Today would have been John Lennon’s 70th birthday.
Yoko herself is almost 80.
You’re not supposed to like Yoko if you were a Beatles fan at all, but hell…John loved her. And he’s the one who wrote “All You Need Is Love“. The truth is the Beatles were already breaking up before Yoko showed up. And since this is a weed-oriENTed blog, I will point out that John and Yoko met at the Indica Gallery.
Most people, of course, think of John as a Beatle, but all during the 1970s, he was almost more of a political activist than a musician, although obviously being a great musician with lots of friends helped in many ways. He was particularly pro-cannabis, even playing and recording with David Peel, a NYC street musician known mostly for his songs “I Like Marijuana” and “Up Against the Wall, Motherfucker” (essentially the same song) who I knew slightly (and heard innumerable times on street corners).
My first encounter with John Lennon was in 1972 (IIRC). I was walking up Fifth Avenue taking pictures at random, when I saw a little picket line. I’m pretty sure it was at the British Airways office. A bunch of people were protesting Britain’s occupation of Northern Ireland, and John was marching around in the circle with a bunch of other people…he was just one of the people in the picket line. Anyway, I started marching around too and took a few pictures of the scene and a few of John. In those days I was a bit of a street photographer and always keen to make some extra money, so I walked over to the Daily News office to see if they wanted to buy any pictures. They developed the film but demurred on buying any pictures, because “there’s no rioting or violence or police in it”. I shoulda known, but the NY Times was further away in the other direction and they didn’t buy that kind of picture anyway.
Fast forward to that terrible morning. We turned on the radio to WNEW-FM as usual and we immediately knew something was very, very wrong. I was still half asleep so I asked my wife, who was closer to the radio, what was going on. I heard her say, “Someone shot Lenin” and I immediately said, “That’s crazy, he’s been dead for years” until I realized who she actually meant. We sat by the radio in total shock for hours.
The following week, it was announced on the radio that there was going to be a gathering in Central Park as a memorial to John. Suddenly I had one of those rare flashes of intuition and knew I had to be there. I grabbed my wife and we drove from our house deep in the wilds of New Jersey to Fifth Avenue and 68th St., where I happened to find an open garage. I left the car by the booth (not something I normally did at all…this was right out of a dramatic movie scene) and took off running to the park, which I knew like the back of my hand from many visits, and we went via a tiny path directly to the side of the bandshell, literally 15 seconds before an announcer said, “And now, let’s have a few minutes of silence in memory of John”.
And thousands upon thousands of people stood there with tears streaming down our cheeks.