- Category : Singer - Popular
- Type : GE
- Profile : 2/4 - Hermit / Opportunist
- Definition : Single
- Incarnation Cross : RAX Penetration 3
John Winston Ono Lennon, MBE (9 October 1940 – 8 December 1980), was a 20th-century English songwriter, singer, instrumentalist, painter, author and political activist who gained worldwide fame as one of the founders of The Beatles. Lennon and Paul McCartney formed a critically acclaimed and commercially successful partnership writing songs for the Beatles and other artists. Lennon, with his cynical edge and knack for introspection, and McCartney, with his storytelling optimism and gift for melody, complemented one another uniquely. In his solo career, Lennon wrote and recorded songs such as "Imagine" and "Give Peace a Chance".
Lennon revealed his rebellious nature and irreverent wit on television, in films such as A Hard Day's Night (1964), in books such as In His Own Write, and in press conferences and interviews. He channeled his fame and penchant for controversy into his work as a peace activist, artist, and author.
He had two sons, Julian, with his first wife Cynthia, and Sean, with his second wife, avant-garde artist Yoko Ono. Lennon was murdered by a deranged fan in New York City on 8 December 1980 after he and Ono returned home from a recording session.
In 2002, respondents to a BBC poll on the 100 Greatest Britons voted Lennon into eighth place. In 2004, Rolling Stone ranked Lennon number 38 on their list of "The Immortals: The Fifty Greatest Artists of All Time" and ranked the Beatles at number 1.
John Winston Lennon was born on 9 October 1940, in the Oxford Street Maternity Hospital in Liverpool, to Julia Lennon (née Stanley) and Alfred "Freddie" Lennon, during the course of a German air raid in World War II. He was named after his paternal grandfather, John 'Jack' Lennon, and Winston Churchill. Both parents played the banjo and sang (Freddie specialised in impersonating Al Jolson) though neither pursued music professionally. Freddie Lennon was not present at John's birth. He was a merchant seaman during the war and sent regular pay cheques to Julia, who was living with John in Newcastle Road, Liverpool. The cheques stopped when Freddie went AWOL. As Freddie was seldom in Liverpool, Julia started going out to dance halls and met a Welsh soldier called 'Taffy' Williams by whom she became pregnant in late 1944. When Freddie Lennon eventually came home in 1944 he offered to look after Julia, John, and the expected baby, but Julia rejected the idea. On 19 June 1945 she gave birth to a daughter, Victoria, who was given up for adoption after intense pressure from Julia's family (the girl was later re-named Ingrid) . Lennon was not told about his half-sister's birth and never knew of her existence.
Julia later met John 'Bobby' Dykins and moved into a small flat with him. After comments on the still-married Julia 'living in sin' with Dykins and after considerable pressure from her sister, Mary "Mimi" Smith — who contacted Liverpool's Social Services and complained about John sleeping in the same bed as Julia and Dykins — Julia reluctantly handed the care of John over to Mimi. (Julia later had two daughters - Julia and Jackie - with Dykins.) In July 1946, Freddie visited Mimi and took John to Blackpool for a long 'holiday', secretly intending to emigrate to New Zealand with him. Julia and Dykins found out and followed them, and after a heated argument Freddie made the five-year-old John choose between Julia or him. John chose Freddie (twice) and then Julia walked away, but John, crying, followed her. Freddie then lost contact with the family until Beatlemania, when father and son met again.
'Mendips' - Lennon's childhood home.Throughout the rest of his childhood and adolescence, Lennon lived with his 'Auntie Mimi' and her husband George Smith (who had no children of their own) in a middle class area of Liverpool at 'Mendips' (251 Menlove Avenue). Family friends described Mimi as stubborn, impatient, and unforgiving, but she also had a sense of humour. Often, when she criticised Lennon he would respond with a joke, and the two of them would be "rolling around, laughing together". Mimi confided to a relative that although she had never wanted children, she had always wanted John. Mimi and George gave Lennon all of their attention: Mimi bought volumes of short stories, and George, who was a dairyman at a local farm, engaged John in solving crossword puzzles and bought him a harmonica. Julia Lennon visited 'Mendips' almost every day and John often visited her; she taught John how to play the banjo and the piano. She also played Elvis Presley's records to John, and would dance around her kitchen with him. Lennon was later inspired by Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry, Buddy Holly and Little Richard.
