NEW YORK – A crush of fans circled a flower-graced mosaic in Central Park’s Strawberry Fields and sang lyrics from “Imagine” on Saturday to honor Beatles legend John Lennon on his 70th birthday.
On the day when the Liverpool Lad would have become a septuagenarian, thousands of fans from around the world gathered to remember Lennon.
“His music speaks to people of any nation, any age, and that’s why I think so many young people now who never would have known him still find him so appealing,” said Karen Kriendler Nelson, 69, who lives nearby and often visits the mosaic that spells out Lennon’s song “Imagine.”
Fans began arriving on Friday, spilling onto the sidewalk of Central Park West, where Lennon and wife Yoko Ono lived in the famed Dakota building for nine years. He was shot to death by a deranged gunman as he came home on the evening of Dec. 8, 1980.
This year, the memorial to the slain ex-Beatle and peace activist includes a mosaic donated by the city of Naples, Italy. A plaque lists 121 countries that endorse Strawberry Fields as a Garden of Peace.
The birthday celebration got started early Friday in his native England, where Google UK released a 32-second video “doodle” with an “Imagine” soundtrack. The interactive electronic art generates a butterfly and a flower – reflecting Lennon’s devotion to world peace.
In Liverpool, Lennon’s first wife, Cynthia, and their son, Julian, unveiled a sculpture to celebrate his life.
Hundreds of people gathered at the city center’s Chavasse Park to watch the pair cut a ribbon to reveal the statue, called “Peace and Harmony.” The sculpture, which features a colorful globe with doves flying above it, was designed by 19-year-old American artist Lauren Voiers.
The two held hands and joined the crowd in singing John Lennon’s “Give Peace a Chance.”
Ono marked her late husband’s milestone birthday in Iceland with a lighting of the Imagine Peace Tower, which shines a beam of blue light into the sky, followed by a concert by the Plastic Ono Band. Ono dedicated the tower to Lennon in 2007.