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John Lennon was killed 43 years ago today: Who killed him and why did they do it?

Tread carefully around emotional Beatles fans – the release of “Now and Then,” which uses extracted vocals from a demo John Lennon recorded in his home in the late 1970s, has us “gently weeping.” Lennon, a lauded musician and peace activist, died 43 years ago today.

Former bandmates Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr reunited to complete the track, which also features the late George Harrison who recorded guitar and vocal parts before he died in 2001.

As we remember the “Imagine” singer, here’s a look back at his final days.

John Lennon was shot and killed outside his Manhattan apartment on Dec. 8, 1980.
John Lennon was shot and killed outside his Manhattan apartment on Dec. 8, 1980.

Who killed John Lennon?

Mark David Chapman shot and killed Lennon on Dec. 8, 1980, as he and his wife Yoko Ono were returning to their New York City apartment. Chapman, 25 at the time, was a former security guard and YMCA employee from Hawaii.

Chapman is currently serving 20-years-to-life at Green Haven Correctional Facility in Hudson Valley, New York. The board denied him parole for a 12th time in 2022.

"I am not going to blame anything else or anybody else for bringing me there," Chapman told the board in 2022. "I knew what I was doing, and I knew it was evil. I knew it was wrong, but I wanted the fame so much that I was willing to give everything and take a human life."

This 1975 file photo shows Mark David Chapman as a member of a YMCA group at Fort Chaffee, Ark.
This 1975 file photo shows Mark David Chapman as a member of a YMCA group at Fort Chaffee, Ark.

Who was Mark David Chapman?: Eyewitness accounts of Lennon's murder

December 8: The day John Lennon was shot

That December weekend was the second time in less than two months that Chapman traveled from his home in Hawaii to New York. In past trips, he observed the doormen waiting outside the Dakota, the Upper West Side building where Lennon and Ono lived, according to Jack Jones’ 1992 book, “Let Me Take You Down,” based on interviews with Chapman.

He arrived in New York City on Dec. 6 and checked into a room at the West Side YMCA, about a 10-minute walk from the Dakota. He waited outside for most of the day with other Beatles fans. Around 5 p.m. on Dec. 6, he went back to his room at the YMCA and narrowly missed Lennon heading back into the building.

He tried again on the morning of Dec. 7, waiting outside the building from 9:30 a.m. to about noon, without any luck.

Mark David Chapman waited outside the Dakota for several days in hopes of seeing, and killing, John Lennon.
Mark David Chapman waited outside the Dakota for several days in hopes of seeing, and killing, John Lennon.

On the morning of Dec. 8, Chapman arrived at the Dakota around 9:30 a.m. to wait for Lennon and Ono. Before he left, he arranged personal effects carefully on his hotel dresser, telling Jones in “Let Me Take You Down” that he knew this was the day he would kill Lennon.

Outside the Dakota, he missed Lennon again while engrossed in reading his copy of "The Catcher in the Rye," which he referred to as his Bible, according to Jones' book. Later that day, he ate at the Dakota Grill with another Beatles fan he’d met while waiting. By happenstance, they ran into Sean Ono Lennon, John and Yoko’s 5-year-old son, and his nanny. Chapman recalled holding onto the child’s hand and saying “I came all the way across the ocean from Hawaii and I’m honored to meet you.”

On the evening of Dec. 8, Chapman finally saw Lennon and Ono leaving the building. Before Lennon got into his limousine, he signed a copy of his recently released album “Double Fantasy” for Chapman. According to “Let Me Take You Down,” Chapman said he never considered reaching for the gun at this moment. He continued to wait, telling a nearby photographer he wanted Ono's signature as well.

At around 11 p.m., Chapman shot Lennon as he returned to the building with Ono. Chapman remained there and was arrested on the scene.

Why did Mark David Chapman kill John Lennon?

Chapman said that he was motivated by fame. A Beatles fan since childhood, he became disillusioned with Lennon and the other Beatles because of how rich they’d become. He believed Lennon and his material wealth symbolized hypocrisy and a “corrupt and vast enterprise of personal wealth and power,” according to Jones.

He also developed an obsession with the J.D. Salinger book “The Catcher in the Rye,” calling himself “The Catcher in the Rye of my generation.”

Chapman told Jones in “Let Me Take You Down” that he had killed John Lennon to “promote the reading of The Catcher in the Rye,” copies of which he regularly signed and passed out in prison.

How old was John Lennon when he died?

Lennon was 40 years old when he died. Born Oct. 9, 1940, Lennon founded the band that would become the Beatles at age 16 and rose to mainstream fame in his early 20s.

If he was alive today, Lennon would be 83 years old. Surviving Beatles Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr are 81 and 83, respectively. George Harrison died in 2001 at age 58.

Where was John Lennon shot?

Lennon was shot outside his apartment building the Dakota. Located on 72nd Street overlooking Central Park, Lennon and Yoko Ono moved into the building in 1973. At one point the couple owned five units used as storage, guest spaces and studios, according to The New York Times.

John Lennon was shot outside of his apartment building, the Dakota, on Dec. 8, 1980.
John Lennon was shot outside of his apartment building, the Dakota, on Dec. 8, 1980.

Enter Central Park across the street from the Dakota and you’re in “Strawberry Fields” and the “Imagine” mosaic, a two-and-a-half-acre tribute to the late Beatles singer. On any given day you can hear his greatest hits strum out on guitars and sung to pedestrians. Some stop to sit and listen, others just give a knowing glance as they pass through to the rest of the park.

David Muniz has been organizing the musical tribute to Lennon since 2013.

Pulling up a text with a schedule of performers, Muniz says he organizes musicians at the top of each hour to busk and keep up the tribute to Lennon and the Beatles.

“Some guys lose track and think it’s about the money, but it’s not,” Muniz says. “I learned how to sing by doing the Beatles, I learned how to play guitar from the Beatles.”

'Now and Then': Why the Beatles song left many fans emotional

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Who killed John Lennon? What happened leading up to his assasination.