December 8, 2015: the 35th anniversary of John Lennon’s death. There was only one place in New York to be.
Let me take you down cause I’m going to Strawberry Fields.
I could hear music and see crowds from a hundreds yards down the path. I walked up the hill and saw a throng of people: all colors, all ages, representing dozens of different countries. We circled around the Imagine Memorial and celebrated John Lennon’s life and work the best way we knew how.
People brought guitars, they joined the band. Tambourines. Kazoos. One woman even brought a giant YAMAHA key board. I wished I’d brought my trombone for “All You Need Is Love”.
There was no agenda, no “program”. People came and went all day, this would continue well into the night. The circle would rotate so those on the outskirts could get to the center- if they persevered (you bet I did). Guitarists might swap out, although the die-hard musicians had been there for hours already and were not going anywhere. I wondered what their stories were. How John Lennon had influenced them, changed their lives, shaped their music.
Hundreds of strangers pressed together in a tiny corner of the city, no one pushing or shoving. Respect and peace swirled around us like the smoke rising from the candles in the center. We didn’t speak to each other except the occasional “sorry” for an accidental elbow poke. We didn’t speak, we sang, lifting our voices around words we all knew.
All we are saying is give peace a chance.
Imagine all the people living life in peace.
It really wasn’t hard to imagine while standing in that circle.
I am the walrus, goo goo g’joob
December 8, 1980 John Lennon was shot and killed outside of his apartment building on 72nd and Central Park West. You can see the building, the Dakota, through the trees. The man who shot him first asked for an autograph, then committed a horrific, senseless act of gun violence. A tragedy only magnified by how common that phase has become in 35 years.
I never knew a world with John Lennon, he died 6 years before I was born. Still, when all the other girls my age were obsessed with NSYNC and the Backstreet Boys, I was listening to “Lovely Rita” on repeat. My first CD was Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, purchased with my own money from Tower Records. It was never a question of who was cuter: Justin Timberlake or Nick Carter? For me that question was John Lennon vs Paul McCartney.
This debate no doubt still rages amongst school girls today. No one before or since has had as much boyish charm as the Beatles. It’s timeless. Charm for the decades, the centuries, the ages.
That’s a John Lennon doll in her hand. Betcha she doesn’t give a shit about Harry Styles. She knew the words to every song.
Strawberry Fields Forever.
RIP John Lennon, we are still imagining. You are still inspiring and changing lives every day. Wow. What a legacy we are so lucky you have left.
Do you remember the first time you heard the Beatles? Do you remember when he died? Who was it for you, John or Paul? Please, I’d love to hear any and all John Lennon stories in the comments.
All photographs ©New York Cliché