I find it so hard to believe that I, today, am older than John Lennon was when he was murdered on that December night in 1980. By the end of his 40 years, Lennon had accomplished so much; he was and continues to be an undeniable cultural force.
Lennon had his share of controversies, to be sure. And, whether or not one agrees with his politics or views, he can be admired by all for the
way he engaged the world around him -- fully and openly. For me, growing up in the suburbs of New Jersey in the 1970s, he was cool incarnate: my favorite Beatle, rebellious thinker, musical genius, entree to the intriguing fringe.
It's easy to fall into hagiography when remembering someone as gifted as John Lennon, but like the rest of us he was human, complete with flaws and frailties. I believe his imperfect humanity, exaggerated perhaps by his fame, just added to the appeal. Watching him evolve from teen idol to counter-cultural icon to family man, with all the bumps along the way, was an inspiration. Life is indeed a journey.
The fact that he became a New Yorker at a time when many were fleeing the city just cemented my admiration for both him and the city itself. What a perfect match. It's where he spent most of the last quarter of his life—and not just holed up behind the thick walls of the Dakota, either. Lennon became part of the fabric of the city. He went to clubs to check out bands, strolled through Central Park, was a neighborhood fixture on the Upper West Side. He always said New York was the only place he could feel like a normal guy.
To mark the occasion of what would have been John Lennon's 70th birthday, I was curious to learn more about his New York City. Beatles expert and tour guide Susan Ryan of Fab 4 NYC Tours gave me a mini-tour of a few of the sites that made New York the town he made his own.