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The Latest Beatles News, Travel, Biography and Discography


The story behind John Lennon’s Strawberry Fields in New York

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For over 30 years, Beatles fans have been gathering at Strawberry Fields in Central Park to celebrate John Lennon’s life on his birthday, October 9, and also to mourn his death on December 8.

Located across the street from the Dakota apartment building where John Lennon lived with Yoko Ono, Strawberry Fields encompasses the pathways in Central Park that John and Yoko used to stroll together over the years from 1973 until Lennon was gunned down in front of the building in 1980.

Five years after his death, on October 9, 1985, what would have been Lennon’s 45th birthday, this tear-shaped section of Central Park stretching from 71st to 74th streets along Central Park West was re-named “Strawberry Fields” after The Beatles’ song “Strawberry Fields Forever.” The famous grey and white marble Imagine mosaic, which is the centerpiece of the area, was a gift from the city of Naples, Italy.

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The groundbreaking ceremony for Strawberry Fields was held on March 21, 1984 with Yoko Ono and Lennon’s sons Julian and Sean in attendance. A bronze plaque which was unveiled at the dedication ceremony lists 121 countries who endorse this Garden of Peace.

The idea for ‘Strawberry Fields’ was conceived by Yoko Ono and she “selected an ancient mosaic design found in Naples and placed the word Imagine in the center,” according to author Sara Cedar Miller. “The people of Naples were delighted, and artisans were dispatched to Strawberry Fields to inlay the Imagine mosaic medallion, faithfully copying the design Yoko had chosen.”

While most people think of the Imagine mosaic section as the major part of Strawberry Fields, there are actually 5.3 acres in total that make up the whole of the area. For the landscape design of this section of Central Park, Yoko worked with landscape architect, Bruce Kelly, to create a fitting memorial to John Lennon that was “more nature than culture.”

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Yoko’s letter in the NY Times on August 19, 1981

In August 1981, Ono placed letters in the New York Times and many other newspapers asking for donations from other countries to create this peace garden. Many countries sent native plants; for example, an oak tree from Great Britain, dogwoods from Monaco, tulip bulbs from the Netherlands, maples from Canada, etc. And, of course, strawberries were planted by the Central Park Conservancy.

The area is shaded by elm trees and provides many benches for visitors to relax and “imagine.” Strawberry Fields is intended as a quiet place for reflection, designated as a “quiet zone” in the Park. In exchange for a generous donation to the Central Park Conservancy, patrons can get their name inscribed on a plaque on one of the benches.

Yoko Ono still lives in the Dakota and her windows overlook the Imagine mosaic at 72nd street and Central Park West. While the word “Imagine” is recognized for Lennon’s famous song first released in 1971, it is also a concept that Ono has portrayed in her artwork long before she met Lennon. He even admitted that he got the idea for the song from her.

The song “should be credited as a Lennon-Ono song, because a lot of it, the lyric and the concept, came from Yoko,” John Lennon said in a 1980 interview, shortly before he died.

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In 2017, the National Music Publishers Association announced that Ono would share songwriting credits for Lennon’s “Imagine.”

“Those days, I was a bit more selfish, a bit more macho, and I sort of omitted to mention her contribution,” Lennon added, noting that the song makes direct reference to Yoko’s 1964 book, Grapefruit.

 

It was Yoko’s intention to continue the world peace sentiment that she and Lennon had initiated in 1969 which included planting an acorn in England and then sending acorns to heads of state around the world. In her 1981 letter, Ono said, “John would have been very proud that this was given to him, an island named after his song, rather than a statue or a monument….It will be nice to have the whole world in one place, one field, living and growing together in harmony.”

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Note:
A book called Strawberry Fields: Central Park’s Memorial to John Lennon chronicles the creation of this memorial. The book, released in 2011, was written by Sara Cedar Miller, the official photographer and historian of the Central Park Conservancy. The 95-page book is filled with gorgeous color photos as well as historical documents and black & white photos.

The Central Park Conservancy also sells souvenirs of the Imagine mosaic, including a blanket, coffee mug and jewelry.

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A Look Back at George Harrison’s Hollywood Walk of Fame ceremony

On April 14, 2009, George Harrison was posthumously given a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. This was the 2,382nd star dedicated by the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce. The star is located right in front of the Capitol Records building at 1750 Vine Street just a few steps away from the star of Harrison’s former bandmates, John Lennon, and later Ringo Starr (2010) and Paul McCartney (2012).

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Hundreds of Beatles fans gathered to hear tributes to George Harrison given by his friends and family. Eric Idle of Monty Python and Spamalot fame called George “a most remarkable person with a great sense of humor.” Eric Idle wrote and starred in the 1978 Beatles-parody film, All You Need Is Cash featuring The Rutles, which George Harrison not only loved but also made a brief cameo appearance in.

 

Eric Idle joked that he asked Ringo Starr what he should say at the dedication ceremony and Ringo said, “What about me?” referring to the fact that Ringo did not have a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at that time. Neither did Paul McCartney, who was in attendance at the ceremony, with then-girlfriend Nancy Shevell. The Beatles as a group were given a star in the 1990s which is located on a special sidewalk corner at the intersection of Hollywood Blvd and La Brea next to Elvis Presley’s star.

