December 9, 2000 <http://www.herald.com:80/content/today/digdocs/098616.htm> Castro pays homage to late musician John Lennon By VIVIAN SEQUERA Associated Press Writer HAVANA -- (AP) -- President Fidel Castro made a surprise appearance at a homage to the late musician John Lennon on the 20th anniversary of his death and said he was sorry he never got to meet the former Beatle. After the unveiling Friday of a bronze statue of Lennon in a Havana park, Castro said that he and the musician "dreamed of .... the same things." "I would tell him: I am sorry I never got to know you," the communist leader said. Castro decided to attend the ceremony because of Lennon's activism for world peace and his criticism of the Vietnam war. Lennon was shot to death by a disturbed fan outside his New York apartment building on the night of Dec. 8, 1980. Lennon and the Beatles have always been popular in Cuba, even though the group's music was banned for a time on the nation's airwaves. Beatles fans always found a way to listen to their favorite group, either through foreign radio stations that can sometimes be heard here or on secondhand records passed among friends. During the 1960s and 1970s, there were also campaigns against the island's long-haired hippies, and there were some reported cases of young Cuban men having there hair forcibly cut. "It is very possible there had been some extremism," Castro said. "It is very possible for distinct reasons. "I never cut anyone's hair," he added. "I don't know anything about this, I am not to blame." Castro, 74, said he had heard about the Beatles at the height of their success, but didn't listen to their music back then. "I really didn't have much time ... we had so much going on here," he said. During the homage to Lennon organized by the communist government, Castro and folk singer Silvio Rodriguez together pulled away a white cloth covering the two-ton bronze statue of the musician sitting on a park bench. It was designed by Cuban sculptor Jose Villa. Later Friday, several groups of Cuban musicians were to perform Lennon's tunes, including "Yesterday" and "Imagine" in the park.
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