Fans worldwide laid flowers and lit candles today (Dec. 8) to honor music icon and peace activist John Lennon, 25 years after he was murdered outside his New York apartment.
In a small ceremony in the center of the northern English city of Liverpool where Lennon was born and raised, fans and officials created a shrine beneath a statue of the legendary Beatle and a priest read out a prayer in his memory.
Later in the day, the city holds a memorial service for the man who created some of the world’s best-known songs and is considered one of the most influential songwriters of all time.
In New York, hundreds of mourners are expected to gather at the Strawberry Fields section of Central Park and light candles at 10:50 p.m. ET, the time Lennon was shot.
“I feel very, very fortunate that I am the age I am. I am 57 and if I was any younger I wouldn’t have seen them, would I?” said Alan Cowell, a Liverpudlian speaking outside the Cavern Club, where he watched the Beatles play during the 1960s.
Friends in Liverpool remembered Lennon with fondness, but felt he distanced himself from them after meeting Yoko Ono, the woman who many fans blame for breaking up the Beatles in 1970.
“You couldn’t approach John at the end, and looking back it was from the moment … he met Yoko Ono,” said former friend Billy Kinsley, who knew Beatles Lennon and Paul McCartney in the 1960s.
His assessment of Lennon and the Beatles as musicians, however, has never changed. “It really did make a big impression on me seeing the Beatles on that first night at the Cavern, because it just changed my outlook,” he said, recalling the night in February 1962.
“I thought ‘My God, I have just seen the best thing that I could ever see,’ and since then it’s been downhill because I’ve never seen anything as good as the Beatles.”
Die-hard fans from around the world continue to travel to Liverpool to visit the Beatles’ city, and today visitors from Japan and Spain gathered outside the Cavern Club. “I usually come every year, but this year is very special,” said 26-year-old Estefania Soriano from Spain.
In New York, Ayarton Dos Santos will be at the “Imagine” mosaic, named after one of Lennon’s most famous songs, just as he has been nearly every day for the last 13 years to arrange petals, acorns, apples and bagels into a peace sign.
“It’s all about peace, love and happiness. It’s for brother John,” Dos Santos, 41, said. “You come here, you feel his spirit. His spirit is so alive in here,” he added.
Yet the man who brought a generation such pleasure with seminal tracks like “Strawberry Fields Forever,” “Give Peace a Chance” and “Imagine,” also caused pain to those who loved him.
Both his first wife Cynthia and their son Julian recently voiced their sense of rejection when Lennon left them for Ono.
Cynthia told Reuters earlier this year that she and Julian were “airbrushed” from the Beatles’ story and that Ono made it clear she did not want her in New York after Lennon’s death.
On his Web site, Julian added: “I have always had very mixed feelings about Dad. He was the father I loved who let me down in so many ways … it’s painful to think that his early death robbed me of the chance for us to know each other better.”
Ono continues to divide Lennon and Beatles fans, with many defending her for successfully preserving her husband’s legacy. Her spokesman Elliot Mintz said he had received more than 500 requests for interviews with Lennon’s Japanese-born wife.
“It’s just too painful for her to discuss,” he said.
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