Remembering John Lennon

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A dream you dream alone is only a dream. A dream you dream together is reality.

                      -John Lennon

If you live in or near New York City tomorrow would be a great day to come here. It will be around 72° and sunny in Central Park and if you go to Strawberry Fields, you would witness an amazing event, people powered music.  

I like to think of it as the greatest cover band of all time because it is a gathering of people just singing and remembering the life and times of John Lennon. I like to think of it as a day of inspiration because some of those people singing lyrics for peace and love were not even born on John Lennon’s final birthday.

I have trouble trying to capture the emotion and inspiration of these events in words but I’ve been to many and I’ve captured the event in photos several times. Below the fold are pictures from the last of these gatherings. In some ways it feels like going back in time.

If someone thinks that love and peace is a cliche that must have been left behind in the Sixties, that’s his problem. Love and peace are eternal.

                      -John Lennon


I should explain what Strawberry Fields means to many New Yorkers. Across the street from where John and Yoko lived, it was once the couple’s favorite spot in Central Park. Renamed Strawberry Fields and relandscaped by a gift from Yoko to the city of New York, this tiny patch of Central Park now stands as a dedication to John Lennon and for many a tribute to peace activism.

There is not a statue or monument but a mosaic around the word “Imagine.” People tend to just show up at this peaceful circle year round and pay their respects by dropping of flowers or some small memory.

Twice a year, on John Lennon’s birthday and the anniversary of his death, it becomes a special event. The mosaic is heavily decorated with mementos as the day goes on and we gather around the circle of tiles to sing into the night.

Some people come back every year. Some are there for the first time. I like to imagine that all the people who gather there year round, even the tourist getting off the tour buses for a photo, go there to imagine a world with John Lennon and without war. On those two days I know this to be true because I actually know the people who come back each year. Getting off the subway last year on December 8th, three people to walk to Central Park with.

It doesn’t seem to be a very large gathering when you consider the surrounding population.

But it is very impressive to see and talk with so many.

The view with the Dakota in the background, where there is also a group of people mourning on the December day each year. Thirty years later there there will still be a candlelight vigil at the entrance to the Dakota.  

The mosaic at around noontime.

Gary, the Mayor of Strawberry Fields. He is sort of like the artistic director of the mosaic.

Gary arranging the new flowers that people bring when the crowd is still small.

Some of the regular musicians that show up every year. I think they were singing “Give Peace a Chance” here.

The fact that this gathering is people of all ages is what I’ve always found most impressive. The message lives.

Two beautiful young ladies, sisters that I introduced myself to and got to have a long talk with their Mom. Samantha and Kay were singing all morning. Then they took center stage and Kay borrowed a guitar to play a few Lennon tunes. One of her songs was “Come Together” and there was not a dry eye in the house.

The Mosaic later in afternoon.

And the band plays on.

As the day goes on every song John Lennon ever sang gets played over and over. Actually if you stay long enough you will hear everything by all of the Beatles. Strawberry Fields has a very special meaning here and you can hear a pin drop for “The Long and Winding Road.” Sometimes the second performance of the same song is an entirely different event from the first. Sometimes it is one regular members of the band with everyone just listening or humming along, sometimes it is a guest soloist, more often it is just a big sing along. There is something very powerful about people powered music.

It seems that when we do “Give Peace a Chance” the singing can be heard on all the way over on the East Side but “Imagine” only seems to make it across the lake to the Angel Bethesda. The Angel of the Water who descended on the temple square in Jerusalem and touched down just one angelic foot to the earth. As legend has it, a fountain shot up from the ground where her foot touched and if anyone who was suffering in the body or the spirit walked through the waters of Bethesda they would be healed, washed clean of pain an suffering. When the Romans destroyed the temple, that fountain ran dry.

During the December gathering each year the most moving song seems to be “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)” but at each gathering there is one song that sticks out as the most powerful. It is a song that was not written by John Lennon. I thin the power of “Stand By Me” can be found in the fact that the meaning has changed since John Lennon covered it.

