Celebrating John’s birthday today…
During his time in Almeria Spain filming How I Won the War (September 1966), a villa that John Lennon rented had wrought-iron gates resembling those of a children’s home called Strawberry Field in his Liverpool neighborhood. This inspired him to write the song ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’. His original handwritten lyrics bear these lines (later replaced with ‘No one I think is in my tree’).
“There’s no one on my wavelength
I mean, it’s either too high or too low
That is you can’t you know tune in…”
In a mere few weeks (one month after his 26th birthday) John would find someone completely in tune with his wavelength – Yoko Ono!
John returned to London from Spain after filming on November 3, 1966
and met Yoko four days later.
Yoko re: ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’
“I love it. You know what it is? That was the first John Lennon song that I encountered. And there was a party at the editor of the Art Magazine’s house in London. And I went to that, and I think I was a bit earlier than the others and I was in the house and the editor said, “Oh, listen to this, Yoko. When a pop song comes to this point, what do you think?”
And he played ‘Strawberry Fields’ in London. And I thought, “Hmmmmm…” Because there were some dissonant sounds and I thought it was pretty good. For a pop song. [Laugh]
It thought it was cute. I thought it was some cute stuff. Because I was making songs with all dissonant sounds. It impressed me. I was surprised a pop song could be that way.
I like the song. Musically, it was very terrific. And there’s a lot of connections about it. I mean, I think of John as an artist, a songwriter, a fellow artist. But also, he was my husband, you know. And I remember all his pain as a child, sort of looking at Strawberry Fields, which was an orphanage, you know. He always told me about his Aunt Mimi saying, whenever he was out of hand, Mimi would say, “You can go there. You’re lucky you’re not there, John.” So, Strawberry Fields to him was connected with this strange kind of fear and love, love for the kind of children that were very close to his condition. John was in a better position. So there’s that love and that strange fear for it.
It’s very strong thing for him. That sort of painful memory that he had of Strawberry Fields, he transferred that into a song. And made it positive. And that song was transferred into a park. [Laughs] It’s a very strong thing that I witnessed. So it means a lot to me…
– Yoko, 1992
Photo collage by Max Totten:
Source: The Beatles Lyrics, Edited by Hunter Davies – Little. Brown 2014
Look! Someone is in my tree!
Yoko created Strawberry Fields in Central Park, where John’s spirit resides. It is named after the children’s home in Liverpool after which John named the Beatles song ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’. It is across the street from their Dakota apartment in the park where John and Yoko frequently walked. They gazed upon this lovely view from their window on West 72nd Street. Yoko invited dignitaries from countries around the world to donate plants and trees. The dedication ceremony for this garden for John was held on his birthday, October 9, 1985. It has become a gathering place for fans and celebrations for decades. – mb
“According to the mayor of New York City, Ono has visited a dozen times or so during his 15-year time in office, most recently three weeks ago when the two exchanged silent peace signs. “She comes down no matter what the weather is and sometimes hangs out,” he says. “She comes over and hugs the tree that’s to the right of me. She just hugs it. I don’t ask. She has her reasons, and I respect her reasons.”
– October 2008
Yoko never remarried and never left the place that they called home, because John was still there.
“Sometimes I feel that John is telling me what to do. I don’t necessarily do what he tells me, but it’s nice to know that he’s concerned… I have so much stuff to do for John… You see, John was the love of my life. And we’re still working together, you know.”
– Yoko, 2003
Yoko invited me to the Strawberry Fields dedication ceremony on John’s birthday in 1985.
*The Imagine mosaic was designed by Bruce Kelly, chief landscape architect for Central Park Conservancy. It was created in the style of Portuguese pavement and based on a Greco-Roman design. It was created by Italian craftsmen, donated as a gift from Naples, Italy.