Lennon was raised as an Anglican, and like much of the population of Liverpool, he had some Irish heritage. Lennon attended Dovedale County Primary School until he passed his Eleven-Plus exam. From September 1952 to 1957, he attended the Quarry Bank Grammar School in Liverpool where he was a "happy-go-lucky" pupil, known for drawing comical cartoons and making fun of his teachers by mimicking their odd characteristics.
Julia bought Lennon his first guitar, an inexpensive model that was "guaranteed not to split", but insisted it be delivered to her house and not Mimi's. Mimi hoped that John would soon grow bored with it - she was sceptical of Lennon's claim that he would be famous one day, and often told him, "The guitar's all very well, John, but you'll never make a living out of it." Years later, when the Beatles were successful, John presented Mimi with a silver platter engraved with those words.
George Smith died in 1955 and on 15 July 1958 (when Lennon was 17) Julia was killed on Menlove Avenue by a car driven by a drunken, off-duty police officer — close to Mimi's house. Her death was one of the most traumatic events in John's life and one of the factors that cemented his friendship with McCartney, who had lost his own mother to breast cancer in 1956. Lennon named his first-born son Julian after his mother, and later wrote the song, "Julia".
Lennon failed all his GCE O-level examinations by one grade. He was accepted into the Liverpool College of Art with help from his school's headmaster and his Aunt Mimi, who was insistent that John should have some sort of academic qualifications. It was there that he met his future wife, Cynthia Powell, when Lennon was a Teddy Boy. Lennon failed his exams despite help from Powell, and was often disruptive in class with most of the teachers refusing to take him on in their classes. He also picked on anyone that was in anyway different, using his quick wit and sense of humour to bully them. He dropped out before the last year of college.
1957-1960: The Quarrymen and the Silver Beetles
Main articles: The Quarrymen and Lennon/McCartney
Lennon started the Quarry Men skiffle band in March 1957 whilst attending Quarry Bank Grammar School. Their first engagement was on 9 June 1957 at an audition for impresario Carroll Lewsis, known as "Mr. Star-Maker." A few weeks later, on 6 July 1957, Lennon and The Quarrymen met guitarist Paul McCartney at the Woolton Garden fête held at St. Peter's Church. McCartney's father later allowed the Quarrymen to rehearse in his front room at 20 Forthlin Road. During their early friendship Lennon encouraged McCartney to steal cigarettes, sweets, or books from shops, and they found a shared interest in playing jokes on the other band members and on their teachers. It was around this time that Lennon and McCartney started writing songs with each other and seperately. The first song that John completed was "Hello Little Girl" when he was eighteen years old. This later became a hit for the Fourmost.
McCartney convinced Lennon to allow George Harrison to join the Quarrymen - although Lennon considered Harrison to be too young - after Harrison played at a rehearsal in March 1958. Harrison joined the group as lead guitarist, and Stuart Sutcliffe (Lennon's art school friend) later joined as bassist. The band soon switched to playing rock 'n' roll, using the name 'Johnny and the Moondogs', but Lennon found it too musically associated to skiffle.
In the summer of 1958, the Quarrymen made their first recording: a cover of That'll Be The Day by Buddy Holly and a McCartney-Harrison original called In Spite Of All The Danger.
In 1960, the band changed its name five times. Stuart Sutcliffe suggested 'the Beetles' as a form of tribute to Buddy Holly and The Crickets, which he and Lennon then thought of changing to the 'Beatals'. They changed their name again to the 'Silver Beats', The Silver Beetles, and the 'Silver Beatles', but Lennon shortened it to the Beatles, to avoid being introduced as "Long John Silver of the Silver Beatles", which was too similar to 'Johnny and the Moondogs'. After a tour with Johnny Gentle in Scotland, they changed their name to the 'Beatles'.
Lennon was considered the leader of the Beatles, as he founded the original group. McCartney said, "We all looked up to John. He was older and he was very much the leader - he was the quickest wit and the smartest and all that kind of thing."
