40th Anniversary of John Lennon’s Death Brings A Large Crowd to Strawberry Fields, and Sparks Emotional Memories

Photo by Manny.

By Carol Tannenhauser

John Lennon died on December 8, 1980 — 40 years ago today — after being shot by a man of questionable sanity in front of his home at the Dakota Apartments, on West 72nd Street and Central Park West. It happened at 10:50 p.m. He was 40 years old. On Tuesday dozens of people met at the Imagine memorial inside Central Park around 72nd Street to remember and play music.

Jason Haber videoed the crowd singing Dear Prudence.

After the shooting in 1980, the streets nearby filled with mourners in the days afterwards, and Melissa Davis took the photos below of a silent vigil for Lennon in Central Park, and signs and flowers honoring him nearby.

Lennon was many things to many people, but to those who lived on the Upper West Side he was a neighbor. He and his wife, Yoko Ono Lennon, could often be seen walking around, eating at their favorite restaurants, doing errands. One frequent trip involved the repair and replenishing of his iconic, eponymous “John Lennon glasses,” which he did at a small shop on Columbus Avenue and 74th Street, where Dr. Gary Tracy then practiced optometry. In 2017, Dr. Tracy described their relationship to WSR.

He liked glasses,” Dr. Tracy said. “I sold him a lot of pairs. I don’t think three months went by without him coming in for some sort of transaction. He didn’t take much time picking stuff out: ‘I want this, I want that.’

He came at closing time on purpose. We’d lock the door and he and Yoko would enjoy just sitting and relaxing and chatting about local things: what’s going on in the neighborhood, the Japanese market where they liked to shop, Café La Fortuna off of 71st Street, where they liked to hang out.”

One thing they never talked about was The Beatles.

Yoko Ono Lennon tweeted a message about missing John on Tuesday morning.

You can read the December 8, 1980 Associated Press account of John Lennon’s murder here.

Photo by Manny.

HISTORY, NEWS | 12 comments | permalink
    1. JS says:

      40 years! Hard to believe…….we certainly will never forget that tragedy.

    2. John Stewart says:

      I was taking my girlfriend home from a date that winter night. A john lennon song started playing on the radio.I CHANGED THE STATION AND ANOTHER LENNON SONG WAS PLAYING. I KNEW THEM ALL AND KEPT LOOKING FOR A DATE ROMANTIC KIND OF SONG AND EVERY STATION ON THE RADIO WAS PLAYING LENNON SONGS. Isaid to my girlfriend huh must be JOhn Lennon night tonight then the dj came on the air and spread the news. I was shocked. And a huge Beatles fan. Ill never forget that noght. Then President Reagan was shot and then. The Pope! I thought the world had gone mad.

    3. Ruth "Button Buddha" says:

      Whenever I see the Imagine circle, I remember the beautiful flowers that Gary used to arrange every day. For many years I’d make buttons honoring John Lennon… and stay late into the night. As the years passed, the crowds only got larger. Perhaps next year I’ll be able to return… Thanks for this. P.S. Dec. 8 is celebrated as Buddha’s Enlightenment Day…

    4. Kathleen says:


    5. Merle says:

      Give peace a chance ..

    6. Jan says:

      To Julian, Sean, and Yoko…I keep a sign in my garden, “Imagine”, in honor of John and the emotion of his songs and words.

    7. GerryK says:

      I was running the store of my recently deceased father on Broadway when I heard the news. I put a black-framed picture of John in the window, locked up for the day and stood in the drizzle outside the Dakota with other dazed New Yorkers. I was actually more of a Stones fan than Beatles fan, but loved John and Yoko for their very visible commitment to the city at a time that things were still very rough around the edges and many still thought our best days were long behind us. Incredible that that was 40 years ago. Thanks to the Italians for that beautiful commemorative mosaic in the park.

    8. 80yrsOldJohn says:

      The photo of Beacon theater on 74th street broadway in 1980 is stunning. I love it. The pedestrians are now 40 years older than how they looked back then.

    9. Ruth Bonnet says:

      I was in London and woke up to Imagine on the radio. Then the news came on and I was stunned. Gathered a group of people for the 5 minutes of silence and then we went to a pub and sang Lennon songs for hours. I’ll never forget it.

    10. NYC4ME says:

      As noted, Lennon was shot outside the W.72nd Street entrance to The Dakota.
      That building is legendary for many OTHER reasons, as Wikipedia explains. Also, check its list of famous people who have lived there: