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How This Iconic Image of John Lennon Began With a T-shirt

Beatles john lennon music news

John Lennon would have turned 77 today, October 9, 2017. This famous photograph was taken on August 29, 1974, on the roof of John Lennon's E 52nd street penthouse, shortly after spending a year and a half in Hollywood, estranged from Yoko Ono during his "Lost Weekend."  Photographer Bob Gruen recalls how “John was back in New York, sobering up, cleaning his life up. He loved it when people treated him like a normal person rather than a Beatle, and that could happen here.”

Lennon's new album needed a cover image and press photos, and he'd worked with Gruen before. Gruen asked Lennon to wear the white T-shirt bought on the sidewalk, with NEW YORK CITY in bold black type. To roughen the look, the sleeves were cut off with a knife. Gruen wanted to capture how Lennon was becoming a New Yorker.  The pose he selected of Lennon with his arms folded, unsmiling, embodied his "street stance."

When Lennon was assassinated on December 8, 1980, promoter Ron Delsener organized a vigil in Central Park. He asked Gruen for a centerpiece image, and Gruen picked the now famous shot. The goofy poses on this contact sheet give the image a new perspective.  The photo has became an iconic portrait, capturing Lennon's love for New York City.

Read the full story at The New Yorker here

(Photo: Bob Gruen)

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