To celebrate the 40th birthday of her husband John Lennon, and the fifth of her son Sean, Yoko Ono hired an aircraft pilot to skywrite a message in the sky above the Dakota.
Lennon and Ono had been inside the Hit Factory studio since the previous day, working on Double Fantasy. Yoko gave him a tie she had knitted, and later on presented him with a box containing a diamond and ruby US flag brooch, which he pinned to the tie.
By midday dozens of fans were assembled outside the Dakota, not realising Lennon wasn't there. Two women brought a sign made out of sheets which read Happy Birthday John Lennon, which they spread on the pavement so it would have been visibile from his apartment.
Shortly afterwards Lennon arrived back from the Hit Factory. They were driven in a limousine to the Dakota and went inside without many of the fans noticing.
At around 5pm the skywriting began over Central Park, and the crowds of fans ran to the park to try to get a glimpse of Lennon. They saw instead Sean and assistant Fred Seaman standing on the roof of the Dakota, but Lennon was asleep and missed the show.
The message read: "Happy Birthday John & Sean - Love Yoko", and was written nine times in the sky. The occasion became a major news item on US television.
Later on Yoko Ono stepped outside the building to see the display, but by that time the writing had disappeared. She told the fans that John was asleep and wouldn't be coming out, and thanked them for visiting.
Later in the day, Lennon and Ono were photographed for an official 40th birthday portrait. Their assistant, Fred Seaman, announced to the press that "next spring, John and Yoko will be touring Japan, USA and Europe," with the promise of a return to England after a nine-year absence.
Also on this day...
- 2017: New book! Riding So High – The Beatles and Drugs
- 2015: Ringo Starr live at Queen Elizabeth Theatre, Vancouver, BC, Canada
- 2013: Paul McCartney live at Frank Sinatra School of the Arts, New York
- 2011: Sir Paul McCartney marries Nancy Shevell
- 2010: Photograph of John Lennon is projected onto Liverpool’s Albert Dock
- 2010: “And the world will be as one”: Global tributes take place for John Lennon’s 70th birthday
- 2010: Yoko Ono requests a million tweets for John Lennon
- 2009: Yoko Ono unveils Imagine Peace Tower in Second Life
- 2000: Tributes for John Lennon’s 60th birthday
- 1998: Yoko Ono dedicates a tree to John Lennon in Strawberry Fields
- 1990: Imagine is broadcast around the world
- 1988: John Lennon tributes are broadcast on US television
- 1985: Strawberry Fields is opened in Central Park, New York City
- 1984: Yoko Ono donates $90,000 to Strawberry Field in Liverpool
- 1981: John Lennon statue is unveiled in Los Angeles
- 1979: John Lennon’s 39th birthday party, Tavern On The Green, New York
- 1978: John Lennon’s 38th birthday party, Tavern On The Green, New York
- 1976: John Lennon’s 36th birthday
- 1975: Sean Lennon is born
- 1971: John Lennon’s all-star 31st birthday party in Syracuse, New York
- 1971: Yoko Ono’s art exhibition This Is Not Here opens in Syracuse, New York
- 1970: Recording: Remember by John Lennon
- 1970: John Lennon sees his father Alf for the final time
- 1969: Yoko Ono is taken to hospital in London
- 1968: Recording, mixing: The Continuing Story Of Bungalow Bill, Long Long Long, Why Don’t We Do It In The Road
- 1967: John Lennon’s 27th birthday
- 1966: John Lennon celebrates his 26th birthday in Spain
- 1965: The Beatles celebrate John Lennon’s 25th birthday
- 1964: Live: Gaumont Cinema, Bradford
- 1963: Radio: The Ken Dodd Show
- 1962: The Beatles promote Love Me Do in London
- 1961: John Lennon celebrates his 21st birthday with Paul McCartney in Paris
- 1960: Live: Kaiserkeller, Hamburg
- 1956: John Lennon’s 16th birthday
- 1940: John Lennon is born
Want more? Visit the Beatles history section.