Hearing John Lennon’s music and the contemporary retrospectives on his 1980 assassination still brings chills to Carolea Goldfarb, a native Long Islander who was a 20-something living in Manhattan at the time.
"I remember the night he died, and it was just one of those nights you remember, like when JFK was shot," said Goldfarb, who grew up in Russell Gardens. She added: "I felt nauseous and couldn’t eat for, like, a week."
Goldfarb and her college roommate, Cindy Stern of Lake Success, were among those who made a pilgrimage Tuesday to Strawberry Fields, a landscaped section of Central Park dedicated to Lennon, who was shot dead across the street on Dec. 8, 1980, by obsessed fan Mark David Chapman. Chapman remains in state prison.
Heralding the 40th anniversary Tuesday were flowers, framed photographs, vinyl records and quotations from Lennon covering the park’s "Imagine" mosaic. The eponymous homage to the bestselling song of his solo career muses about a world without religion, borders, nationalities or possessions. Near the mosaic, a band played Beatles and Lennon hits as crowds from around the world sang along, recorded it and snapped photos.
Standing Tuesday across from the Dakota — the apartment building on West 72nd Street and Central Park West, where Lennon was slain inside an archway — Goldfarb, a longtime government prosecutor and now private lawyer, and Stern, a graphic designer and photographer, giggled like schoolgirls rattling off the Beatles' and Lennon's discographies. The music served as the soundtrack of their youth as they hung out in Lake Success, Great Neck and Russell Gardens, driving around with songs blaring — the Beatles' seminal and self-titled genre-breaking 1968 record, more commonly known as "The White Album," "Rubber Soul," the classic Beatles tune "Rocky Raccoon," or "Jealous Guy," from Lennon's solo efforts. And decades later, Goldfarb recalled quotable lines from his songs, including "Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans."
Earlier, at Strawberry Fields, Michael Vadella, 47, visiting from Ocean City, Maryland, who works in hospitality management, stood in the cold as the band played Lennon and Beatles hits. In previous years — not during a pandemic — the crowd was bigger, he said.
"I grew up listening to the Beatles, and I was fortunate when my daughter came along to share the music with her, the first lullaby I sang to her when she came home," said Vadella, who grew up in both Bayport and Scranton, Pennsylvania.
Vadella said he remembered being 7 and his mom crying at news of the assassination.
Marcel Gretscher, 41, a flight attendant in town for Lufthansa airlines, said he heard his parents listen to the Beatles and Lennon, and wound up doing the same when he grew up.
"I love the messages of the songs," Gretscher said. "For example, just peace, and being together, not being against each other. Make love, not war, something like that. I think right now it’s much more important these days to remember the letters of his songs."
Guadalupe Delolmo, 24, visiting from Mexico City, took her brother’s photo posing next to the "Imagine" mosaic. She wasn’t yet alive when Lennon was slain, but, she said, the music and its message resonates with her, even 40 years later, as she listens to his music on Spotify.