By Reza Ganjavi
I am not really into memorials and ceremonies. For that reason, I wasn't going to attend John Lennon's memorial in New York. He was shot to death 20 years ago yesterday. I remember when it happened. I was very young - turned on the radio - it played one Lennon song after another - "In My Life" - "A Day In The Life"... and then the guy announced it: John Lennon was shot to death outside his apartment in New York. I cried.
That night the strangest experience happened. I was in bed - just before falling asleep. I will not talk about it here. It was a life-changing experience. And supernatural.
I ended up going to the event yesterday. It was the most enjoyable time of my life.
His apartment in the Dakota building was overlooking Central Park. After his death Yoko, his Japanese wife, built a path there called "Strawberry Fields" after one of Lennon's songs - and an Orphanage in Liverpool which I've visited. Yoko also commissioned a very elegantly built area on the ground with tiles reading IMAGINE.
The musicians I knew had gone there around noon. I showed up at 4:40. There was a huge crowd around IMAGINE and the circle was filled with candles and flowers and pictures of John and so on. I sort of slipped my way in to join the band I was supposed to be with. A guy who’d been there for 3 hours left and I was given a legitimate place, 2nd row behind a couple of shorter smoker girls – a couple of guys next to me smoked too and me and a couple of others gave them a hard time – including my altered lyric to Imagine “And no smoking too”. But by the end of the night, even those guys were friendly – I guess after hearing my performance.
All I had in terms of instrument was a single egg shake which I had fun playing. I didn’t want to take my guitar because of the cold. A guy offered bongos which I played with the egg shaker. The band played songs and everyone sang – a Japanese guy with electric guitar was also calling shots from the other side of the circle and sometimes we had 2 songs going. The “band” soon span off into the right and gathered its own crowd of singers. Another guy had his own crowd to the left.
I stayed within the Imagine circle. Then got in front line – and found my way next to Jerry who was playing electric guitar – an older man – I tried to befriend him – even gave him my CD – he still would not let me play his guitar – why not? “It’s MY guitar” – ‘Imagine no possessions’ I quoted John – even that didn’t work. He soon left as his songs were not well received (e.g. "Honey Don't"). Meanwhile, the Japanese guy Tosho and I led the group into singing one song after another – it was so beautiful – so wonderful – 100’s of people singing the same song – sometimes between songs we’d hear the other circle and I’d lead us to sing with them and we’d join and sometimes there were echoes of the same song… The composition of the people was wonderful. There was a gorgeous Japanese girl with a wonderful smile whom I fell in love with – but we only spoke a couple of words. Other people were fine too. We always made room, no matter how crowded, for people who’d come in all sincerity, to put a flower or a candle on the Imagine circle. I would thank them sometimes!
As Tosho and I became closer friends I moved over to his side of the circle – with help from another Japanese friend I had made earlier, and another, to acrobatize my way there. Tosho let me play the guitar and it was a pleasure to show them what John would do! Tosho was very impressed “you’re awesome…” The Japanese girl was gone by then. Other beautiful girls came by – people of all ages came by – young kids and old people – to pay a tribute to a man whose music had touched their lives. I was playing “Watching The Wheels” when Fox News zoomed the camera on me. There were many TV cameras, radio stations, photographers, media trucks, helicopters, and policemen in the street. We were on national TV.
There were people there from across the world. 2 Russian guys thanked us as they left: “Thank you from Russia”. The crowd was in very good, peaceful order. I did not observe any drugs – just saw 2 drunks – one, who claimed to have been doing these gatherings for 20 years would force himself in to bring people who wanted to look – he was all bullish until one guy told him to shut up and he quickly retreated. The only other drunk I saw was a guy who came looking for his Bongos and said he should have punched me for playing them but I explained another guy who was leaving gave it to me to play. No losers were among our Imagine circle.
Exchange of visit cards with a few…
The magic of the Beatles was the synergy of Lennon and McCartney. I am a result of that - a combination of both.
Phil Maynes said: "You were the first person I called when John was shot."