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REYKJAVIK (Reuters) - Artist and musician Yoko Ono said on Friday she was still getting over the death of her husband John Lennon, who was gunned down in New York nearly 30 years ago.
Speaking ahead of what would have been the ex-Beatle's 70th birthday on Saturday, Ono, 77, was in Iceland for the re-lighting of the Imagine Peace Tower that she created in memory of one of the world's must influential songwriters.
"Well, it was very hard because it was a sudden thing that happened, he wasn't ill for a long time or anything, it's just, we were talking before that you know, and, it was very hard," she told Reuters, recalling the moment Lennon was shot outside his apartment building in New York on December 8, 1980.
"I think I am getting over it in a kind of way, in my own unique way, but it's still lingering," she added.
The Imagine Peace Tower, consisting of searchlights reflected upward high into the sky, is located near Reykjavik in Iceland, and was unveiled in 2007 by Ono to symbolize wisdom, healing and joy.
The event in Reykjavik is one of several being organized around the world to mark the anniversary on October 9. Internet search site Google paid tribute to Lennon with a hand-drawn logo and mini-video based on his hit "Imagine".
"It's very interesting, you know, that songs like 'Gimme Some Truth' mean a lot now, and of course 'Give Peace a Chance'. ... 'Imagine'. All his political songs really have a lot of meaning right now for people," Ono said on Friday.
Before earning acclaim as a solo artist after The Beatles broke up in 1970, Lennon was also part of one of the 20th century's most successful songwriting partnerships alongside Paul McCartney.
The pair were responsible for a string of seminal hits, including "She Loves You," "I Want to Hold Your Hand" and "A Hard Day's Night."
According to Ono, Lennon's music during and after the Beatles was of equal quality, but his later work was more sincere.
"Of course musically there was no difference in a sense that neither was inferior (to) the other," she said, when asked to compare the two phases of Lennon's musical career.
"I think that his direction changed a little ... I think he was more honest to himself after The Beatles."
Japanese-born Ono believes Lennon, who became a symbol of the anti-Vietnam war movement, would still be politically active were he alive today, but that after his death it was up to her to carry on his message of peace.
"We were partners and it was almost like we were in a battleground, really struggling you know, for peace, for world peace, against all odds.
"Many people didn't like us speaking out about war, and war and peace, and then suddenly he was gunned down so I had to continue as a partner."
Ono also defended herself against criticism that, as the guardian of Lennon's legacy, she agreed to lend his name to commercial ventures, including one by luxury pen maker Montblanc.
"I didn't get any money from it so it was not a business decision," Ono said of Montblanc's Lennon range that includes a limited-edition pen retailing at $27,000.
She said it was important to preserve the art of handwriting in the age of computers, and expected some of the proceeds from the range to go to a musical charity called the John Lennon Educational Tour Bus.
Ono has also overseen the release of a digitally remastered Lennon catalog that includes eight studio albums and several newly compiled titles on the EMI Music label.
Additional reporting and writing by Mike Collett-White; Editing by Jill Serjeant