By Robert Beck
Imagine all the people.
It was late morning when I weaved through the faithful at the Strawberry Fields mosaic, heading toward 72nd. The warm and cloudless day brought out a crowd. Many were standing around, unsure of the next stop on their schedule (Okay, we are here, now what—how far is it to the Natural History Museum?), but for others, it was the culmination of a pilgrimage. It was all here and now.
Living for today.
Judging by the faces and ages, it was a quest born of their parents’—or even grandparents’—vinyl collection. A few brought guitars.
Disquiet had descended on the gathering: tension over a breach of etiquette. Singing too long (it’s my turn) or singing the wrong song (we JUST sang that). People didn’t come this far to be denied their moment.
Sharing all the world.
The news that Yoko is moving is a waypoint on a larger story surrounding the Dakota that will mean different things to a child of the sixties than those jockeying for bandwidth across CPW. Many times while painting in the park, devotees have approached me asking for directions to the Dakota. They weren’t on a quest to take selfies in front of where Judy Garland, Lauren Bacall, Leonard Bernstein, and Rudolf Nureyev once lived. They weren’t even going to do it in front of where John Lennon had lived, wrote, and loved. They were going to do it where he was shot.
Above us only sky.
I wish Yoko well. I can’t imagine living there for forty-some years after such a horrendous loss. I can’t imagine encountering images of John whenever she walked outside, frozen young for eternity on t-shirts and souvenirs. I can’t imagine being inside, either. The walls. The echoes. Upstate New York wouldn’t be far enough for me. Godspeed and peace, Yoko Ono.
People will continue to visit the mosaic and pay their respects. The building won’t return to some level of pre-Lennon anonymity because neither she nor John is there. There is no escaping the myth. People will still pause in front of the entrance to the courtyard, look at the gates, look at the sidewalk…and imagine.
To contact Robert Beck or see more of his work, visit robertbeck.net
Imagine, 1971 John Lennon/Yoko Ono
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What a wonderful painting!
Pleased to see more of your work
Yes, God speed and peace and love to Yoko Ono Lennon
Painting and your story!
I wish Yoko the best. Remember seeing her only a few weeks after John Lennon was killed. She was so visibly filled with grief and sorrow that I dared not approach her to express my heartfelt condolences to her. It was a heartbreaking to see her like that.
Years later as we were about to be seated at a very crowded Cafe Luxembourg, Yoko Ono and a guest walked in and the manager ended up giving them our table instead. We both laughed about it and waited another 10 minutes for a table. We did not mind one bit…
Good chance your were seeing Sean’s nanny Mioko who looked a lot like her…
Mioko would go out the front door to divert the press while Yoko would go out the back….
Would be nice if the lawns in Strawberry Fields were as well maintained, aerated, as they were up until about 12 years ago.
It was a much pleasanter place to sit and read then.
For that matter, of course, it would be nice if all of Central Park’s lawns were better maintained, but the degradation of Strawberry Fields is remarkable given how good the lawns there were for decades.
Additional numbers of passionate park caretakers are required for our park, with a better pay scale to attract and keep those employees as well as the wonderful passionate employees we already have.
A large part of the issue is overuse. There are so many more people using the park people are asked to give the lawns a rest sometimes, but many just climb over fences and the like. And I hope you donate to the Central Park Conservancy as only 20% of the upkeep of the park is covered by our taxes.
While this is a very sweet paean to Ms. Ono and the Dakota, I think it may be a bit premature to “count her out” even vis-a-vis the Dakota. First, she has not put any of the several apartments she owns on the market. Second, she will be returning to the City occasionally for medical treatment that she cannot get in rural NYS. Third, and perhaps most saliently, hundreds, maybe thousands, of NYC residents have “second homes” to which they go for parts of the year. That does not mean they are not still NYers, or have “left the City.” And in the case of someone like Yoko Ono – who has lived in her building for decades – that would be even truer.
So yes, we should all wish Ms. Ono well. But let’s not say “goodbye” to her as a NYer quite yet.
You can Gert all the medical treatments you need in upstate NY. At most you need a 45 minute drive to the nearest hospital or doctor.
I lived next door and coukd see her in her kitchen, in an infomral setting…will miss her
Hi Yoko Ono mom, hope to see you soon. God speed this time. ❤ Chrissy
Yoko kept things like tee shirts, ECT…going so she knew
That was beautifully written, thank you. ❤️
Wonderful article. Thank you. And God speed Yoko
I lived on 96 th between 5th and Madison from 1960-1969.
It was a great time to be alive. After listening to a lot of classical music, thanks to my dad, I would be able to whistle along with the compositions and could whistle the Brandenburg concerto.