 

Tom Hanks, who spoke at the ceremony, described the The Beatles’ impact on America in the 1960s: “That’s when we escaped the doldrums and moved into the future.” He explained that the first guitar George Harrison ever bought when he was a teenager only cost the equivalent of 75 cents. “75 cents made this” he said, pointing to the Capitol Records building, the home of the Beatles’ record label in the U.S.

Other guests in attendance included Tom Petty and Jeff Lynne who were in the Traveling Wilburys with Harrison in the 1980s. Jeff Lynne put an ad in The Hollywood Reporter (April 14, 2009) celebrating George Harrison’s star which said, “George Harrison’s Star, It Just Sounds Right. Love from Jeff Lynne.”

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The Counsel General from Bangladesh was also in attendance bringing attention to the famous “Concert for Bangladesh” that Harrison organized in 1971 to raise money for the relief of refugees in Bangladesh. It was the first major rock concert for charity and raised almost $250,000 at the time. Today, sales of the album and DVD benefit the George Harrison Fund for UNICEF.

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Harrison’s widow, Olivia, and son, Dhani, were both in attendance to accept the award. Olivia described George as “a beautiful, mystical man living in a material world.” She concluded by saying, “George, this day is for you.” And she was right — it was announced at the ceremony that April 14 was proclaimed “George Harrison Day” in Los Angeles.

 

While George Harrison was honored for his musical achievements with The Beatles and as a solo artist, his contributions to the film industry through his company HandMade Films were highlighted by his widow, Olivia Harrison. In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Olivia listed George’s film achievements including the 1974 film of the socio-political stage play Little Malcolm starring John Hurt, the cult favorite Withnail & I (1987) and the legendary Life of Brian.

Throughout his post-Beatles career George Harrison shied away from the limelight and preferred to spend time in his garden at his home in England. Olivia remarked, “Although George would probably place his star in a garden, I think the Capitol Tower near one of his closest friends is a pretty good spot.”

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Other articles you might have missed:
Stay in John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s honeymoon suite in Amsterdam

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A Look Inside the Grammy Museum

The new GRAMMY Museum is located in the heart of downtown Los Angeles, California in an new entertainment complex called LA Live. The Museum is next to the Nokia Theater and across from the Staples Center.
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The LA Live complex, including hotels, cinemas and restaurants, is expected to be completed in 2010 and strives to become the West Coast equivalent of New York’s Times Square. The LA Live Plaza is an outdoor area at the center of the complex which will host free concerts and events.

As you walk on the sidewalk to the entrance to the GRAMMY Museum, you will see plaques dedicated to each year that the GRAMMY Awards have been held dating back to 1959 showcasing the winners that year.

The four-story 30,000 square-foot GRAMMY Museum cost $34 million to build and is affiliated with the National Academy for the Recording Arts and Sciences. Robert Santelli, Executive Director of the museum, says the GRAMMY Museum will be different than the other major music museums like the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland and the Experience Music Project in Seattle because it will feature all forms of music — over 100 genres, ranging from classical to folk to heavy metal to electronica.

Your museum visit starts on the fourth floor where you are introduced to a multitude of musical genres. The interactive crossroads table allows you to listen and learn more about a specific genre if you choose to, such as rockabilly, for example.

On the fourth floor you will also have access to the Grammy Archive, a database of information on Grammy recordings from the last 50 years, and you can explore the history of recorded music in several key cities across the United States from the 1880s to the present in the Music Epicenter display.

There are historic artifacts and clothing on display like the white suit that Michael Jackson wore on the Thriller album, or the infamous low-cut “Dress” that Jennifer Lopez wore at the 2000 Grammy Awards show. Other items on display include the Elvis Presley family bible and the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper Grammy award.

On the third floor, you will see highlights from the last three decades of televised GRAMMY Award shows. The first show aired live on ABC on March 16, 1971 from the Hollywood Palladium. That year, Paul McCartney made a surprise appearance with wife, Linda, to accept the Beatles’ Grammy award for the “Let It Be” album.

But the highlight of the GRAMMY Museum is the behind-the-scenes perspective you gain about the recording process. There is a focus on famous record producers, like Clive Davis, Berry Gordy and Ahmet Ertegun, and recording studios like Abbey Road and Columbia, as well as engineers and songwriters, reminding us that behind every great artist is a team of people assisting in that artist’s success.

There is also a special interactive experience called “In the Studio” where you learn the recording process hands-on in eight steps. With touch-screen interactivity and film footage, you meet some of music’s most famous producers and engineers who guide you through distinct activities essential in the technical aspect of creating a record.

On the 2nd floor, there is a behind-the-scenes documentary playing in the 200-seat Grammy Sound Stage Theater which takes you backstage to the rehearsals for the 2008 Grammy Awards telecast featuring the explosive performance onstage of Beyonce with her idol, Tina Turner.

The GRAMMY Museum will be open seven days a week from 10 AM to 6 PM. The Museum is located at 800 West Olympic Blvd, Suite A245 in Los Angeles, California. For more information, visit http://www.grammymuseum.org.