John Lennon at 70? We can only imagine

Fourteen years after Pete Townshend dismissed the idea of growing up when he wrote "Hope I die before I get old," a 40-year-old John Lennon sang a very different tune.

"I can hardly wait to see you come of age," he sang in 1980 to his then-5-year-old son, Sean, unabashedly anticipating the future. And to his wife, Yoko Ono, he borrowed a sentiment from poet Robert Browning and crooned "Grow old with me / The best is yet to be ... whatever fate decrees, we will see it through."

Fate, however, had something other than old age in store for Lennon, who died at the hands of a crazed fan just a few months after recording those songs.

"It's hard to believe he would be 70," Lennon's friend Elton John said last week. "It's hard to believe he missed out on the computer, on Twitter. I wonder what he would have made of it all? I have a feeling he would have grabbed and run with it. John Lennon, who gave so much - he would still be at the forefront."

Three decades after his death, in some respects he is. The approach of what would have been Lennon's 70th birthday on Saturday brings with it a raft of special commemorations, recordings, films, books and live performances that indicate Lennon's hold on the world's imagination is as strong as ever.

"He, more than so many artists, truly just bared his soul," said Robert Santelli, executive director of L.A.'s Grammy Museum, which on Monday opened an exhibit, "John Lennon, Songwriter," focusing on his musical legacy.

EMI and Capitol Records will give Lennon's post-Beatles solo catalog a major sonic upgrade with remastered versions of all of his albums, which were to be released on Tuesday individually and in an 11-CD "John Lennon Signature Box" full of extras and bonus tracks.

PBS makes Lennon an honorary American by including him in its "American Masters" series by way of a new two-hour documentary, "LennoNYC," slated to air Nov. 22 and focusing on his and Ono's years living in New York.

The American Cinematheque is wrapping up a full weekend of Lennon-related films including the Los Angeles premiere of "Nowhere Boy," director Sam Taylor Wood's exploration of Lennon's pre-Beatles days in Liverpool as a member of the Quarrymen.

Various cities are hosting birthday vigils and celebrations, including a gathering Saturday at noon in Hollywood outside Capitol Records at Lennon's star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

His first wife, Cynthia, and their son, Julian, will unveil a peace monument in his hometown of Liverpool on Saturday.

Ono will spend that day in Reykjavik, Iceland, performing with the Plastic Ono Band at a peace concert, lighting the Imagine Peace Tower in his memory and burying a time capsule to be opened on the 100th anniversary of Lennon's birth in 2040.

Former Capitol Records executive Jon Polk has crafted "The John Lennon Box of Vision," akin to "The Beatles Box of Vision" he put together last year. It packages all of the original 12-inch by 12-inch album cover artwork with extensive liner notes and other extras.

A new book documenting his final recording sessions through interviews with most of the participants is due for publication this month - author-musician Ken Sharp's "Starting Over: The Making of John Lennon and Yoko Ono's 'Double Fantasy'" (Simon and Schuster, $26.99).