John Winston Ono Lennon, MBE
1940 – 8 December 1980) was an English rock
, and peace activist
who gained worldwide fame as one of the founding members of
. With Paul McCartney
, Lennon formed one of the most
influential and successful songwriting
of the 20th century and "wrote some of the most
popular music in rock and roll history". He is ranked the
second most successful songwriter in UK singles chart history after McCartney.
Lennon revealed a rebellious nature and biting wit in his music, on
film, in books, and at press conferences and interviews. He was
controversial through his work as a peace activist and visual
artist. After The Beatles, Lennon enjoyed a successful solo career
with such acclaimed albums as John Lennon/Plastic Ono
and iconic songs such as "Give Peace
" and "Imagine
self-imposed "retirement" to raise his son Sean, Lennon reemerged with a comeback album,
Double Fantasy, but was
murdered less than one month after its release.
album would go on to win the 1981 Grammy Award for Album of the
In 2002, respondents to a BBC poll on the 100 Greatest Britons
eighth. In 2004, Rolling
magazine ranked Lennon number 38 on its list of "The
Immortals: The Fifty Greatest Artists of All Time" (The Beatles
being number one). He was also ranked fifth greatest singer of all
time by Rolling Stone
in 2008. He was posthumously inducted into both the
Songwriters Hall of Fame in
1987 and the Rock and Roll
Hall of Fame in 1994.
Early years: 1940–57
John Winston Lennon was born
in the Liverpool Maternity Hospital, Oxford Street, Liverpool, to Julia Lennon (born
Stanley) and Alfred Lennon, during
the course of a German air raid in World
Julia's sister, Mary
, ran through the blacked-out back roads to reach
the hospital. During the two-mile trek to the hospital, she used
the explosions to see where she was going. John was named after his
paternal grandfather, John 'Jack' Lennon, and Winston Churchill
.Alf was a merchant
seaman during World War II, and was often away from home, but sent
regular pay cheques to Julia, who was living with the young Lennon
at 9 Newcastle Road, Liverpool, but the cheques stopped when Alf
went absent without leave in 1943. When Alf eventually came home in
1944, he offered to look after his wife and son, but Julia (who was
pregnant with another man's child) rejected the idea. After
considerable pressure from her sister, Mimi Smith (who contacted
Liverpool's Social Services
complain about Julia), Julia handed the care of Lennon over to
July 1946, Alf visited Mimi and took Lennon to Blackpool, secretly intending to emigrate to New Zealand with
Julia followed them, and after a very heated argument,
Alf made the five-year-old Lennon choose between Julia or him, and
Lennon chose him twice. As Julia walked away, however, Lennon began
to cry and followed her. Alf then lost contact with Lennon for
twenty years until the height of Beatlemania
, when father and son met again.
the rest of his childhood and adolescence, Lennon lived with his
Aunt Mimi and her husband George
Smith, who had no children of their own, in Woolton, in a house
called "Mendips" (251 Menlove Avenue).
Mendips, George and Mimi Smith's
home, where Lennon lived for most of his childhood and
Mimi bought volumes of short stories for
Lennon, and George, who was a dairyman at his family's farm,
engaged Lennon in solving crossword puzzles, and bought him a
harmonica. (Smith died on 5 June 1955). Julia Lennon visited
Mendips almost every day, and when Lennon was 11 he often visited
her at 1 Blomfield Road, Liverpool. Julia taught Lennon how to play
, and played Elvis Presley's
records for him. The first
song he learned was Fats Domino
"Ain't That A Shame
a large affiliation with Fleetwood where he regularly visited his cousin Stanley
Parkes, the 'big brother' to the young John, the son of his Aunt
Elizabeth (known as Mater). Unfortunately George Parkes, the husband
of Elizabeth and father of Stanley, died young and they moved to 33
Galloway Road where they lived with a local Fleetwood solicitor Mr Hodson. Stanley recalls he
would often visit Liverpool and return to Fleetwood in the school holidays with his othe cousin Leila,
Aunt Harriet's daughter. Stanley recalls they would all go up to
Blackpool on the tram two or three times a week during their
summer holidays to see separate shows. They would visit the
Tower Circus and see artists such as Dickie Valentine, Arthur
Askey, Max Bygraves and Joe Loss and his big band.
Stanley recalls it was George Formby
who John particularly liked. The duo used to pass Formby's house
regularly on the bus journey from Preston to Fleetwood where he and his wife would often be sitting in
deck chairs in their garden at the front of their house.
Stanley recalls he and John would wave and they would wave back.
Stanley and the young John were keen fans of Fleetwood Flyers
Speedway Club and Fleetwood Town
Lennon was raised as an Anglican
attended Dovedale Primary
until he passed his Eleven-Plus
exam. From September 1952
to 1957, he attended the Quarry Bank High School in Liverpool, where he was known as a
"happy-go-lucky" pupil, drawing comical cartoons and mimicking his teachers.
Julia bought Lennon his first guitar in 1957, which was a Gallotone Champion
acoustic (a cheap
model that was "guaranteed not to split"). Julia insisted it be
delivered to her house and not to Mimi's, who hoped that Lennon
would grow bored with music; she was skeptical of Lennon's claim
that he would be famous one day, often telling him, "The guitar's
all very well, John, but you'll never make a living out of it". On
15 July 1958, when Lennon was 17, Julia was killed in Menlove
Avenue (close to Mimi's house) when struck by a car driven by an
off-duty police officer. Her death would be a bond between Lennon
and McCartney, who also lost his mother (to breast cancer
) on 31 October 1956.
failed all his GCE
O-level examinations, and was only accepted into the Liverpool
College of Art with help from his school's headmaster and Mimi.
