Bono spoke alongside Lennon’s widow Yoko Ono at the unveiling of a tapestry marking the 40th anniversary of The Beatle getting his US Green Card. Among the audience members were U2 guitarist The Edge and Salil Shetty, secretary general of Amnesty International. The tapestry, which measures 24 feet by 10 feet, depicts the island of Manhattan as a yellow submarine piloted by a waving Lennon. The image recalls the famous Beatles song and the musician’s residence in the city, where he made his home from 1971.
Addressing the crowd Bono said, “It is fitting to do this here, because John Lennon was an immigrant.”
He continued, “He didn’t sail across the Atlantic in an ocean liner or a yellow submarine. He didn’t come in on a third-class ticket looking for a job in Hell’s Kitchen. He didn’t climb up out of steerage with all his potatoes in a single suitcase. But John Lennon was an immigrant all the same.”
In his speech Bono also noted that Annie Moore, from County Cork, was the first immigrant to come through the doors of the Ellis Island facility on New Year’s Day in 1892. He also referred to the Irish parentage of all four of The Beatles.
He described Lennon as “one more Irish immigrant on an island full of Irish immigrants.
“Let’s claim him. In fact let’s claim all the Beatles not as immigrants but as Irish.”
The singer went on to pay tribute to Lennon and spoke about the effect his music had on him and The Edge growing up in Dublin. He said Lennon offered words like “'All You Need is Love' not as a balm but as a kind of dare.”
“'Give Peace A Chance' – there’s another dare. Will we?” he added.
The massive piece of art was commissioned for Ono by Art for Amnesty founder Bill Shipsey, the Irish senior counsel. The tapestry is a thank you for granting Amnesty International the rights to record cover versions of some of Lennon’s post-Beatles songs in 2004. Through the royalties from the songs the organization raised $5 million.
Ono told the crowd about the day Lennon heard he had been granted a Green Card. She said, “I heard his heart beating fast, I remember how proud he was.”
To mark the event and the date the speaker of the New York City Council Melissa Mark-Viverito declared July 29 as “John Lennon Day.”
Bono, The Edge and music business impresario Jimmy Iovine have donated the tapestry to The Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation for display at the Ellis Island National Museum of Immigration.