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Sunday, August 2, 2009

John Lennon: The New York City Years

In May, Yoko Ono along with Jim Henke put together an exhibit at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Annex in New York City. It was called "John Lennon: The New York City Years". Many of the items were never before seen by the public. Turning it into a must-see for Beatle fans and admirers of Lennon.

Knowing that I was spending a good portion of the summer in Mass, I decided that I needed to go see the exhibit. Last week, my Dad and I went to New York City. It was well worth the admission price to the museum. Actually, the museum itself is really cool. They have plenty of amazing memorabilia from all musical genres and eras. Though, the highlight was clearly the Lennon exhibit.

For all the criticism that Yoko receives, she sometimes doesn't get enough praise for the good things she has done with Lennon's legacy. This is a classic example. It's an extremely powerful and emotional look at the man's life in New York.

There's guitars that he played during his last concert appearance on November 28, 1974 with Elton John at Madison Square Garden. There's also one from the John Sinclair Freedom Raly. There's even a Steinway piano that was in his bedroom, which was one of my favorite items. John was a chain smoker and if you look on the top of the piano, you can see cigarette burns from him leaving the cigarettes. I thought that was a nice touch and was just another reminder of how much of an everyday man he was.

There was also clothing. The now famous "New York City" t-shirt that he wore during a Bob Gruen photo shoot was displayed. The shirt was actually dirty with stains. It was almost as if Yoko hadn't washed it since his death. Then, there was the army jacket that John purchased at a surplus store in the Upper West Side, which was wore frequently by him. The jacket was from the Korean War, had the rank of Sergeant, and the name read Reinhardt. I wonder what ever happened to that guy?

The rest of the exhibit contained music videos playing throughout with handwritten lyrics, drawings, and newspaper clippings. Even his green card was displayed. It along with letters of support from the likes of Dick Clark, served as a reminder of the battle he fought to stay in the United States.

Though it technically was before he lived in New York, it was amazing to think that the handwritten lyrics to "Imagine" were written on small New York Hilton Hotel note paper. A song that began a worldwide anthem for peace was first scribbled on such a small piece of paper. How ironic in a lot of ways?

The most controversial item in the exhibit was none other than a brown bag. It was dated 12/11/80. It contained the bloody clothes of John Lennon. At first I didn't really know if I supported this, but after being there I realized why it was done. Yoko said she wanted to make a statement. To paraphrase her, a man who was so huge turned into just a brown bag full of clothes. In a lot of ways, it epitomizes John Lennon. It's blunt and sends a clear and direct message on murder. Standing there, it's hard not to shed a tear and take a moment to remember what an extraordinary life this man lived.

(As of January 2009)

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