There, Lennon met his
future wife, Cynthia Powell
, when he
was a Teddy Boy
. Lennon was often
disruptive in class and ridiculed his teachers, resulting in them
refusing to have him as a student. Lennon failed an annual Art
College exam despite help from Powell, and dropped out before his
last year of college.
The Beatles: 1957–70
Lennon decided that he wanted to try making music himself, he and
Bank High School friend Eric Griffiths
took guitar lessons at Hunts Cross in Liverpool, although Lennon gave up the lessons
Lennon started The
in March 1957. On 6 July 1957, Lennon met McCartney at the
Quarrymen's second concert at the St. Peter's Church Woolton Garden
fête.McCartney's father told his son that Lennon
would get him "into a lot of trouble", but later allowed The
Quarrymen to rehearse in the front room at 20 Forthlin
There, Lennon and McCartney began writing
songs together. The first song Lennon completed was "Hello, Little
Girl" when he was 18 years old, which later became a hit for the
.McCartney convinced Lennon to
allow George Harrison
to join the
Quarrymen (even though Lennon thought Harrison to be too young)
after Harrison played the song "Raunchy
" for Lennon on the upper deck of a
bus. Harrison joined the band as lead
, and Stuart Sutcliffe
— Lennon's friend from art school — later joined as bassist
.After a series of name changes, the
group decided on The Beatles. Lennon was always considered the
leader of the group, as McCartney explained: "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".
became the Beatles'
first manager 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
Lennon's Aunt Mimi was horrified
when he told her about the trip to Hamburg, and pleaded with him to
continue his studies. After the first residency Sutcliffe left The
Beatles to concentrate on his artwork, and to be with his
girlfriend, Astrid Kirchherr
McCartney took over as bass player for the group. Koschmider
reported McCartney and drummer Pete Best
for arson after the two attached a condom
a nail in the 'Bambi' (a cinema where they were staying) and set
fire to it. They were deported, as was Harrison for working under
age. A few days later Lennon's work permit was revoked and he went
home by train.
After Harrison turned 18 and the immigration problems had been
solved, The Beatles went back to Hamburg for another residency in
April 1961. While they were there, they recorded "My Bonnie
" with Tony
. In April 1962, The Beatles went back to
Hamburg to play at the Star-Club, and were told that Sutcliffe had died two days
before they arrived.
This was another blow for Lennon, after
losing his uncle and his mother.
November 1961, The Beatles performed a lunchtime concert at the
Club in Liverpool. Brian
, owner of NEMS Music Store, attended the performance
and was quite impressed. In a meeting with the group at NEMS on 3
December 1961, Epstein proposed the idea of managing them, and they
Although Epstein had had no prior experience of artist management,
he had a strong influence on their early dress-code and attitude on
stage. He encouraged them to wear suits and ties and insisted that
they stop swearing, smoking, drinking or eating onstage. He also
suggested the famous synchronised bow at the end of their
performances. Lennon was against the idea of wearing suits and
ties, but later agreed, saying "I'll wear a bloody balloon if
somebody's going to pay me". Epstein began auditioning the group to
all the major record labels, and was rejected by all. His
persistance paid off when on 9 May 1962, George Martin
signed The Beatles to EMI's
comedy label, Parlophone
The Beatles released their first double-sided original single,
"Love Me Do
"P.S. I Love You
" on 5 October;
it reached #17 on the British charts. On 11 February 1963, the
group recorded their first album Please Please Me
in one day with
Lennon suffering from a common cold. Originally the
Lennon-McCartney songs on the first pressing of the album, as well
as the single "From Me to You
its B-side "Thank You Girl
credited to "McCartney-Lennon", but this was later changed to
"Lennon-McCartney". Lennon and McCartney usually needed an hour
or two to finish a song, most of which were written in hotel rooms
after a concert, at Wimpole Street — Jane
Asher's home — or at Cavendish Avenue; McCartney's home or at
Kenwood (Lennon's house).
and single hit #1 in Britain, and EMI offered the album to their US
Records, but they turned it down.
secured a deal with Vee-Jay Records
a predominantly black R&B and gospel label. Neither the single
nor the accompanying album, Introducing... The Beatles
in the US. By the time the group recorded "She Loves You
", they were dropped from Vee Jay
and once again, Capitol declined to release their records. EMI were
forced to release it on the even more obscure Swan Records
label. It did eventually hit #1 in
January 1964, after Capitol Records finally released "I Want To Hold Your Hand
America. Following their historic appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show
, The Beatles
would embark on a two-year non-stop period of productivity:
constant international tours, making movies, and writing hit songs.
Lennon wrote two books, In His Own
Spaniard in the Works
, while The Beatles achieved
recognition from the British Establishment when they were appointed
Members of the Order of the
in the 1965 Queen's Birthday Honours
John Lennon in 1964
Lennon complained that nobody heard them play for all the
screaming, and their musicianship was beginning to suffer. By the
time he wrote his 1965 song "Help!
Lennon had put on quite a bit of weight (and would later refer to
this as his "Fat Elvis" period) and realised he was subconsciously
crying out for help and seeking change.
The catalyst for this change occurred on 4 March 1966, when Lennon was interviewed for the London Evening Standard by Maureen Cleave, and talked about Christianity by saying: "Christianity will go. It will vanish and shrink… We're more popular than Jesus now—I don't know which will go first, rock and roll or Christianity." Lennon's comment went virtually unnoticed in England but created a controversy when quoted by American teen magazine Datebook five months later. Burning of Beatles records, the involvement of the Ku Klux Klan and threats against Lennon greatly contributed to the band's decision to stop touring.
