John Lennon’s widow Yoko Ono will tell people around the world “to learn to love each other in peace” today as millions of people celebrate what would have been the music legend’s 70th birthday.
Fans around the world will be remembering the late Beatle at various locations including his home town of Liverpool and a shrine in Central Park, New York, his adopted home.
Ono herself will be leading a celebration in Iceland with a series of events, including a performance by the Yoko Ono Plastic Ono Band, alongside their son Sean.
Ono will also be presenting awards to figures chosen for their contribution to world peace with a biennial award – the Lennon Ono Grant for Peace – created in 2002.
Afterwards she will switch on the Imagine Peace Tower, an illuminated memorial on an island close to the Icelandic capital Reykjavik. The tower will remain lit until December 8, the anniversary of Lennon’s death.
It is thought that Lennon’s Beatles bandmate Ringo Starr and George Harrison’s widow Olivia may also attend the event.
Lennon was murdered in 1980 by Mark Chapman who is still imprisoned for the crime. He was shot dead outside his home in the Dakota building, close to Central Park in New York, which Ono still calls home.
In a message today she will say of her late husband: “He had a very painful childhood in which he hardly saw his mother or his father. But, later, he managed to turn his pain around to give the world many beautiful songs and important messages which changed our heads and the way of our lives.
“I know John was not expecting so much love to still come from you. But he would have been very happy to know it. May all of us heal ourselves and learn to love each other in peace.”
Ono is also encouraging fans to send one million messages of peace, by email, post or via Twitter.
Google yesterday dedicated its homepage to Lennon, whose remastered solo albums were released earlier this week.
Lennon’s first wife Cynthia also shared her memories of him in an interview to be broadcast today.
She said Lennon would have been proud of the way his sons from his two marriages had bonded as friends over the years.
In an interview with Bob Harris to be broadcast on Radio 2 in a special Lennon-themed edition of his show, she said: “The one thing that really saddens me is that he’s not alive to see his two sons, who are now the best of friends, who are close together.
“They play music together, they are something that he never saw because he lost both his sons. When he left me, Julian was five, and when he died Sean was five, so he missed all that, the lovely growing up.
“Not all lovely of course because teenagers are something else, but once you get over that sort of awkward time, period of youth and you become young men, which they both are now, I think he’d have been really proud and very happy to have been part of their lives.”
In Liverpool, final preparations are under way for the launch of a two-month John Lennon tribute season.
The Bluecoat arts centre in the city centre is inviting people for the next two months to emulate John and Yoko’s 1969 bed-in which they held at the Amsterdam Hilton.
The Bluecoat has recreated the scene and wants people to take to their bed, discuss their stories, air their concerns and spark debate about issues that bother them.
Today in the city, the John Lennon peace monument will be unveiled at Chavasse Park in Liverpool. It was created by American artist Lauren Voiers and commissioned by the Global Peace Initiative, which wants to provide peace monuments on each continent. The first went to the president of Singapore for the people of Asia in 2005.
Julian and Cynthia Lennon will unveil Lennon’s monument, which is named Peace and Harmony.
Liverpool City Council leader Joe Anderson said: “The statue is there as a celebration of John’s legacy.
“The Global Peace Initiative picking John and wanting the monument in Liverpool is a real mark of the great man’s incredible achievements and the fact he touched millions and millions of lives.”
Liverpool will be rocking with a Lennon 70th birthday celebration gig weekend.
A walking tour of “John Lennon’s Liverpool” will also leave from the Cavern Club today and Sunday at 11am.
Astrid Kirchherr, the photographer and girlfriend of original Beatle Stuart Sutcliffe, is holding a Retrospective at the Victoria Gallery & Museum, until the end of January 2011.
:: The lighting of the peace tower will be streamed live at www.imaginepeacetower.com at 7.45pm today.