When the night has come

And the land is dark

And the moon is the only light we’ll see

No I won’t be afraid, no I won’t be afraid

Just as long as you stand, stand by me

For me it will always be “Imagine” and hearing people who were not even born during John Lennon’s lifetime, people who can still be dreamers dreaming for me because I know the temple was destroyed a long time ago. Imagine” is also always the song when I decide to leave with a tear in my eye. The same faces say “Goodbye for now” and “God bless you for coming” each year. I hope to see all those familiar faces and some new ones on tomorrow, a day that I so wish could be John Lennon’s seventieth birthday.

Tomorrow I will stay later than usual. At 7 p.m. there will be a free screening of the documentary LENNONYC at Summersatge in Central Park. The film focuses on the last decade of Lennon’s life, those ten years that he called himself a New Yorker. The American Masters film, directed by Michael Epstein, follows Lennon as he explores the city’s art scene, struggles against deportation and his years as a full time father on the Upper West Side.

It will be a good day to remember. If you can, than you should come see what happens there, Come Together.  


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    • Eddie C on October 9, 2010 at 03:05

    • RiaD on October 9, 2010 at 03:54

    this is beautiful

    thank you


  1. Ive been off an on just …sad… all this past week or so.

    All we are saying…. is give peace a chance…

  2. … and real tribute to John.  Thanks, Eddie.

    • Edger on October 9, 2010 at 05:48

    You’re a good man, Eddie. Thanks for this…

    • Xanthe on October 9, 2010 at 16:09

    Sunday am.  He has a photographic exhibit in NYC.  His mother and her husband and Yoko and Sean were there as well.  They all posed for a “family” photograph.  

    He and sean are close.  You can tell that Sean looks up to him.

    When asked if he still has any resentment about his childhood (virtually ignored by John) and Sean’s (whom John doted on) – he was philosophically stoic.  It was a long time ago – it’s not worth the trouble and he loves his brother.  And since he loves his brother, he could not now feel animosity toward Sean’s mother – since Sean loved her. He was neutral toward her – that’s the impression I got (or he gave). That is now – I’m sure he struggled to get there.  He was successful in his suit against Yoko for his inheritance.  I don’t know much about this – just quoting the reporter as to the lawsuit.

    He actually came out as a good man – I was impressed.  He and Sean seem to be delighted to be in each other’s company and they were very demonstrative to each other.  I think John would have been proud of his sons.  

    Being Xanthe, I teared up, of course.  A lovely segment.

    • Eddie C on October 9, 2010 at 16:16

    I just woke up, no wine glass in my hand, to the song “Good Day Sunshine” on my clock radio.

    After the song Scott Muni’s voice came on the radio and said “Celebrating John Lennon all day on this day at Q 104.3.” If you don’t know Scott Muni he was known as “The Fifth Beatle” here in NYC. There are plenty of Fifth Beatles but Scotso is New York’s Fifth Beatle.

    He is also no longer with us but the radio station is celebrating both John Lennon and Scott Muni all day by playing archived recordings of Scott from back in his days as a DJ on the station. For the rest of Scott’s life he kept John alive with a lunchtime Beatle Block on the radio and the practice has continued to this day.

    So I feel that I should tell a story that I thought I’d never tell again on this day, one of those “I remember exactly what I was doing” stories that spans ten years. It was December 8, 1980 and I was doing what I always did back then. I was working. It was a concert the WNEW Christmas show. In New York WNEW-FM was “Where Rock Lived,” a progressive rock station with a very rich history and the time, the home of Scott Muni.

    That year the WNEW Christmas Show was The Marshall Tucker Band and I was in the spot light booth with my six pack, rocking and pointing a big light on a stick. I remember that I was on the house right spot, my buddy Thor over on the left and a roadie who was supposed to tell us where to point the lights, when to change colors, cue the fade ups and black outs was sitting in the center booth.

    It was before glass got installed in spotlight booths. Nowadays because of the glass to protect us from falling out or to protect the audience from stagehands falling on them, we have program monitors and a very good idea as to what is being said on the stage. Back in 1980 to hear what was going on you just listened through the big hole where you were supposed to point the light and get a contact high. The loud music came through just fine but usually when songs were introduced, it was very hard to understand what was being said.  