But Lennon soon felt lost without the group. "No more touring...
life without the Beatles, it's like a black space in the future",
he said, and considered leaving the band at this time. With the
group's live performance days behind them, they concentrated on
studio recording and songwriting. Up to this point, Lennon had been
the more dominant songwriter (more of his songs were featured as
singles), but from the album Revolver
, McCartney would become the
driving force behind the band. Harrison was also becoming a
prolific songwriter. Shortly after their landmark album Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts
was released, the sudden death of Brian Epstein also
changed the dynamic within the group.
McCartney orchestrated the group's first post-Epstein project, the
film Magical Mystery
, which proved to be the group's first critical flop
. "I knew we were in trouble then", Lennon later
said. "I didn't have any misconceptions about our ability to do
anything other than play music, and I was scared".
To further complicate things, The Beatles would, as Lennon put it,
"become businessmen" and form their own record (and film, clothing,
electronics and publishing) company, Apple
. By now Lennon had met Yoko Ono
and was retreating into his own world of
drugs, McCartney had met his future wife, Linda Eastman
, and the group realised that
they needed professional management of Apple. Lennon reached out to
American music executive Allen Klein
take the helm, despite warnings from Mick
(Klein had also managed The Rolling Stones
). McCartney also
voiced his displeasure, preferring his future in-laws to take
charge. Harrison and Starr, however, also went with Klein and
tensions were mounting.
Just as The Beatles released their final album, Abbey Road
, Lennon left the group in September
1969, but agreed not to make an announcement while the band
renegotiated their recording contract. He became irate when
McCartney issued a self question-and-answer interview in April
1970, declaring that he was no longer a member of The Beatles.
Lennon's reaction when told was, "Jesus Christ! He [McCartney] gets
all the credit for it!" Lennon later told Rolling Stone
: "I was a fool not to do
what Paul did, which was use it to sell a record." (McCartney's
first solo album
) and later wrote,
"I started the band. I finished it".
In 1970, Jann Wenner
interview with Lennon for Rolling Stone (known as "Lennon
Remembers") that revealed his bitterness towards McCartney and the
hostility he felt that the other members had for Ono. Lennon said:
"[W]e 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?"
At the end of 1968, Lennon performed as part of the group Dirty Mac
, in The
' film Rock
and Roll Circus
. The supergroup
, made up of Lennon, Eric Clapton
and Mitch Mitchell
backed Ono's performance. Lennon and Ono were married on 20 March
1969, and he soon released a series of 14 lithographs
called "Bag One" depicting scenes
from their honeymoon, eight of which were deemed indecent and most
were banned and confiscated.
Lennon and Ono recorded three albums of experimental music
together: Unfinished Music No.1: Two
, an album known more for its cover than the
musical content, Unfinished Music
No.2: Life with the Lions
, and Wedding Album
. His first "solo" album was
Live Peace in Toronto
—recorded prior to the breakup of The Beatles—recorded
at a 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",
", and "Instant Karma!
". Following The Beatles' split
in 1970, Lennon released John Lennon/Plastic Ono
a raw emotional album that dealt with Lennon's pain
in losing his mother and split with The Beatles. It included
"Working Class Hero
", which was
banned by BBC Radio
for its inclusion of
the word "fucking".
His album Imagine
in 1971, and the title song would later become an anthem for
anti-war movements. It also included the track "How Do You Sleep?
" -- a musical attack on
McCartney. Although Lennon softened his stance in the mid-70s and
claimed he wrote the song about himself, he revealed in 1980, "I
used my resentment against Paul... to create a song... not a
terrible vicious horrible vendetta... I used my resentment and
withdrawing from Paul and The Beatles, and the relationship with
Paul, to write 'How Do You Sleep'. I don't really go 'round with
those thoughts in my head all the time".
On 31 August 1971, Lennon left England for New York, and released
the "Happy Xmas
" single in
December 1971. To advertise the single, Lennon and Ono paid for
billboards in 9 major cities (and 7 different languages) which
declared: "WAR IS OVER!... if you want it". Some Time in New York City
was then released in 1972. Recorded with Elephant's Memory, it contained songs
about women's rights, race relations, Britain's role in Northern
Ireland, and Lennon's problems obtaining a United States
Lennon had been interested in left-wing
politics since the late 1960s, and
reportedly donated money to the Trotskyist Workers Revolutionary
In 1972, Lennon released "Woman Is the Nigger of the
". Many radio stations refused to broadcast the song,
although Lennon was allowed to perform it on The Dick Cavett Show
. On 30 August 1972
Lennon and Elephant's Memory gave two benefit concerts at Madison
Square Garden in New York to benefit the patients at the Willowbrook
State School mental facility on Staten Island.
These were to be Lennon's last full-length
In November 1973, Lennon released Mind
, which was credited to "the Plastic U.F.Ono Band".
