George Harrison's birthday...in New York
Cecilia and I spent last weekend in New York City with our friends Rita and Rick, fellow Beatles obsessives. After hitting dance spots, restaurants, and record stores on Friday and Saturday, we went to the Dakota on Sunday hoping to pay our respects to John--and George, whose 64th birthday it would have been--at nearby Central Park's Strawberry Fields.
We showed up at Strawberry Fields about 2:00 p.m., and the storm that hit the Apple later that day was already rolling in. It was sunny, but chilly and windy. By the “Imagine” mosaic near the entrance to Strawberry Fields lay several bouquets of flowers and a birthday card for George which featured his picture.
A few hardy souls were gathered, some with guitars, but nobody was playing them. Rick and I had brought ours, and we sat on a bench, took the guitars out of the cases, and began to strum.
Rick actually didn't play much, as he had to leave for the airport to catch an early flight. It was really, really windy by 2:30 or so, and after playing just one or two songs one's hands were already like ice.
But soon, a few other musicians came by and sat with us, beginning to play. Despite having lugged guitars with them, they appeared to have been quite shy, and needed a little coaxing. A young man with a European accent took out his nylon-string guitar and played and sang...another fellow eventually came by with his guitar, and we had a nice little group going.
Our acquaintances Eric and Naomi, New Yorkers who've previously come to Chicago's Fest for Beatles fans, then happened on the scene...Naomi, who's a bassist, had brought a travel guitar and Eric had a snare, high-hat, crash cymbal, and tom-tom pad packed into a suitcase (which doubled as his kick drum!).
So we now had rhythm, which led even more people to listen to what was going on...then a fellow who Eric and Naomi knew arrived with a harmonium!
This added a whole new dimension to the adventure, as harmonium man provided a lovely drone that allowed us to play a wider range of material including “Within You Without You,” which was especially beautiful. I had chills, and not just from the weather.
What else did we all play? Let's see...”Don't Bother Me,” “Do You Want to Know a Secret,” “I Need You,” “I Want to Tell You,” “For You Blue,” “Nowhere Man,” “Here Comes the Sun,” "Long Long Long," "Cry Baby Cry," “Blow Away,” “My Sweet Lord,” “Beware of Darkness,” “If Not for You,” “Handle With Care,” “The End of The Line,” “Think for Yourself,” “If I Needed Someone,” “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”… I'm surely forgetting a bunch.
Soon, a small crowd had gathered. Passers-by stopped to listen, watch, and sing. More people laid flowers. Strangers were sharing music and good thoughts.
We all enjoyed this lovely session together until about 5:00 or so, when Ceci, Rita, and I had to leave for the airport. Eric, Naomi, harmonium man, and the others kept on playing as we departed with fond goodbyes.
Playing all of these fantastic songs in this lovely park was simply a very moving experience. The positive energy was strong, and propelled us all through the cold weather to share something very important--the gift of song.
Despite my frozen hands, it was just a fantastic afternoon, and one that once again reminded me how much I love the Beatles, and how much I miss George Harrison. But thank God that we can invoke his memory through his lovely music.