On this date, December 8th, exactly 29 years ago, John Lennon was tragically shot and killed outside his New York City home, The Dakota building on 72nd Street and Central Park West. He was gunned down at approx 10:50pm in cold blood by Mark David Chapman, a "fan" who Lennon had signed an autograph for earlier in the day. The former Beatle, along with his wife Yoko Ono, had just returned from a remixing session at the Record Plant recording studio.
While this event stunned Lennon/Beatles fans the world over, for those who lived in New York City it was momentous. While certainly nowhere near as devastating a tragedy as the 9/11 attacks on New York City, Lennon's horrifying murder on a Manhattan's streets was similar in that the event brought the city and its citizens together in shock and mourning. A densely populated metropolitan area, New York City can often be a cold, unfriendly place where strangers may bump shoulders with fellow city dwellers but rarely stop to talk to total strangers.
But on that night in 1980, as news of Lennon being slain trickled out, total strangers in shock gathered in the streets and cried together over the unbelievable news. It hit New Yorkers especially hard because Lennon had adopted New York City as his own. He had relocated there nine years earlier and had always proclaimed his love for the Big Apple. He even titled one of his albums after NYC, the highly politicized 1972 Yoko collaboration and double-album Some Time In New York City. And one of the most common images that comes to peoples' minds of John Lennon is one with him proudly wearing that New York City t-shirt (above). So his death in New York City hit hard. And on the night of the shooting concerned fans converged at both Roosevelt Hospital where Lennon was taken (and died within a half hour of the shooting) and outside the Dakota building, where a huge crowd had gathered, with candles lit and singing Lennon songs. And once word that Lennon had died got back to the swelling crowd outside the Dakota, the crying and mourning intensified. In fact, it continued through the night and into the days after.
On the following Sunday, December 14th, a quarter of a million people gathered in Central Park, just across the street from the Dakota building, to pause for ten minutes of silence to remember Lennon. And in the years ever since people have been congregating at Strawberry Fields, the area of Central Park dedicated to John Lennon that sits directly across from the Dakota. It is a place where people gather at all times throughout the year to sit and meditate, pray, or sing, but in particular on both Lennon's birthday (October 9th) and on the anniversary of his death. So today, since I am in New York City and also because I am a longtime fan of the Beatles and John Lennon's music, I decided to head over to the Dakota and Strawberry Fields to see what was up.
When I arrived at 72nd and Central Park West at midday today, besides NYPD and a doorman (see pic above), there was no one outside the Dakota at the scene of the 1980 crime. Meanwhile, across the street in Central Park at Strawberry Fields (see video below) people were filtering in and out with about 150 to 200 people gathered in a large circle singing the 1965 Lennon composition "You've Got To Hide Your Love Away."