He also wrote "I'm the Greatest
for Starr's album Ringo
own demo version of the song appears on the John Lennon Anthology
's album Pussy Cats
and also produced "Too Many Cooks
(Spoil The Soup)" for Mick Jagger
September 1974, Lennon released Walls and Bridges
and the single
"Whatever Gets You Thru
" (a #1 duet with Elton
). A second single from the album, "#9 Dream
", was released in December. He wrote
" for Starr, and
played piano on the recording. On 28 November, Lennon made a surprise guest
appearance at Elton John's Thanksgiving
concert at Madison
Square Garden after he lost a bet with
John that "Whatever Gets You" would reach #1.
performed "Lucy in the Sky
", "Whatever Gets You Thru the Night" and
"I Saw Her Standing
In January 1975, Lennon co-wrote and recorded "Fame
" with David Bowie
which became Bowie's first US #1 hit. Lennon released
, an album of cover songs, in February 1975 – with
Lennon made his last stage appearance on ATV
's 18 April 1975 special called
A Salute to Lew Grade
", "Stand By Me" (cut from
the televised edition), and "Slippin' and Slidin'" from his
Rock 'n' Roll
LP. Lennon's backup band was BOMF (known as
"Etc." that evening). The band members wore two-faced masks which
were digs at Grade, with whom Lennon and McCartney had been in
conflict because of Grade's control of The Beatles' publishing
company. Dick James
, The Beatles'
publisher, had sold his majority share in Maclen Music (Lennon's
and McCartney's publishing company) 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. In October
1975, Lennon fulfilled his contractual obligation to EMI/Capitol
for one more album by releasing Shaved
, a greatest hits compilation.
In June 1976, Lennon wrote and recorded "Cookin' (In The Kitchen of
Love)" with Ringo Starr, his last recording session until his 1980
comeback. Lennon also offered to design the cover for an upcoming
Beatles compilation album from Capitol/EMI, Rock 'n' Roll
, but EMI declined his offer.
In 1977, Lennon announced in Tokyo that "we have basically decided,
without any great decision, to be with our baby as much as we can
until we feel we can take time off to indulge ourselves in creating
things outside of the family." During this period he also drafted a
manuscript that would be posthumously published as a book called
Skywriting by Word of
as well as several series of drawings which would also be
He emerged from retirement in November 1980, releasing Double
, which also featured Ono. That previous June,
Lennon traveled to Bermuda on a 43-foot sloop, where he
wrote songs for the album. The name of the album refers to a species
of freesia flower that Lennon had seen in
Botanical Gardens and saw it as a perfect description of his marriage
Lennon had written and recorded enough material for
another album and was already planning his follow-up, Milk and Honey
, which was
released posthumously in 1984.
Marriages and relationships
In one of his last major interviews Lennon said that he had never
questioned his chauvinistic
towards women until he met Ono. Lennon was always distant with his
first son, Julian, but was close to his second son, Sean, calling
him "My pride". Near the end of his life, Lennon said that he
accepted the role of househusband
after taking on the role of 'housewife' in his relationship with
Ono. Lennon was always asked about his fellow Beatles and his
answer would change with every interview.
Powell met Lennon at the Liverpool Art College in 1957.
Although Lennon was not her type,
she was attracted to him. 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 Powell to go to
a public house
with him and some
friends. Powell told him she was engaged (to a young man called
Barry, in Hoylake) so Lennon stormed off, shouting, "I didn't ask
you to fucking marry me, did I!?" Lennon was often jealous, and
once slapped Powell across the face (knocking her head against the
wall) the day after he saw her dancing with Sutcliffe. In mid-1962,
Powell discovered she was pregnant with Lennon's child. They were
married on 23 August at the Mount Pleasant Register Office
in Liverpool. Manager
Epstein thought a married Beatle might alienate some fans and
insisted the Lennons keep their union a secret. John Charles Julian Lennon
was born in Sefton
General Hospital on 8 April 1963.
Lennon was on tour and would not see his new-born for three days.
He then went on holiday to Spain with Epstein, which would lead to
speculation of an affair between the two (Epstein was widely known
to be gay
). Shortly afterwards, at
McCartney's twenty-first birthday party on 18 June 1963, Lennon
physically attacked Cavern Club MC Bob Wooler
for saying "How was your honeymoon,
John?". The MC, known for his wordplay and affectionate but cutting
remarks, was making a joke; however, ten months had passed since
Lennon's marriage, and the honeymoon, deferred, was still two
months in the future. To Lennon, drunk, the matter was simple: "He
called me a queer
so I battered his bloody
ribs in". In 1991, a fictionalized account of the Lennon/Epstein
holiday was made into an independent movie called The Hours And
. Lennon was distant to Julian, who felt closer to
McCartney than to his father. Julian 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."
Cynthia Lennon had become aware of Lennon's infidelities, but cites
his increasing drug use
for their growing
apart. She was also aware of Lennon's friendship with Ono.
Eventually, according to Powell, she suggested to Lennon that
perhaps Ono was the woman for him. When Lennon and The Beatles went to
Bangor to do
meditation, Powell and Lennon were separated on the train
A policeman, who did not recognize her, kept her
from boarding the train. As she watched Lennon's train pull out of
the station, she broke into tears. In the documentary
she explained, "Normally I wouldn't have broken
down, I'd have kept my cool... I knew I'd get there anyway. But at
that point I felt so sad. This was symbolic of our life... I'm
getting off at this station." Lennon later tried to sue Powell for
divorce, claiming she
had committed adultery
and not him. When it was discovered that
Ono had become pregnant, Powell petitioned Lennon for divorce.
During negotiations Lennon refused to give his wife any more than
£75,000, supposedly saying, "What have you done to deserve it?
Christ, it's like winning the bloody pools
." The case was settled out of court,
with Powell receiving £100,000, £2,400 annually, custody of Julian
and the Lennons' house (Kenwood).
