When John Lennon was murdered at The Dakota in 1980, New York City was a mess. That night I joined a small crowd that stood outside his home and I remember having no idea of what to expect; things seemed bleak and far gone. There was actually a storefront on Columbus Avenue, outside my window—usually with a lineup—that sold marijuana and cocaine.
Dented and crushed from years of neglect, the city was slow-cooking artistically but suffering visually. What arose was the era of the New York punks, epitomized in music by the goings on at CBGB’s and OMFUG, down in the East Village with the Ramones, Police, Blondie, Lou Reed, Patti Smith. By today’s standards things were cheap; cocaine, disco, darkness and grit.
Central Park was dishevelled, shaggy and dangerous. Berkowitz had murdered and then Chapman struck down Lennon.
Yoko Ono’s response was to offer dignity and love of life to the mix and now her gestures are clearer; it can be seen how effective she was. Her infusion made the Strawberry Fields region of Central Park poignantly beautiful and lush, and my favourite place for privacy (believe it or not) and calm.
Today, around the Imagine mosaic, you will find lots of itinerant musicians, hear spoken multiple languages and see crowds of people whose generation is the age their grandparents — the original Lennon fans — were. That’s a lot of love.
It’s nearly always crowded, there is almost always a guitarist or two and you might see Yoko Ono.