Yoko and fans mark 30 years since Lennon's death
Vigils were held around the world Wednesday to mark the 30th anniversary of the murder of John Lennon, as new extracts from his last interview show the former Beatle scoffed at fans who worshipped "dead heroes."
From New York to Liverpool, Havana to Prague, fans gathered to lay flowers at memorials, sing classic Lennon songs like "Imagine" and light candles in memory of their idol.
In Tokyo, Lennon's widow Yoko Ono, who was with him when he was shot, marked the anniversary with a charity concert, saying the world still had so much to learn from his life and his songs.
"Today, on this painful anniversary, please join me in remembering John with deep love and respect," she said in a Japanese language tweet, as she prepared for the annual show.
Near the luxury Dakota apartment block in New York, where Lennon was shot four times in the back by a lone gunman in the evening of December 8, 1980, hundreds of fans gathered at the "Strawberry Fields" memorial in Central Park.
"For me he was the spirit of peace," said Kaoru Shimizu, a Japanese woman who joined others who had arrived from around the world to mark the day here.
An Argentine couple at the vigil had arrived on their honeymoon in the city a day after Lennon was shot, and had returned on this cold, clear winter day with their family to pay respects.
"We're so moved to be here, and lucky to be here with our three daughters, 30 years later," Romulo Audenci told AFP at the somber gathering, where fans sang classic Lennon tunes like "Don't Let Me Down" and "Eight Days a Week."
In the former Beatle's hometown of Liverpool in northwest England, the focus of the memorials were the Peace and Harmony monument unveiled earlier this year in memory of Lennon, who died shortly after his 40th birthday.
Fans lit candles and sang songs to remember the life of one of the port city's best-loved sons, whose songwriting relationship with Paul McCartney produced some of music's classic songs.
"Despite his short, 40 years of life, he gave so much to the world. The world was blessed with fortune to have known John," Ono said in a message on Twitter.
Rolling Stone magazine, meanwhile, released unpublished extracts online from an interview with Lennon recorded three days before he was killed, which was published in part just after he was shot.
Lennon took on his critics with uncharacteristic harshness, as well as fans who had not accepted his withdrawal from the music world, five years on.
Lennon said what fans wanted were "dead heroes" like Sex Pistols bassist Sid Vicious and screen star James Dean.
"I am not interested in being a dead fucking hero... so forget 'em, forget 'em," Lennon quipped.
And he did not rule out the idea of going back on the road to make music again.
"But there will be no smoke bombs, no lipstick, no flashing lights. It just has to be comfy, but we could have a laugh. We're born-again rockers, and we're starting over... There's plenty of time, right? Plenty of time," Lennon said.
In Prague, candles were lit in front of Lennon's wall in the former eastern bloc city where the musician's driving message of freedom had reverberated behind the curtain of communism.
In Cuba, where the Beatles' music banned was during the 1960s, crowds also paid their tribute with a concert.
In a Havana park where a decade earlier the island's former leader Fidel Castro had -- to the amazement of some fans -- unveiled a bronze statue in Lennon's memory, the "Give Peace a Chance" was to feature Cuban musicians performing some of the singer's hits.
"At a time when the world is so turbulent, where there is so much violence, the image of Lennon always evokes peace and love," 55-year-old economist Manuel Prada told AFP at the statue where fans were leaving flowers and letters in remembrance.
Lennon's killer Mark Chapman, who was mentally unstable and just 25 at the time, had staked out the musician's apartment building overlooking Central Park. Earlier in the day the musician had even autographed a copy of his latest album "Double Fantasy" for the man who would kill him.
Chapman eventually pleaded guilty to murder and was sentenced to 20 years to life imprisonment. He remains in prison in Attica, New York.
© 2010 AFP