October 9th marks the day when musician John Lennon would have turned 79. As a tribute, here are eight spots in New York City that he’s associated with. Lennon moved to New York City on August 31st, 1971, following the breakup of The Beatles. “You know, I should have been born in New York, man,” he once said, and certainly made his mark here.
1. Imagine Mosaic
Probably the most famous visitable location connected to John Lennon, the Imagine mosaic is located near the 72nd Street entrance to Central Park within Strawberry Fields, an area named after the Beatles song “Strawberry Fields Forever.” Imagine is also in tribute to the song of the same name written by Lennon and his wife Yoko Ono, attributed as the most best-selling song of all of Lennon’s work. After Lennon’s death, Ono scattered his remains where this memorial was later installed.
It’s pretty hard to get a photo of the Imagine mosaic in daytime with nobody in it it took us a while!), but this work is worthy of a visit. Dedicated in 1985, the mosaic was a gift from the city of Naples, made by craftsmen in the Italian city, and a joint effort by Ono and the Central Park Conservancy to “create a meditative spot” in Lennon’s honor. According to the Conservancy, along the path you can find a bronze plaque “that lists the 121 countries that endorse Strawberry Fields as a Garden of Peace.”
Join us for an upcoming tour of the secrets of Central Park:
2. The Dakota Apartments
The Dakota Apartments are of course forever connected to Lennon. On December 8th, 1980, in front of the apartment’s grand entrance, after exiting a limousine following a recording session for the song “Walking on Thin Ice”, he was shot by fan Mark David Chapman who became angry about Lennon’s secular lifestyle. Lennon was brought to Roosevelt Hospital by the NYPD, where he died a few hours later. Yoko Ono still lives in the apartment and has the Steinway piano Lennon gifted to her in 1971.
WNYC has a video about some of Lennon’s haunts nearby the Dakota, which includes the garden of the Cafe La Fortuna restaurant (now a hardware store) and the West Side Pharmacy, where he supposedly got to know the owner well.
3. Steinway & Sons Factory
Inside a vault at the Steinway & Sons piano factory is one of the John Lennon Imagine Limited Edition pianos, launched in 2010 with the partnership of Yoko Ono on what would have been Lennon’s 70th Birthday. It features artwork by John Lennon on the music desk, of which there are seven different versions. The piano is modeled after the piano Lennon bought for Ono in 1971 that sits in the apartment they shared together in The Dakota where Ono still lives today. The piano has Lennon’s signature at the right end of the keyboard and the words “You may say I’m a dreamer” on the inside of the rim. A portion of the proceeds of this piano go to John Lennon Educational Tour Bus, a non-profit mobile recording studio. There are only a limited number of these pianos left.
4. 105 Bank Street, Greenwich Village
John Lennon is said to have wished he had been born in Greenwich Village. He did spend a lot of time here, living for a year or so from 1971 to 1972 at 105 Bank Street. The four-story building was built in 1846. Lennon and Ono rented the apartment from another musicians, Joe Butler of the Lovin’ Spoonful. Neighbors here included notorious social activists like Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin, along with numerous creative folks.
After living here, the couple moved up to The Dakota, because their apartment had been broken into. According to Andrew Berman of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic “they did not feel their safety could be guaranteed at their home in the Village.” What a change to today!
5. Westbeth Apartments
Nearby, Lennon was photographed in the famous image wearing the “New York City” t-shirt at Westbeth, the former Bell Labs building which has been a live-work space for artists since the 1960s. The photograph was taken by Bob Gruen, who lived at Westbeth. Gruen also took the photo of Lennon in front of the Statue of Liberty, where the musician is showing a peace sign.
In an interview with Rolling Stone’s Jann Wenner, Lennon spoke of his love for Greenwich Village:
“You know, I should have been born in New York, man. I should have been born in the Village! That’s where I belong! Why wasn’t I born there? Like Paris was in the eighteenth century or whatever it was, London I don’t think has ever been it. It might have been literary-wise when Wilde and Shaw and all them were there. New York was it! I regret profoundly not being American and not being born in Greenwich Village. That’s where I should have been. But it never works that way. Everybody heads towards the centre, that’s why I’m here now. I’m here just to breathe it. It might be dying, or there might be a lot of dirt in the air, but this is where it’s happening.”
6. Hit Factory
There are contradictory stories about which studio Lennon was at the night he was killed. Some say it was the Record Plant Studios at 321 W. 44th Street, others say it was at the Hit Factory at 353 W. 48th Street. A 1981 Rolling Stones article, which has an interview with producer Jack Douglas, who was present at the last session, cites the Hit Factory.
Another recording studio connected with Lennon is the Electric Lady Studios, located in Greenwich Village at 52 West 8th Street. The psychedelically designed studio was built for Jimi Hendrix and intended as an artist-owned recording studio to combat the high cost of recording music at the time. Electric Lady is where Lennon recorded the song “Fame” with David Bowie in a stroke of improvisation.
7. St. Regis Hotel
The St. Regis Hotel is where Lennon and Yoko Ono shared their first residence after getting married. It was here that the couple did the now-famous interview that was printed in Penthouse magazine four years after Lennon’s death. The interview was intended as background for the book Apple To the Core: The Unmasking of The Beatles about the Beatles breakup by Peter McCabe and Robert Schonfeld.
8. Madison Square Garden
John Lennon’s last major live public performance took place at Madison Square Garden on November 28, 1974 in a concert headlined by Elton John. Lennon performed “Whatever Gets You Through the Night” from the album Walls and Bridges along with the Beatles songs “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” and “I Saw Her Standing There.” You can join a behind-the-scenes tour of Madison Square Garden on their all-new All Access Tour.
Next, check out 7 places named after musicians in NYC.