1960-1970: The Beatles
Main articles: The Beatles and The Beatles discography
Lennon's guitars.Allan Williams started to manage the Beatles in May 1960 after they had played in his Jacaranda club.A few months later he booked them into Bruno Koschmider's Indra club in Hamburg, Germany. Mona Best ran the Casbah Club in the basement of her home in Liverpool, where the Beatles often played in 1959, and Mona's son Pete joined the Beatles on drums as soon as their first Hamburg season was confirmed. Aunt Mimi was horrified when Lennon told her about Hamburg. She pleaded with him to continue his studies, but was ignored. The Beatles first played at the Indra club - sleeping in small, dirty rooms in the Bambi Kino - and after the closure of the Indra moved to the larger Kaiserkeller In October 1960, they left Koschmider's club and worked at the "Top Ten Club", which was run by Peter Eckhorn. Koschmider reported McCartney and Best for arson after the two attached a condom to a nail in the 'Bambi' and set fire to it. They were deported, as was George Harrison for working under-age. Days later Lennon's work permit was revoked and he went home by train, but Sutcliffe had tonsilitis and flew home. When Lennon got back to 'Mendips', his Aunt Mimi threw a cooked chicken (that Lennon had bought for her) and a hand-mirror at him for spending money on a leather coat for Cynthia Powell (John's girlfriend, and later, his wife) whom she referrred to as, "a gangster's moll".
In December 1960, the Beatles reunited, and on 21 March 1961, they played their first concert at Liverpool's Cavern club. They went back to Hamburg in April 1961, and recorded 'My Bonnie' with Tony Sheridan. Sutcliffe stayed with Astrid Kirchherr when it was time to go home, so McCartney took over bass. When Lennon was nearly 21 in October 1961, his Aunt Mater (who lived in Edinburgh) gave him 100 pounds, which he spent on a holiday to Paris with McCartney. Brian Epstein first saw the Beatles in the Cavern Club on 9 November 1961, and later signed them to a management contract.
The Beatles were driven to London by their road manager, Neil Aspinall, on 31 December 1961 and auditioned the next day for Decca Records, who rejected them. In April 1962 they returned to Hamburg to play at the Star-Club, but they learned that Stuart Sutcliffe had died a few hours before they arrived. This was another shock for Lennon, after losing Uncle George and Julia.
They finally signed a record contract on 9 May 1962, with Parlophone Records, after having been turned down by many labels. "Love Me Do" was released on 5 October 1962, featuring Lennon on harmonica and McCartney singing solo on the chorus line.
All Lennon-McCartney songs on the first pressing of Please Please Me album (recorded in one day on 11 February 1963) as well as the single "From Me to You", and its B-side, "Thank You Girl", are credited to "McCartney-Lennon", but this was later changed to "Lennon-McCartney". They usually needed an hour or two to finish a song, most of which were written in hotel rooms after a concert, at Wimpole Street, at Cavendish Avenue, or at Kenwood (John Lennon's house).
As recording technology improved, and they were doing more work in the studio than live, overdubbing was used so that Lennon might provide the harmony parts as well as the lead for his songs. The "Beatles" sound was a three-part harmony with Lennon or McCartney singing lead, and harmony provided by the others.
The group decisions were democratic, with the rule that if any member objected to an idea, the group wouldn't pursue it. The Beatles decided to stop touring, and never performed a scheduled concert again.
Lennon resented McCartney taking control of the band after Brian Epstein's death in 1967, and disliked some of the resulting projects such as Magical Mystery Tour and particularly Let It Be ("That film was set up by Paul, for Paul," as he said later to Rolling Stone). He was the first to break the band's all-for-one sensibility, and also the rule that no wives or girlfriends would attend recording sessions, as he brought Yoko into the studio.
Lennon was also the first member to quit the group, which he did in September 1969 (Starr had left during 1968, but was persuaded to return; Harrison stated he was "leaving the band" on 10 January 1969 during the rehearsal sessions for Let It Be , but returned to the group after negotiations at two business meetings). Lennon agreed not to make an announcement while the band renegotiated their recording contract, and blasted McCartney months later (with the negotiations complete) for going public with his own departure in April 1970. Phil Spector's involvement in trying to revive the Let It Be material then drove a further wedge between Lennon (who supported Spector) and McCartney (who opposed him). With the public unaware of the details, McCartney appeared to be the one who dissolved the group, depriving Lennon of the formalities. Lennon told Rolling Stone, "I was a fool not to do what Paul did, which was use it to sell a record," and later wrote, "I started the band. I finished it." Though the split would only become legal some time later, Lennon's and McCartney's partnership had come to a bitter end. McCartney soon made a press announcement, declaring he had quit the Beatles and promoting his new solo record. McCartney later admitted Lennon had been the first to quit, re-explaining the circumstances to CBS-TV's 48 Hours in 1989.
