BBC. But friends remember him as being guarded both in public and around the few people he and Ono met during the long years of self-willed isolation that were only ending with the completion of the new album. "John was always wary," says his friend, Actor Peter Boyle. "Maybe partly because he was extraordinarily tuned in. He'd pick up on people, and they'd pick up on him."

Lennon also shared with many other rockers a kind of operational fatalism, a sense that doing your best, whether on record or in concert, required laying yourself open, making yourself vulnerable. It was not only the pressures and excesses of the rock-'n'-roll life that moved the Who's Pete Townshend to remark, "Rock is going to kill me somehow." And it was not just the death of Elvis Presley that Lennon had in mind when he said to friends in 1978, "If you stay in this business long enough, it'll get you."

Rock, Lennon knew as well as anyone, is the applied art of big risk and big feelings. The songs he and Paul McCartney wrote for the Beatles, separately and together, brought more people up against the joy and boldness of rock music than anything else ever has. It wasn't just that Aaron Copland and Leonard Bernstein were taking the Beatles as seriously—and a good deal more affectionately—than Stockhausen. The worldwide appeal of the Beatles had to do with their perceived innocence, their restless idealism that stayed a step or two

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