There are two versions of how Lennon and Ono met: The first version
says that on 9 November 1966, Lennon went to the Indica
gallery in London, where Ono was
preparing her conceptual art exhibit, and they were introduced by
gallery owner John Dunbar
. Lennon was
intrigued by Ono's "Hammer A Nail" Piece: patrons hammered a nail
into a wooden board, creating the art piece. Lennon wanted to
hammer a nail in the clean board, but Ono stopped him because the
exhibit had not opened. Dunbar then said to Ono, "Don't you know
who this is?" Ono had not heard of The Beatles but relented, on the
condition that Lennon pay her five shillings. Lennon then said,
"I'll give you an imaginary five shillings and hammer an imaginary
nail." The second version is that in late 1965, Ono was in London
compiling original musical scores for a book that John Cage
was working on. She knocked on
McCartney's door, but he declined to give her any manuscripts as he
kept all his originals, but suggested that Lennon might oblige.
When asked, Lennon gave the original handwritten lyrics to "The
Word" from Rubber Soul
to Ono. They were reproduced in
Cage's book, Notations
Lennon began his sexual relationship with Ono in May 1968, after
Lennon returned from India, where he had received numerous
postcards from Ono, who was in London. As Cynthia Lennon was in
Greece on holiday, Lennon invited Ono to his home, where they spent
the night recording what would become the Two Virgins
album, and later said they made
love at dawn. On Sunday morning Lennon brought in the newspapers,
laying them down on the coffee table, but when Ono tried to pick up
one of the papers Lennon slapped her hand, saying "I read them
When Cynthia returned home she found Lennon and Ono, who was
wearing Cynthia's bathrobe, drinking tea together. Lennon simply
said, "Oh, Hi". Cynthia filed for divorce
later that year, on the grounds of Lennon's adultery, which was
proven by Ono's pregnancy. Ono later miscarried John
Ono Lennon II
on 21 November 1968.
From the beginning, the new relationship was rather bizarre. In a
1981 interview, Ono light-heartedly remarked, "I used to say to
[Lennon], ‘I think you’re a closet fag, you know.’ Because after we
started to live together, John would say to me, ‘Do you know why I
like you? Because you look like a bloke in drag.’" According to
, October 1, 2000, "Cynthia was not the only one
hurt by John and Yoko's bizarre relationship." Albert Harry Goldman
wrote in his book, The Lives of John Lennon
(1988, new ed.
2001), that Ono was regarded by Lennon as a “magical being” who
could solve all his problems, but that this was a “grand illusion”,
and that she openly cheated on Lennon with gigolos. Finally “both
he and Yoko were burnt out from years of hard drugs, overwork,
emotional breakdowns, quack cures, and bizarre diets, to say
nothing of the effects of living constantly in the glare of the
mass media.” However, even after their separation, when they “were
no longer collaborating as a team, they remained in constant
communication. Their relationship had taken another bizarre turn.
No longer able to live together, they found that they couldn’t live
During Lennon's last two years in The Beatles, he and Ono began
public protests against the Vietnam War
Lennon sent back his MBE insignia in 1969, which Queen Elizabeth
bestowed upon him in 1965. He wrote: "Your Majesty, I am returning
this in protest against Britain's involvement in the Nigeria-Biafra
thing, against our support of America in Vietnam, and against
" slipping down the charts.
With love. John Lennon of Bag." The couple were married in Gibraltar on 20 March 1969, and spent their honeymoon in
Amsterdam campaigning for an international "Bed-In" for peace.
They planned another
"Bed-in" in the United States, but were denied entry. The couple then went
to neighbouring Montréal, and during a "Bed-in" at the Queen
Elizabeth Hotel recorded "Give Peace a Chance".
Ono often combined advocacy with performance art
, as in their "Bagism
", which was first introduced during a Vienna
press conference. Lennon detailed this period in The Beatles' song
"The Ballad of John and
". In April 1969, on the roof of Apple Records, Lennon
changed his middle name to Ono. After Ono was injured in a car
accident, Lennon arranged for a king-sized bed to be brought to the
recording studio as he worked on The Beatles' last album,
. To escape the
acrimony of The Beatles' breakup, Ono suggested they move
permanently to New York, which they did on 31 August 1971.
first lived in the St. Regis Hotel on 5th Avenue, East 55th Street, and then moved to a
loft at 105 Bank Street, Greenwich Village, New York City, on 16 October 1971.
robbery, they relocated to the more secure Dakota at 1 West
72nd Street, in February 1973.
May Pang/The "Lost Weekend"
In June 1973, as Lennon was about to record Mind Games
Ono decided that she and Lennon should separate. Ono suggested that
he take their personal assistant, May Pang, as a companion. Lennon
soon moved to California with Pang, and embarked upon an
eighteen-month period he would later call his "Lost Weekend". While
Lennon and Pang were living in Los Angeles, Lennon's drunken
behaviour was widely reported by the media. Lennon took the
opportunity to mend fences with the other Beatles and get
reacquainted with his son, Julian, whom he had not seen in four
In May 1974, Lennon and Pang returned to New York where Lennon
began work on Walls and Bridges
. On the evening of 23
August 1974, both Lennon and Pang claimed to have seen a UFO
in the sky from their balcony. Lennon mentioned
the sighting in the booklet accompanying the Walls and
album. When Lennon lost a bet to Elton John and joined
him on stage at Madison Square Garden in November 1974, Ono was in
the audience. Although Lennon would later claim he had no idea she
was there, it was he who arranged for her seats.
Lennon and Ono reconciled in 1975. Their son, Sean Lennon
, was born on Lennon's 35th birthday,
October 9, 1975. After Sean's birth, the couple lived in
relative seclusion at the
Dakota in New York.