This talent got me admitted to Dalton school on 89th and Lexington.
I attended 3 years from 1st grade to third, and during that time, I made friends with
a lot of celebrities children.Mark Davis, Shaunna Redford and Gregory Wakabashi. He was son of famous photographer who lived in the Dakota in early 60’s.
The rooms were outrageously huge with tall ceilings. It was a bit much to take in.
I was happy to have been apart of that experience with Greg.
It was a number of years before John and Yoko moved in.
I was a huge Beatles fan, and was quite saddened to learn he got shot and killed in 1980.
I go to the Dakota every so often.
I’m sure security is very tight nowadays.
When I was visiting Greg in the 60’s, I’m sure it was a lot different, as no one was expecting a deranged nut to come in contact with that place and assassinate such a wonderful beautiful person.
Your painting is so beautiful and warm. I love it soooo much. What a place! Funny how a building can so easily become “ a person”. Glad Yoko stayed but also happy she is moving out too. Always sad.
Thanks 👍 for this well written piece Happy I got to visit From Liverpool.Live N.Y.C & great folks I met In Cafes ,In The park & The Dakota in the Bars Yes it is Liverpool on.a bigger scale as John said cheers Paul Dean
Beautifully written and beautiful painting. Thank you. Will never forgot that day.
I spent 3 years in upstate N.Y. (Stationed@Ft.Drum). Thank-you U.S. Army & The Empire State for the best time of my life.
Beautiful painting and enjoyed reading the article!
Awesome article about John Lennon and Yoko Ono
Yoko took tons of criticism during her marriage to. John but John loved that woman and stood by her side! I never understood why John did not have assigned security with him @ all times and learned the hard way unfortunately! Lennon was an artist so he belonged there! New York is so be beautiful with Central Park and all the districts in Manhattan . Billy Joel captured it’s beauty with his song and even though I was born in New Jersey, New York State of mind makes me emotional everytime. I had relatives in New York and they would not live anywhere else and we’re true New Yorkers who resided in Brooklyn all their lives so I get how Yoko feels about this great city we are lucky to visit all of our lives!;My son met the love of his life for dinner and even @ his young age knew how romantic and special it was to go there! Jim D’Meo
Yes,I agree with you about why John Lennon didn’t have security with hi. JIHN Lennon didn’t want security. He wanted to be l8ke a regular person.
A poignant image and a strikingly insightful observation, thanks Robert!
Very well written and appreciated by a child of the ’60’s. There will never be another generation like ours. We got the word out without social media & we, the boomers, were the last to grow up without sm. It was a simpler time where we expressed ourselves with music, not blogs. Thank you. Your writing touched me. Made me think of the time my friends & I had nothing else to do, so we walked over to 72nd to watch them blow up the Thanksgiving balloons & smoke a little pot. It was 1977. We were the only ones there!
Bob once again you capture the magic of an upper west side iconic location with a beautiful visual and Imaginative, stirring words…. I hope Yoko buys this one!
Your biggest fan, Carole B
Yoko Ono was only somebody while she was LENNON’S wife . IMAGINE THAT
She was a pioneer performance artist and avant guard musician whose sound was ahead of post punk. She was decades ahead of intersectionality and it was her positivity and openness that attracted others like her late husband. It also angers and confuses the fragile and small mounded.
How crude pf you to say such a thing. Yoko had and still has her own story and incredible talents. You only belittle yourself by making such comments.
There’s a rotten apple in every bunch. Michael Meyers is it on this thread.
I don’t think that’s true, or kind.
What beautiful positive well wishes.
Everyone deserves that. There truly needs
needs to more kindness & kind words used
in journalism today. It lifts the life force, gives people faith in humanity & creates hope in mankind. She is a Mom, a human being that
contributed something positive to this earth
& an artist. Well wishes to you Yoko Ono Lennon.
Beautiful painting! I’d love a print if available!
I love this picture . You stated everything that I have felt all these years … Love and Gods Blessings Yoko Ono … you are one amazing woman Thank You ☺️ ❤️🙏🏼
Beautiful painting of the Dakota , Robert Beck. Godspeed and peace Yoko, you will be a part of New York, always.
John Lennon’s murder had such a profound effect on me. A brilliant artist, someone full of so much love, an inspiration to so many ….cut down stolen from us all I simply cannot fathom Yoko’s grief….I hope she finds John Lennon in heaven
NEVER! Never give up the quest for peace and love.
Our society is on the precipice of total collapse. John was a teacher. The republican Party has only disdain for teachers. The more we hear his name spoken and his songs sung, the l Ionger his voice will be heard, and the better our chance to survive.
