Lennon fans converge on Central Park to imagine ex-Beatle at 70
A CRUSH of fans circled a flower-graced mosaic in Central Park's Strawberry Fields on Saturday and sang lyrics from 'Imagine' to honour Beatles legend John Lennon on his 70th birthday.
"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 the name of Lennon's famous song.
Joan Acarin and his wife, Laia, visited the memorial from Spain. "The values Lennon defended are still alive," he said. "It's the idea that we do not have to fight wars."
Fans began arriving on Friday, spilling on to the pavement of Central Park West, where Lennon and wife Yoko Ono lived in the famed Dakota building.
He was shot dead by a deranged gunman as he came home on the evening of December 8, 1980.
This year, the memorial to the ex-Beatle and peace activist surrounded a mosaic donated by the city of Naples, Italy.
A plaque lists 121 countries that endorse Strawberry Fields as a Garden of Peace.
The 2.5-acre site was created by Yoko Ono and named after the Lennon song, which observes that "living is easy with eyes closed, misunderstanding all you see".
The birthday celebrations started early on Friday in Lennon's native England, where Google UK released a 32-second video "doodle" with an 'Imagine' soundtrack.
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 centre's Chavasse Park to watch the pair cut a ribbon to reveal the statue, called 'Peace and Harmony'.
The sculpture, which features a colourful 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 Lennon's 'Give Peace a Chance'.
"I think the mourning is over for John. I think it's time to celebrate," said Cynthia (71).
She was married to Lennon from 1962 to 1968.
In New York, the celebrations included an evening benefit concert at the Society For Ethical Culture, a short walk from Strawberry Fields, and a Central Park screening of a documentary detailing Lennon's life in the city.
The proceeds from the concert will go to Amnesty International.
Yoko 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.
She dedicated the tower to Lennon in 2007.