New York – Mourners sang and laid flowers Tuesday on Central Park’s candlelit memorial to John Lennon on the 40th anniversary of his murder in New York City, as his widow Yoko Ono marked the moment with a call for gun control.
“The death of a loved one is a hollowing experience,” tweeted the 87-year-old artist, who still lives in the Manhattan building where her husband was shot.
“After 40 years, Sean, Julian and I still miss him,” she added, before quoting the 1971 song she co-wrote with Lennon that became the best-selling single of his solo career.
“Imagine all the people living life in peace.”
Ono, who witnessed her husband’s murder at close range, also tweeted an image of the former Beatle’s shattered and bloodied spectacles with the words: “Over 1,436,000 people have been killed by guns in the U.S.A. since John Lennon was shot and killed on Dec. 8, 1980.”
She included hashtags like #guncontrol now and #endgunviolence, as well as one for the National Rifle Association, the powerful U.S. organization that has for decades battled to loosen and eliminate firearms control legislation.
At 40 years old, Lennon had returned to songwriting shortly before his death, having taken a five-year hiatus to raise his young son Sean.
The couple was returning home to New York’s famous Dakota building across from Central Park when disgruntled Beatles fan Mark David Chapman shot Lennon dead.
“Tell me it isn’t true!” Ono cried in horror.
Lennon was rushed to the emergency room in the backseat of a cop car, a harrowing experience detailed in The New York Daily News the next day.
Officers stood in disbelief in the emergency room, it said, as “John Lennon, whose music they knew, whose music was known everywhere on earth, became another person who died after being shot with a gun on the streets of New York.”
After Lennon’s murder, Ono committed to preserving his memory, funding the construction of the Strawberry Fields memorial in New York that became a site of pilgrimage for fans and mourners across the globe.
By midday Tuesday, a shrine to the slain singer featuring roses and daisies, photos and a small holiday tree had cropped up on the “Imagine” mosaic that anchors the memorial in Central Park.
Fans sang and danced as a guitarist strummed tunes including The Beatles’ “Norwegian Wood.”
Tepper Saffren, who goes by “Sergeant Tepper” and regularly comes to the corner of the park to sing Beatles covers, said the power of Lennon’s lyrics still ring true today.
“When you play any Beatles song, everybody’s got something that they can tap into,” the 28-year-old said.
“And usually it’s a good feeling, or at least a beautiful feeling.”
When he sings at the memorial, the musician said “it’s like you are the center of that goodness and joy, because really you’re just funneling John.”
Lennon’s sons also paid homage to their late father, with the eldest, 57-year-old Julian, tweeting a photo of the singer with the message: “As Time Goes By….”
Sean, 45, posted a candid family photo.
“A sad sad day but remembering my friend John with the great joy he brought to the world,” posted fellow songwriter Paul McCartney, as drummer Ringo Starr requested that all the world’s radio stations play “Strawberry Fields Forever” at some point Tuesday.
“He wrote songs that are very meaningful and very applicable for today,” said Clara Tello, a 39-year-old Peruvian who ventured to New York from Washington to commemorate the day for the eighth straight year.
“He knew about pain but he still wanted to reach out and help people,” she said.
Though the songwriter died four decades ago some faces in the crowd Tuesday indicated his influence was still touching the youth of today.
New Jersey resident Gabriela Parra, 20, said she aims to visit each year “to celebrate his life and legacy.”
“A lot of people think that the music of The Beatles will at some point dissipate, because it’s so old, but young people still connect to the message and the music,” she said.
“You have celebrities that come and go but there’s no real icons … nobody that wants to be the image of our generation,” Parra continued.
“Nobody will ever compare to John Lennon.”
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