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The late former Beatle John Lennon may be gone but he’s hardly forgotten. Still considered by many to be one of the greatest influences in modern popular music, on his birthday today we pause to reflect on his legacy and on the years he’s been missed.

The late former Beatle John Lennon
The late former Beatle John Lennon | Michael Putland/Getty Images

Lennon would have turned 81 today

When John Lennon was murdered in New York City in 1980 at age 40, he had just released a new album, Double Fantasy, with his wife Yoko Ono. Their son, Sean, was the delight of his life. John’s death left so much potential untapped, so much left undone.

The New York Times, at The Beatles’ arrival in New York City in 1964, couldn’t help but report on the marvel that was Lennon’s wit. At the press conference welcoming the band at Kennedy International Airport, a reporter asked, “‘Will you sing for us?’ Mr. Lennon replied, ‘We need money first.’ More ap­plause. ‘How do you account for your success?’ Mr. Lennon again: ‘We have a press agent.'”

His widow Yoko Ono created the Imagine Peace Tower in Lennon’s memory

In commemoration of Lennon’s birth, Ono tweeted, the Imagine Peace Tower which she designed and erected in Iceland in 2007 will be illuminated.

“TODAY Oct 9 we relight @IPTower to celebrate @JohnLennon’s birthday at 8 pm Reykjavik, 9 pm UK, 4 pm NY, 1 pm LA, 5 am Tokyo. Join us for the live stream at as we watch it light up together and listen to Imagine,” Ono said in her tweet.

The Imagine Peace Tower is illuminated annually to honor Lennon’s birthday. Ono chose Iceland as the location for the tribute to Lennon because, according to Iceland’s official tourism site, “Iceland is a magical and beautiful country. The electrical energy source for the country and for the Imagine Peace Tower is geothermal – water, instead of oil. No pollution. No war. This is just one of the incredible situations that creates the magic of Iceland,” Ono was quoted as saying.


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Lennon’s legacy

Just as Lennon sang in his 1970 hit “Instant Karma,” ‘we all shine on, like the moon and the stars and the sun,’ and John Lennon’s legacy has indisputably continued shining on.

It was announced just before Lennon’s birthday this week that his signature song, “Imagine,” (marking its own milestone with a 50th anniversary this year), was certified triple-platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America.

In his 2005 book, John Lennon: In His Own Words, author Ken Lawrence points out that “Lennon’s legacy lives on not only in the hearts of fans but in the music industry as well. [Twelve years] after his death, he was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award at the 34th Grammy Awards, and in 1998, John Lennon Anthology, a four-CD set of his unpublished song and performances, was released. In 1992, Ono told USA Today: ‘John tried to change the world with his songs.’ By any measure, he succeeded.”