Lennon retired from music to
become a househusband
their child. He cited many reasons for his hiatus from music: he
had been under contract since he was 22 years old and he was now
free from obligation; rock and roll was not as interesting as it
once was; and, because of his limited relationship with his first
son, he decided to devote all his time to Sean.
Lennon's relationship with his first son was always strained. After
Lennon and Ono moved to New York, Julian would not see his father
again until 1973. With Pang's encouragement, it was arranged
for Julian (and Powell) to visit Lennon in Los Angeles, where they
went to Disneyland.
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, and a drum machine
for Christmas in 1973, and
encouraged Julian's interest in music by showing him some chords.
"Dad and I got on a great deal better then," recalls Julian. "We
had a lot of fun, laughed a lot and had a great time in general
when he was with May Pang. My memories of that time with Dad and
May are very clear - they were the happiest time I can remember
In his 1980 Playboy
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. He's
still my son, whether he came from a bottle of whiskey or because
they didn't have pills in those days. He's here, he belongs to me,
and he always will." In an interview shortly before his death,
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. After Lennon's death, it was revealed that Julian was not
mentioned in Lennon's will
. It was said
that Ono gave Julian £20 million, which Julian refuted by saying
that it was minimal compared to the figure reported.
The former Beatles
Although his friendship with Ringo Starr would remain consistently
warm, Lennon's public feelings towards his other fellow Beatles
would often vary. He was close to Harrison after the initial
break-up, but the two had drifted apart after Lennon moved to
America. In December 1974, Harrison was in New York for his
tour, and Lennon agreed to join him on stage.
an argument ensued over Lennon's refusal to sign the agreement that
would legally dissolve The Beatles partnership (meant to be at New
Hotel on 19 December) and Lennon never appeared.
would eventually sign the papers in Walt Disney
World in Florida, while on holiday there with Pang and Julian.) In
1980, after Harrison released an autobiography called "I Me Mine",
Lennon was angered that he was not properly acknowledged and issued
some stinging remarks voicing his displeasure.
Lennon's most intense feelings were reserved for McCartney. In
addition to "How Do You Sleep?", Lennon would argue with McCartney
through the press for three years after the group split. In 1974,
the two would become close again, and even played together for the
only time since the Beatles split (see A Toot and a Snore in '74
later years, the two grew apart again. Lennon said that the last
time McCartney had visited they watched the episode of Saturday Night Live
made a $3,000 cash
offer to get The Beatles to reunite on the show. They had
considered going to the studio to appear as a joke, but were too
tired. This event was fictionalized in the 2000 television film,
Lennon always felt a musical competitiveness with McCartney and
kept an ear on his music. During his "retirement", Lennon was
content to sit back as long as McCartney was producing "garbage".
In 1980, McCartney released "Coming
", and Lennon took notice. "I can't get that song out of my
head," he would jokingly complain, and felt compelled to record
Perhaps most telling was Lennon's summation of his artistic
collaborations: "I only ever asked two people to work with me as a
partner...one was Paul McCartney, and the other Yoko Ono. That's
not bad, is it?"
In 1980, Lennon was asked whether the group were dreaded enemies or
the best of friends. He replied that they were neither, and that he
had not seen any of them in a long time. But he also said, "I still
love those guys. The Beatles are over, but John, Paul, George and
Ringo go on."
and Ono used their honeymoon at the Amsterdam
Hilton, in March 1969, as a "Bed-in for Peace" that
attracted worldwide media
coverage. At the second "Bed-in" in Montreal, in June 1969, they recorded "Give Peace a Chance"
in their hotel room at The Queen Elizabeth. The song was sung by
a quarter million demonstrators in Washington,
D.C. at the second Vietnam Moratorium Day,
on 15 October 1969.
When Lennon and Ono moved to New York
City in August 1971, they befriended peace activists Jerry Rubin
. Lennon performed at the "Free John Sinclair" concert in Ann Arbor, Michigan, on 10 December 1971.
Sinclair was an
anti-war activist, co-founder of the White Panther Party
and poet who was
serving ten years in state prison for selling two joint
of marijuana to an undercover
policeman after a series of previous convictions for possession of
marijuana. Lennon and Ono appeared on stage with David Peel
, Stevie Wonder
musicians, plus anti-war radical
member, Jerry Rubin
, and Bobby
of the Black Panthers
Lennon performed the song, "John Sinclair", which he had just
written, calling on the authorities to "Let him be, set him free,
let him be like you and me". Some 20,000 people attended the rally, and
three days after the concert the State of Michigan released Sinclair from prison.
performance was released on the two-CD John Lennon
(1998) and the album Acoustic
later performed the song on the David
Show accompanied by Ono and Jerry Rubin. According to
former MI5 intelligence officer David
, Lennon gave financial aid to the Irish Republican Army
claim which Sinn Féin
substantiated or denied.
In 1972, the Nixon
tried to have Lennon deported
from the US, as Richard Nixon
believed that Lennon's proactive
anti-war activities and support for George McGovern
could cost him re-election.
Senator Strom Thurmond
suggested, in a February 1972
memo, that "deportation would be a strategic counter-measure"
against Lennon. The next month the Immigration and
began deportation proceedings against
Lennon, arguing that his 1968 misdemeanor conviction for cannabis
possession in London had made him ineligible for admission to the
US. Lennon spent the next four years in deportation hearings. While
his deportation battle continued, Lennon appeared at rallies in New
York City and on TV shows, including a week hosting the
Mike Douglas Show
February 1972, where Jerry Rubin and Bobby
appeared as his guests.
