You don’t have to live in the Village to celebrate the birthday of John Lennon, who was born on October 9th, 1940.
But Villagers, and those who love the Village, have a special reason to celebrate the birth of one of the greatest and most transcendent popular musicians of the late 20th century.
Lennon is famously associated with the Dakota Apartments on the Upper West Side, where he lived for many years and outside of which he was killed on December 8th, 1980. Though less well known, he also lived at 105 Bank Street, an 1846 rowhouse, from 1971 to 1972 with Yoko Ono, which they rented from Joe Butler of the Lovin’ Spoonful. Ironically and sadly, Lennon and Ono moved from their Bank Street apartment, which had no security and had been broken into and robbed, to the Dakota because they did not feel their safety could be guaranteed at their home in the Village.
Those early years on Bank Street were not the only time Lennon spent in the Village. He was known to attend lavish parties with the likes of Norman Mailer at the house of Grove Press founder Barney Rosset at 196 West Houston Street. He recorded at Electric Lady Studios, including his highly-popular collaboration with David Bowie, “Fame,” and is said to have done some recording at a former stable at 271 West 10th Street. The famous pictures of Lennon wearing his “New York” t-shirt and flashing a peace sign in front of the Statue of Liberty were shot by Westbeth artist Bob Gruen (in fact, Lennon got lost in the mammoth and labyrinthine Westbeth complex looking for Gruen one afternoon in June of 1975). And after his murder in 1980, a massive candlelight vigil was held in Washington Square Park marking his death.
But perhaps Lennon’s deepest connection to Greenwich Village was revealed in an interview with Rolling Stone’s Jann Wenner, in which he said:
“You know, I should have been born in New York, man. I should have been born in the Village! That’s where I belong! Why wasn’t I born there? Like Paris was in the eighteenth century or whatever it was, London I don’t think has ever been it. It might have been literary-wise when Wilde and Shaw and all them were there. New York was it! I regret profoundly not being American and not being born in Greenwich Village. That’s where I should have been. But it never works that way. Everybody heads towards the centre, that’s why I’m here now. I’m here just to breathe it. It might be dying, or there might be a lot of dirt in the air, but this is where it’s happening.”