    One of the band members made some garbled announcement and then the band went into a long set of Beatles and John Lennon tunes. The roadie said “This isn’t on the set list, we are going to have to wing it.” Meanwhile Thor and myself did a lot of headset chatter about why a Southern Rock band was playing a Block of the Beatles at a Christmas Show. When the concert ended Thor and I went down to strike the band gear, load out the staging, lighting and sound equipment. It was a big show and long load out. I’m sure we must have inquired about the long Beatles set but neither of us got an answer form the res of the crew. We kept working till the last truck was packed and both of us went home still unaware that John Lennon had been murdered.

    The load out went past 4 o’clock, closing time for bars in New York but I was no amateur and membership has its privileges. I grabbed a six pack for the drive home, the 10.5 mile drive and knocked on the door of The Green Isle Pub. I loved drinking back then and would not even think of ending a evening without “the cycle.” That when I buy three and the bartender buys one.

    The owner Patty answered the door and while we would carry on long conversations after hours, John Lennon never came up. After a couple songs I remember saying. “Hey what’s up it with the Beatles tonight,” and walked over to the jukebox to play something else. There was only one other customer. A little guy that I’ve known all of my life who never said “Boo” to me turned and said “If you play anything that is not by John Lennon or the Beatles, I’ll kick your ass.” I didn’t bother to find out what his problem was and we were soon listening to American Pie.

    The next afternoon I woke up feeling hung over and threw on WNEW-FM only to hear more Beatles and John Lennon. Finally Scott Muni came on and started talking about John Lennon being shot and killed the night before. Of course, just like almost everyone else in the world, I was mortified over the news. I grew up to the Beatles and John’s music and words played a big role in my beliefs. I went a bender over that news. A “What the fuck is the matter with this world” bender.

    Ten years later drinking wasn’t so much fun anymore but I was sure I would be able to get a handle on it. I mean just because I no longer had a telephone, payed the back rent the day before the landlord could serve an eviction notice and the electric bill just before the lights got turned off I didn’t think I was that bad. But the clock radio started blasting on December 8, 1990 and I had what they call “a moment of enlightenment.”

    I woke up to some WNEW-FM DJ telling me that on that day ten years ago John Lennon was killed. I’m not sure, it may have even been Scott Muni, things were pretty cloudy back then. I woke up on the platform bed I made back in the seventies and looked disgusted at that same clock radio where I originally heard the news,feeling all sorts of depressed about both the passing of John Lennon and where did the past ten years go. Then instead of looking for excuses I looked at myself. I looked at that old clock radio that was sitting on an even older book case fished out of the garbage more than ten years ago and sitting in front of a wall that hadn’t been painted since John Lennon died.

    The previous ten years flashed before my eyes and nothing had changed so I changed something. I didn’t drink that day. I didn’t drink for six days and on the seventh feeling all proud of myself, I got a six pack of tall boys but after the first I knew it was all over and poured the rest down the drain. I haven’t drank drank or used any mood altering substance since. That’s just a small part of my debt to John Lennon.

    Happy Birthday John, happy birthday Julian. Hopefully John’s influence that had moved so many will someday influence enough people that no world leader will think war is the answer. Central Park or bust.    

  3. a drink in the basement under Chuck’s Steakhouse on Westwood Blvd. near U.C.L.A. It was probably around 9:00 P.M.. In walked John and Phil Spector. Right away I recalled that he and Yoko had split up. Well, they both sat down immediately across from me at the same bar. We all three were face to face: it was one of those bars that had seats on both sides.

    We had small talk, and it was clear that John was bummed out. I didn’t pay much attention to Phil. Later I learned that John was broke (at that moment) and was trying to work on some project with Phil. It was a very unique evening, and I didn’t even care if I picked up a “chick” that night. Memories!!!!!!

    • Eddie C on October 10, 2010 at 05:54

    Showing the love.

    I couldn’t even get close this year. Enormous turn out for John Lennon on his seventieth.

    I could not stay in the thick crowd for too long but the walk around Central Park was wonderful on a perfect day.

    I have to admit that I’m a bit bummed out because it was the first year that I did not get a good shot of how the Imagine mosaic was decorated. But it was very good to see so many paying their respects.

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