On 23 March 1973, Lennon was ordered to leave the US within 60
days, while Ono was granted permanent residence. In response,
Lennon and Ono held a press conference at the New York chapter of
the American Bar
on 1 April 1973 to announce the formation of the
conceptual state of "Nutopia
"; a place
with "no land, no boundaries, no passports, only people", and all
of its inhabitants would be ambassadors. The Lennons asked for
political asylum in the US while waving the white flag of Nutopia;
two white handkerchiefs
. The entire
press conference can be seen in the 2006 documentary released by
, The U.S. vs. John Lennon
June 1973, Lennon and Ono made their last political statement by
attending the Watergate
in Washington, D.C.
Lennon's order of deportation was overturned in 1975. In 1976,
Lennon's US immigration status was finally resolved favourably, and
he received his green card
successor, Gerald Ford
, showed little
interest in continuing the battle. When Jimmy Carter
was inaugurated as president on 19
January 1977, Lennon and Ono attended the Inaugural Ball.
FBI surveillance and de-classified documents
Lennon's death, historian Jon Wiener
filed a Freedom of
Information Act request for FBI files on Lennon, which document the Bureau's role
in the Nixon Administration
attempt to deport Lennon in 1972 to stop his anti-war campaign
before the Nixon re-election campaign.
The FBI admitted it
had 281 pages of files on Lennon but refused to release most of
them, they contained "national security" information. In 1983,
Wiener sued the FBI with the help of the American Civil Liberties
. It took 14 years of litigation to force the FBI to
release the withheld pages. The ACLU, representing Wiener, won a
favorable decision in their suit against the FBI in the Ninth
in 1991. The Bush
Justice Department appealed the decision to the
Supreme Court in April, 1992, but the court declined to review
The Justice Department settled most of the
outstanding issues in the case outside the court in 1997, when most
all of the contested documents but 10 were released, respecting
President Bill Clinton
's new rule that
documents should be withheld only if releasing them would involve
"foreseeable harm." In January 2000, Wiener published a book titled
Gimme Some Truth: The John Lennon FBI Files
facsimiles of the documents, including "lengthy reports by
confidential informants detailing the daily lives of anti-war
activists, memos to the White House, transcripts of TV shows on
which Lennon appeared, and a proposal that Lennon be arrested by
local police on drug charges". The story is told in the documentary
. The final ten documents in Lennon's FBI file,
which had been withheld as containing "national security
information provided by a foreign government under an explicit
promise of confidentiality," and reported on Lennon's ties with
London anti-war activists in 1971, were released in December
Drugs, meditation and primal therapy
Lennon was first given drugs in Hamburg, as The Beatles had to play
long sets and were often given Preludin
customers or by Astrid Kirchherr
whose mother bought them for her. McCartney would usually take one,
but Lennon would often take four or five, and later took amphetamines
called "Black Bombers" and "Purple
Hearts". The Beatles first smoked marijuana
in New York in 1964; Dylan mistakenly interpreted the
lyric "I can't hide" from "I
Want to Hold Your Hand
" as "I get high" and presumed that The
Beatles were already familiar with the drug. Lennon later said
that, during the filming of Help!
in 1965, The Beatles "smoked
marijuana for breakfast", and that other people had trouble talking
to them "because we were just all glazed eyes, giggling all the
In a 1995 interview, Cynthia said 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.
During his first marriage Lennon tried LSD
, and read The Psychedelic Experience
by Timothy Leary
, Richard Alpert
, and Ralph Metzner
, which was based on, and quoted
from, the Tibetan Book of the
. He later used heroin
wrote about the withdrawal
he experienced in "Cold
".On 24 August 1967, The Beatles met the
Maharishi Mahesh Yogi at the
Hilton, and later went to Bangor in North
Wales, to attend a weekend of personal instruction.
Lennon later spent in India at the Maharishi's ashram
was productive, as most of the songs recorded
for The Beatles
were composed there
by Lennon and McCartney. Although later turning against the
Maharishi, Lennon still advocated meditation
when interviewed. In 1968, Cynthia
Lennon went on vacation to Greece, leaving Lennon at Kenwood with
; his school friend and
In 1970, Lennon and Ono went through primal therapy
with Dr. Arthur Janov
in Los Angeles, California. The
therapy consisted of releasing emotional pain from early childhood.
Lennon and Ono ended the sessions before completing a full course
of therapy, as Ono constantly argued with Janov. The song "Mother"
is based on Lennon's experience and understanding of Primal
Lennon was known, especially during Beatlemania
, for his sense of humour. During
live performances of "I Want to
Hold Your Hand
", Lennon often changed the words to "I want to
hold your gland
", because of the
difficulty hearing the vocals above the noise of screaming
audiences. At the Royal Variety Show in 1963—in the presence of
members of the British
—Lennon told the audience, "For our next song, I'd like
to ask for your help. For the people in the cheaper seats, clap
your hands... and the rest of you, if you'll just rattle your
During the "Get Back
" sessions, Lennon
introduced "Dig a Pony
" by shouting, "I
dig a pygmy
by Charles Hawtrey
and the Deaf Aids
; phase one in which Doris gets her
oats!" The phrase was later edited to precede "Two of Us
" on Let It
. Lennon often counter-pointed McCartney's upbeat lyrics, as
in "Getting Better
- McCartney: "I've got to admit it's getting better, a little
better, all the time."
- Lennon: "Can't get no worse."
Lennon appeared in various television comedy shows, such as the
Morecambe and Wise
with the rest of The Beatles, and played a doorman in a gents'
toilet in Not Only But
. Lennon's humour could also be sarcastic, such as
when Brian Epstein asked Lennon for a title for Epstein's
autobiography, and Lennon answered: "How about Queer Jew
?" When Lennon heard that the title of the book would be
A Cellarful of Noise
he said to a friend: "More like A Cellarful of
In 1967, Lennon appeared in the British black comedy How I Won the War
. It was his only
non–Beatles film role.