Strawberry Fields isn’t just a mosaic. Yoko also donated funds to landscape, upkeep, usually magnificent lawns around the mosaic: across from the Dakota in Central Park. The area centered around the mosaic a very popular mosaic. It’s supposed to be a “quiet place.”. Alas, there are usually musicians seeking money breaking the rules by blaring their music through disruptive amplifiers. The music — like I heard on the radio honoring John the day after his murder: seems mostly songs that Paul wrote, or primarily so; and where Paul sings lead. Songs like Yesterday, Hey Jude, Let It Be, Blackbird. I love them all. But it’s not hard to come up with a worthy, popular set where John the lead singer, composer: Come Together, All You Need Is Love, Help. No Reply. Ballad of John and Yoko. My fav: In My Life. Imagine. Working Class Hero. Yer Blues. I Should Have Known Better. Twist and Shout (a cover).
Beautifully painting and story…..would love to see and read more .
Very well written. Life will not change in front of The Dakota. I can’t go see it because the memories are to difficult for me.. God bless them both.
” Imagine all the people, living life in Peace. You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one”
I left my friends apartment at 68th and Columbus in January of 1978 and chanced upon John waiting outside the gates for a cab. I meandered over…said hello…shook his hand while still in his pocket and muttered that the Beatles were my favorite band. He replied “ thank you, what’s your name?” I said Bob and we went on our way.
To actually see him and shake his hand I envy you.
How can it be anything else!
So many memories “….. your story and painting was wonderful this am… being from that generation we held music and people that made a difference in our live with regards that last a life time! Music which I still listen to to this day… makes you always remember those feelings of… how wonderful all those times of travel and getting a glimpse of them… most of all the music that last a life time we heard live”…….”I took a deep breath and closed my eyes ….I was young for just a while”… what a gift!….
God bless the dreamer and the spirit that drove him.
Lovely painting and a sweet piece of writing, thank you! I was born in June, 1980, and my parents tell me how they used to see the two of them often, walking on the street or out at local restaurants. I feel like I have a little connection to that old New York.
I lived in England with my British husband in Halifax W. Yorks. I went to Liverpool and saw everything I could about the Beatles especially John. It was a wonderful time.
I saw where they played in Hamburg.
Coming back to the States I did see the Dakota and of course the mosaic Imagine.
I still mourn his passing. I’m 72 and saw them on Ed Sullivan.
I’m grateful for my generation. I guess I’m a hippie still.
Yoko thank you for loving John so much and helping him in his dark days.
“Woman”….one of the best love songs.
That was a beautiful, much needed article. Thank you for putting things in perspective. Yes, Godspeed Yoko.
I remember exactly where I was. In the UK, and my reaction was, “Why John did you go to NY where people were crazy enough take away the music from your fingertips?”
I wanted to comment on the talent of the writer of this article. I love the way you ended it. I love the way you spoke about it. It actually made me feel teary-eyed. It is hard when someone you love dies it does seem that time stops. It’s lonely and especially when it’s your parent that dies you feel lost. John Lennon famous Yoko Ono famous but she’s getting very old and she probably needs to be somewhere where she is able to get around easier. I hope she continues to have her happiness. She’ll see John in the resurrection. Acts 24:15,; John 5:28,29
I can remember when I heard John had been shot, I was in high school. I actually couldn’t believe it happened. I called my best friend thinking this could be the end of life as we knew it. Oh I cried! Have a good life Yoko! Love to you and Julian.
I love John Lennon & Yoko Ono.
Imagine all the people sharing all the world.
Imagine no country nothing to kill or die for.
Imagine no heaven and no religion too.
Imagine all the people living for today.
🙊🙉🙈 @obamafoundation @moveon
Love & Care 💞💘
#Woman 🎶 #JealousGuy 🎶🎼🎵
#MusicisLife 🎓 #ILoveNewYork 🗽💡
I think all of us whose lives have been touched by that kind of violence see it when tired. Marked indelibly in our hearts. Some of us have no choice where we live, be it finances or age. She may think of it as living defiantly, like Jacquline Kennedy Onassis when JFK was shot. Survivor not victim.
Wow, I am welling up a bit right now. Thank you Mr. Beck
WOW ! Thank you. Quite an emotional experience reading your column just now. Praying for Yoko Ono to find peace wherever the road may lead
Yoko lives in the Catskills……for years now….ask Al from Al’s sport shop in Downsville…He lives next to Yoko in a town not far from Downsville. I know a relative of one of Yoko’s live in caretakers…….
Indeed he was a soul toucher