NEW YORK – Dozens of fans gathered Friday morning to pay their respects to former Beatle George Harrison at Strawberry Fields, a section of Manhattan's Central Park dedicated to the memory of fellow band member John Lennon.
Harrison, 58, died Thursday of lung cancer at a friend's Los Angeles home. News of his death became public early Friday, and within hours Beatle enthusiasts headed to the park for an impromptu memorial, many of them leaving flowers, candles and notes at a makeshift shrine, while others paused to reflect before continuing to or from work.
Joe Crow Ramsey, 48, an engineer from Tuxedo Park, N.Y., placed a green apple at the memorial, recalling the trademark of Apple Records, the record label that produced several Beatles albums.
"I spent my childhood watching that apple go round and round on records," he said. "The Beatles and my old man were the two biggest things in my life: my old man because I hated him and The Beatles because I love them."
Strawberry Fields, which takes its name from the hit Beatles single, was dedicated to Lennon after his 1980 shooting death at the hands of a deranged fan outside Lennon's apartment building near Central Park. On any given day, a lighted candle or vase of flowers can be seen there on a mosaic with the word "IMAGINE."
Near the mosaic, one fan placed a drawing of Lennon with Harrison with the inscription "Goodbye George. May you and John be together forever."
Michael Vishnick, 36, visiting from London, said he rushed to Strawberry Fields when he heard Harrison had died.
"The Beatles' message of peace and love will always be with us, but it's still upsetting," Vishnick said. "It's comforting to be in this place at this time."
"I just decided to buy a bottle of wine and some roses at the corner and head over here," said John Soler, 38, a restaurateur from Manhattan. The first fan to arrive, Soler said he brought his laptop so he could play Beatles music.
With Harrison's passing, only two members of the original band — Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr — survive.
"He was a very big part of my life," said Steve Yalof, of Manhattan, who paused during a morning jog to pay his respects. "Both me and my guitar are gently weeping."
Eric Clapton played the guitar for "While My Guitar Gently Weeps," the song Harrison wrote for the group's 1968 White Album.
Joe Canning, 42, an electrician from Queens and a Beatles fan for 30 years, said Harrison's death was meaningful to his generation.
"We're all getting older, we're all getting up to that age. Nothing lasts forever, all good things come to an end," Canning said.
The Beatles were four distinct personalities joined as a singular force in the rebellious 1960s, influencing everything from hair styles to music. Whether dropping acid, proclaiming "All You Need is Love" or sending up the squares in the film A Hard Day's Night, the Beatles inspired millions.
Pete Degan, 42, of Goshen, N.Y., said he owns more than 300 albums related to the Beatles and the band members. He said he learned of Harrison's death on the Internet, which he said he monitored closely for word of the musician's health progress.
"It's a sad day for rock and roll," Degan said.
Strawberry Fields plays host to a vigil every Dec. 8 commemorating Lennon's killing across the street. During last year's vigil, Mayor Rudolph Giuliani refused to lift a 1 a.m. curfew at the park to let fans continue their commemoration. The move sparked criticism from Lennon's fans, the mayor of London and Lennon's widow, Yoko Ono.