In 1970, Jann Wenner recorded an interview with Lennon that was played on BBC in 2005. The interview reveals his bitterness towards McCartney and the hostility he felt that the other members held towards Yoko Ono. Lennon said: "One of the main reasons the Beatles ended is because ... I pretty well know, we got fed up with being sidemen for Paul. After Brian Epstein died we collapsed. Paul took over and supposedly led us. But what is leading us when we went round in circles? Paul had the impression we should be thankful for what he did, for keeping the Beatles going. But he kept it going for his own sake."
1970-1975: Solo career
Further information: John Lennon discography
John Lennon in early 1970, after he cut his hair for charityLennon had a varied recording career. Whilst still a Beatle, Lennon (along with Ono) recorded three albums of experimental music, Unfinished Music No.1: Two Virgins, Unfinished Music No.2: Life with the Lions, and Wedding Album. His first 'solo' album of popular music was Live Peace in Toronto 1969, recorded prior to the breakup of the Beatles, at the Rock 'n' Roll Festival in Toronto with The Plastic Ono Band. He also recorded three solo singles: the anti-war anthem "Give Peace a Chance", the heroin withdrawal report "Cold Turkey", and "Instant Karma!". Following The Beatles' split in 1970 Lennon released the John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band album. The song "God" lists people and things Lennon no longer believed in - ending with "Beatles". The album also included "Working Class Hero" which was banned from the airwaves for its use of the word "fucking".
The album Imagine followed in 1971, and its title song soon became an anthem for anti-religion and anti-war movements. The song's video was filmed during Lennon's "white period" (white clothes, white piano, white room, and the like). He wrote "How Do You Sleep?" as an attack against McCartney, with George Harrison on slide guitar, but later claimed that it was about himself.
Some Time in New York City (1972) was loud, raucous, and explicitly political, with songs about prison riots, racial and sexual relations, the British role in Northern Ireland, and his own problems in obtaining a United States Green Card. Lennon had been interested in left-wing politics since the late 1960s, and was said to have given donations to the Trotskyist Workers Revolutionary Party.
In 1972 Lennon released "Woman Is the Nigger of the World", which drew parallels between exploitation of women and discrimination against blacks. Radio stations refused to broadcast the song and it was banned nearly everywhere, though he managed to play it to television viewers during his second appearance on The Dick Cavett Show.
On 30 August 1972 Lennon and his backing band, Elephant's Memory, staged two benefit concerts at Madison Square Garden in New York. These were to be his last full-length concert appearances. Lennon and Ono also did a week-long guest/co-hosting the Mike Douglas Show.
Following Ono's second miscarriage, she and Lennon had an argument that resulted in their separation. He moved to California and embarked on a period he would later dub his "lost weekend" (despite the fact that it lasted approximately eighteen months). Lennon released Mind Games in 1973, which was credited to "the Plastic U.F.Ono Band". It was the first solo album produced by Lennon with no input from Yoko. He wrote "I'm the Greatest" for Ringo Starr's album Ringo, and recorded his own version of the song (which appears on the John Lennon Anthology). Lennon's behavior during this period was notoriously bad, with many nights spent in a drunken stupor. The songs from this period (appearing on Mind Games and Walls and Bridges) took an apologetic tone that seem to be directed at Ono. At Ono's suggestion he took May Pang along as his assistant and his lover during this period.
Lennon released Walls and Bridges (1974), which featured a duet with Elton John on the #1 hit "Whatever Gets You Thru the Night". The album was released under the name "the Plastic Ono Nuclear Band". Another hit from the album was "#9 Dream". He made his last reference to Primal therapy in his song "Nobody Loves You (When You're Down and Out)", referring to Arthur Janov as "the one-eyed witch-doctor leading the blind." Lennon also produced Nilsson's Pussy Cats album during 1974.
