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MARTHA SEZ: ‘(John) Lennon would have been 67’

Imagine there’s no heaven

It’s easy if you try

No hell below us

Above us only sky

Imagine all the people

Living life in peace …

You may say I’m a dreamer

But I’m not the only one

Maybe some day you’ll join us

And the world will live as one.

— John Lennon, “Imagine,” 1971

As I write this column, it is Dec. 8, the 40th anniversary of John Lennon’s death. He would have turned 80 this year, had he not been shot and killed outside the Dakota in New York City, where he resided with his wife, Yoko Ono. The shooter was a deranged fan, sort of, who objected to, among other things, the lyrics to Lennon’s song “Imagine.”

Lennon was the leader of the Beatles, a band that formed in Liverpool, England, in 1960 and by 1964 was already internationally famous. The Beatles played rock ‘n’ roll and rhythm and blues classics as well as their own songs. Back in the 1960s, some stick-in-the-mud oldtimers complained about the Beatles’ distinctive sound, their extreme popularity, notably among teenage girls, and of course their “moptop” haircuts, which at the time elicited exclamations of shock and consternation from the elders. If anything, this only increased their popularity.

From moptop to enemy of the POTUS? Who would have thought? In 1971, After two years of anti-war activism, Lennon released the song “HAPPY XMAS, WAR IS OVER,” in reaction to the continuing war in Viet Nam. This may have influenced Pres. Richard Nixon to add Lennon’s name to his lengthy Enemies List, alongside Dick Gregory, Eartha Kitt, Paul Newman, Gregory Peck, Joe Namath, Barbara Streisand and other celebrities.

On YouTube, you can find a range of videos for this song, including one that features white and drifting snow accumulating on pine trees and colored lights on farmhouses, and another featuring Alanis Morissette’s sweet and simple bed-in family Christmas video. Careful, because you may also find the HAPPY XMAS (WAR IS OVER) (Ultimate Mix, 2020) John & Yoko Plastic Ono Band plus Harlem Community Choir video, showing clips of children and civilians in war-torn countries, compete with YouTube warning. If you watch it, it will make you cry. John and Yoko got very serious after the Beatles disbanded.

Friends and business associates may have believed that Lennon was just paranoid, but as it turned out he was correct when he complained that his phone was tapped and that he was being followed and spied on by government agents.

Lennon’s wife, Yoko Ono, now 87, is still a practicing artist. On his birthday in 2007, when Lennon would have been 67, Ono’s creation, the Imagine Peace Tower, was introduced to the world. That night, its 15 searchlights and mirroring prisms first shot a column of light high into the sky over Reykjavik, Iceland, the most peaceful nation in the world. The Imagine Peace Tower is powered entirely by geothermal energy; Yoko Ono said that she chose Iceland because of its natural energy.

Yoko Ono, the City of Reykjavik, the Reykjavik Art Museum and Reykjavik Energy collaborated to build the memorial. A crystal cylinder about 13 feet in diameter and 6.5 feet high, conceived as a wishing well for peace, serves as a frame for the light column. Its walls are inscribed with the words “Imagine Peace” translated into 24 languages. This cylinder stands on a round platform about 56 feet in diameter built of native Icelandic stone.

The intensity and appearance of the light constantly change with cloud cover and atmospheric conditions, either producing a tall, clear column of light or reflecting, refracting and creating iridescent color with moisture in the air. The light tower can be seen to reach as high as 13,000 feet.

The tower is lit every year from John Lennon’s birthday, Oct. 9, until Dec. 8, the anniversary of his death. If you missed it, you can watch the tower on YouTube in live time when it is alight for the winter solstice, Dec. 21-31, on Yoko Ono’s birthday, Feb. 18, and the vernal equinox, March 20-27. Remember that Iceland is four hours ahead of us, so when it is 5 o’clock in New York it’s 9 o’clock in Reykjavik.

This year, because of COVID, no visitors are allowed to visit the memorial in person.

And so merry Christmas

And a happy New Year

Let’s hope it’s a good one

Without any fear

War is over

If you want it

War is over

Now

Have a good week.

(Martha Allen lives in Keene Valley. She has been writing for the Lake Placid News for more than 20 years.)