Selfies replace angst at Strawberry Fields

It’s 37 years since one of the most defining moments of my generation.

On December 8, 1980, John Lennon was gunned down outside the magnificent Dakota building in New York City’s Upper West Side.


In the time it took to pull the trigger four times, the world suffered a bitter and cruel blow.

Even now, the memory of that day brings a sense of sadness.  The sixties were an important part of my youth – and John Lennon and the Beatles embodied much of the spirit of those times.

But I’ve let go of my anger.

I realised how pointless it was the last time Sue and I visited Strawberry Fields, the memorial to Lennon and his music in New York City’s Central Park.

What I always regarded as a location of silent reflection,  instead has become one of the most popular places in the Big Apple for tourist ‘selfies’ – right up there with Trump Tower.

Time and tide wait for no man!

The Dakota Building

If you haven’t seen Strawberry Fields, the memorial is located just inside the park on readily accessible, level ground directly opposite the Dakota.

And take a ‘selfie’ if you must – it is special ground.


travel Upper West Side

Some Time In New York City

Face drained of colour, voice wavering.

I remember my colleague’s words as if it was yesterday.

“John Lennon is dead.


Me with a blank stare. Say again!



That was 37 years ago, on December 8, 1980, but how clearly I recall how I felt.

Sad obviously – Lennon was only 40 and had so much more to give.

Unease that an idealism and hope had so easily been snatched away. The ugliness of violence had, once again, swiftly and abruptly triumphed.

So much for ‘Give Peace a Chance’ and ‘All you Need is Love’.

And, for probably the first time, I was forced to think about my own mortality.

Growing up with the Beatles, it was easy to convince yourself that the beat would go on.

That confidence, bred of the 60’s, had been ritually killed – and suddenly middle age was no longer something to be ignored.IMG_1405

And, finally, there was anger.

It took me a long time to forgive New York City. I’ll never forgive Mark Chapman, the killer.

Many years later, our daughter, Bree, took Sue and I to the Dakota building in Manhattan’s stylish Upper West Side, to see the area, outside the gates, where Lennon was felled.

What irony! What contrast!

A place of such infamy amid the undeniable beauty of the North German Renaissance building.

The Dakota is a magnificent structure in a city bursting with life.IMG_1400

Later, we crossed into Central Park and stood quietly at the Imagine memorial in Strawberry Fields.

It was also a place of contradictions. Someone playing a guitar in the background and softly singing Beatles tunes, while tourists trampled across the memorial to pose for photographs.

In the 37 years since Lennon’s assassination, his name and music has become a byword for healing of sorrow.

Only last month, the sounds of ‘Imagine’ gave a particular poignancy to public vigils in the aftermath of the Paris terror attacks.

Pause briefly today to remember what we had – and lost.

Features travel