Lennon made a surprise guest appearance at an Elton John concert in Madison Square Garden where they performed "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds", "Whatever Gets You Thru the Night" and "I Saw Her Standing There" together. It was to be his last-ever concert appearance in front of a rock audience. Coincidentally, Yoko Ono happened to be present and the concert, and after a backstage meeting, the two got back together. Following the performance, Lennon travelled to Florida and signed the papers legally breaking up the Beatles. After the Christmas holidays he returned to live with Yoko Ono, and she soon became pregnant with their first child.
In 1975, Lennon released the Rock 'n' Roll album of cover versions. It had been conceived several years earlier, but was complicated by the unpredictable Phil Spector's involvement as producer and by several legal battles. The album garnered mostly negative or indifferent reviews, but included a well-received cover of "Stand by Me". David Bowie achieved his first U.S. number one hit (in 1975) with "Fame", co-written with Lennon (who contributed vocals and guitar) and Carlos Alomar.
Lennon made his last public musical appearance on ATV's 18 April 1975 special A Salute to Lew Grade, performing "Imagine" and "Slippin' and Slidin" from his Rock 'n' Roll LP. Lennon's band was billed as "Etc." and the band members were costumed in two-faced masks. The "two-faced" stunt, and the line "don't want to be your fool no more" (from "Slippin' and Slidin") were seen as digs at Grade, with whom Lennon and McCartney had been in conflict over his previous control of the Beatles' publishing concerns. Dick James had sold Lennon's and McCartney's publishing rights to Grade in 1969. During "Imagine" Lennon interjected the line "and no immigration too" - a reference to his battle to remain in the United States.
On 9 October 1975 – Lennon's 35th birthday – his son Sean Ono Lennon was born, and Lennon retired from the music business to stay home and care for him.
1980 - Starting over
Lennon's retirement came to an end in 1980, a year in which he wrote an impressive amount of material during a lengthy vacation in Bermuda and began to think about recording a new album. For this comeback, he and Ono produced Double Fantasy, a concept album focusing on their relationship. The name came from a species of freesia Lennon saw at the Bermuda Botanical Gardens; he liked the name and thought it was a perfect description of his marriage to Yoko.
The Lennons once again began a series of interviews and video footage to promote the album. Although Lennon would say in interviews for the album that he had not touched a guitar for five years, several of the tunes, such as "I'm Losing You" and "Watching the Wheels", had been worked on at home in The Dakota in various stages with different lyrics from 1977 onward. "(Just Like) Starting Over" began climbing the singles charts, and Lennon started thinking about a brand new world tour. Lennon also commenced work on Milk and Honey, which he would leave unfinished. It was some time before Ono could bring herself to complete it.
Towards the end of his life, Lennon expressed his displeasure with the scant credit he was given as an influence on George Harrison in the latter's autobiography, I Me Mine. According to Ono, he was also unhappy that McCartney's Beatles songs, such as "Yesterday", "Hey Jude" and "Let It Be" were more covered than his own contributions.
In a 1980 Playboy interview Lennon claimed that some of his Beatles songs were subconsciously sabotaged, and that the group put more work into and paid more attention to McCartney's songs, whereas with his, they tended to experiment. In the same interview, Lennon was ambivalent about his time with the Beatles and the group's legacy and was not interested in talking about them any more than he would about old high school buddies. He was prompted that there was considerable speculation about whether the Beatles were now "dreaded enemies or the best of friends." He replied that they were neither, and that he hadn't seen any of the Beatles for "I don't know how much time." He also said that the last time he had seen McCartney they had watched the episode of Saturday Night Live where Lorne Michaels made his $3200 cash offer to get the Beatles to reunite on the show. The two had seriously considered going to the studio to appear on the show for a joke, but were too tired.
In one of the last major interviews of his life conducted in September 1980, three months before his death, Lennon said that he'd always been very macho and had never questioned his chauvinistic attitudes towards women until he met Ono. Lennon was always distant with his first son (Julian) but was very close to his second son (Sean), and called him "my pride". Near the end of his life, he had embraced the role of househusband and even said that he had taken on the role of wife and mother in their relationship.
Cynthia and Julian Lennon
Cynthia Powell met Lennon at the Liverpool Art College in 1957. After hearing Lennon comment favourably about another girl who looked like Brigitte Bardot, Powell changed the colour of her hair to blonde. Their relationship started after a college party before the summer holidays when Lennon asked Cynthia to go a pub with him and some friends. At this point Cynthia was already engaged to another man, a fact which she brought up when Lennon asked her to dance. Lennon replied, "I didn't ask you to fucking marry me, did I?" and stormed off. Although Lennon ignored her for the rest of the party, he talked to her as she was ready to leave, and then grabbed her hand and took her to a room Stuart Sutcliffe was renting, where they had sex. If Sutcliffe's room was not available, they often had sex in alleyways or shop doorways, but Cynthia didn't enjoy those "snatched encounters". Lennon's jealousy could manifest itself in cruel and aggressive behaviour towards Cynthia, as when Lennon slapped her across the face (knocking her head against the wall) the day after he saw her dancing with Stuart Sutcliffe. Cynthia broke up with Lennon for three months, but resumed their relationship after Lennon's profuse apology. Cynthia visited Lennon in Hamburg for two weeks in 1960, but in 1961 Lennon left her at home and went to Paris with McCartney for a holiday.
In the summer of 1962, Cynthia discovered she was pregnant. Lennon proposed marriage, but when he told Mimi she screamed and raged at Lennon to stop him from going through with it. Lennon and Cynthia were married on 23 August at the Mount Pleasant Register office in Liverpool. Mimi did not attend.
On April 8, 1963, John Charles Julian Lennon was born in Sefton General Hospital. John did not see Julian until a week after he was born because of commitments with the Beatles. The birth of John's son and his marriage to Cynthia was kept secret from the public, due to Brian Epstein's insistence that it would harm John's image with the Beatles' female fans.
According to Cynthia, in a 1995 interview, there were problems throughout their marriage because of the pressures of the Beatles' fame and rigorous touring, and because of Lennon's increasing use of drugs. Their marriage all but came to an end when Cynthia came back from a holiday in Greece with friends to find that John and Yoko had been in bed together. John did not deny the fact but when Cynthia left for a while he phoned her and said "I can't understand why you went off". Cynthia found out about the definite end of their marriage when John refused to go on a family holiday with them and was later shown in a newspaper making his affair with Yoko public. To make matters worse Lennon sent a mutual friend to Italy to inform her that he was going to take their child and force her to leave their home. He also arranged for divorce, stating that she was the one who had committed adultery, not him.. In the ensuing court case Lennon refused to give his wife anymore than £75,000, telling her "What have you done to deserve it? Christ, it's like winning the bloody pools". In the end however she got £100,000 plus £2,400 a year, custody of Julian and the house.
Lennon was distant to his son, Julian, who felt closer to McCartney than to him. The younger Lennon later said, "I've never really wanted to know the truth about how dad was with me. There was some very negative stuff talked about me ... like when he said I'd come out of a whiskey bottle on a Saturday night. Stuff like that. You think, where's the love in that? Paul and I used to hang about quite a bit ... more than dad and I did. We had a great friendship going and there seems to be far more pictures of me and Paul playing together at that age than there are pictures of me and my dad." When Lennon moved to New York in 1971, Julian did not see him until 1973. After encouragement from May Pang, it was finally arranged for Julian to visit John and her in Los Angeles. Lennon was said to be very nervous beforehand but the visit went well. After this point, Julian started to see his father more regularly, and played drums on "Ya Ya" from Lennon's 1974 album, Walls and Bridges. Lennon also bought Julian a Gibson Les Paul guitar for his eleventh birthday in 1974 and encouraged his growing interest in music.
Lennon was quoted as saying: "Sean was a planned child, and therein lies the difference. I don't love Julian any less as a child.
According to Cynthia, after the break-up with John, McCartney visited Cynthia and jokingly suggested marriage, reportedly saying, "How's about you and me, Cyn?"
In an interview, Lennon said he was trying to re-establish a connection with the then 17-year-old Julian, and confidently predicted that "Julian and I will have a relationship in the future."
Both Julian and Sean Lennon went on to have recording careers years after their father's death.