Writing and art
Lennon started writing and drawing early in life, with
encouragement from his uncle George, and created his own comic strip
in his school book, which he called
"The Daily Howl". It contained drawings—frequently of crippled
writings, often with a
play on words
. Lennon wrote a weather
report saying, "Tomorrow will be Muggy, followed by Tuggy, Wuggy
and Thuggy." He often drew caricatures
his school teachers, and when he was in Hamburg he sent love poems
and drawings to Cynthia (his future wife) once writing, "Our first
Christmas, I love you, yes, yes, yes."
When Liverpool's Mersey
magazine was founded, Lennon was asked to contribute.
His first piece was about the origins of The Beatles: "A man
appeared on a flaming pie, and said you are Beatles with an
'A'."The first two books by Lennon are examples of literary nonsense
: In His Own Write
A Spaniard in the
(1965). Ono later allowed the works of Lennon to be
published after his death: Skywriting by Word of Mouth
(1986) and Ai: Japan Through John Lennon's Eyes: A Personal
(1992), which contained Lennon's drawings
illustrating the definitions of Japanese words. Real Love: The
Drawings for Sean
followed in 1999. The Beatles Anthology
writing and drawings by Lennon. Lennon's love of nonsense language
was influenced by his appreciation for Stanley Unwin
Throughout his solo career, Lennon appeared on his own albums (as
well as those of other artists, like Elton John) under such
as Dr Winston O'Boogie, Mel
Torment (a play on singer Mel Tormé
and The Reverend Fred Gherkin
. In the
short-lived 1968 supergroup The Dirty
, Lennon performed under the name Winston Leg-Thigh. He and
Ono (as Ada Gherkin "ate a gherkin", and other sobriquets
) also travelled under such names, thus
avoiding unwanted public attention.
Lennon also named his session musicians under various different
band names during his career, including:
- The Plastic Ono Band (for the Plastic Ono Band
- The Plastic Ono Band with the Flux Fiddlers (Imagine)
- The Plastic U.F.Ono Band (Mind Games)
- The Plastic Ono Nuclear Band/Little Big Horns and the
Philharmanic Orchestrange (Walls and Bridges)
The entrance to the Dakota building
where Lennon lived.
On the night of 8 December 1980, at around 10:50 pm, Mark David Chapman
shot Lennon in the
back four times in the entrance of the Dakota apartment building.
Earlier that evening, Lennon had autographed a copy of Double
for Chapman who had been stalking Lennon since
Lennon was taken to the emergency room of nearby Roosevelt Hospital
was pronounced dead on arrival at 11:07 pm. On the following day,
Ono issued a statement:
Chapman pleaded guilty to second
and was sentenced to 20 years to life
; he remains in prison, having been
repeatedly denied parole
body was cremated at Ferncliff
Cemetery in Hartsdale, New York; his ashes were then kept by
Two days before his murder, Lennon told Andy Peebles
of the BBC
that he felt he could go out anywhere in New
York City and feel safe.
On another occasion while still a Beatle, Lennon was asked how he
might die. Lennon replied:
During an interview with Dave Sholin at The Dakota hours before his murder, Lennon stated,
With The Beatles
- 1977: Outstanding contribution to music during the past 25
- 1977: Best British band of the past 25 years.
- 1977: Best British album of the past 25 years (for Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts
- 1983: Outstanding contribution to music.
- 1982 Grammy Award - 1981 Album of
the Year (for Double Fantasy)
- 1982 BRIT Awards - Outstanding
contribution to music.
- In 2002, a 100 Greatest Britons BBC poll voted Lennon into
- In 2004, Rolling Stone magazine ranked Lennon number 38 on its
list of "The Immortals: The Fifty Greatest Artists of All
- In 2008, Rolling Stone magazine ranked Lennon number five on
its list of "100 Greatest Singers of All Time".
Statue in Liverpool
Statue of John Lennon in Public Park -
El Vedado - Havana - Cuba
Monuments and sculptures
Angeles, USA, City
Hall–East, by Brett-Livingstone
Park, Havana, Cuba, by
Airport, Liverpool, England, by Tom Murphy ( picture). .
Coruña, Spain, by Jose
Almería, Spain, by Carmen Mudarra.
Reykjavík, Iceland, Imagine Peace Tower  by Yoko
Lima, Peru 
- Liverpool, Hard Day's Night Hotel, 
- Liverpool, Cavern Pub.
Hard Rock Cafe, Washington, USA .
- "Imagine" Monument, Strawberry
Field, Central Park, New York City
- Plaça De John Lennon, near the market on Travessera de Grácia
in Barcelona, Catalunya, Spain .
- Spitz (2005), p. 24.
- Spitz (2005), p. 25.
- "The Beatles Anthology" DVD 2003 (Episode 6 - 0:37:32) Lennon
talking about living at 9 Newcastle Road in Liverpool.
- Spitz (2005), p. 27.
- Lennon (2005), p. 55.
- Lennon (2005), p. 56.
- Spitz (2005), p. 30.
- Spitz (2005), p. 32.
- Lennon (2005), p. 40.
- Lennon (2005), p. 41.
- Miles (1997), p. 107.
- Spitz (2005), pp. 32-33.
- Spitz (2005), p. 45.
- Miles (1997), p. 48.
- Miles (1997), p. 20.
- Lennon (2005), p. 22.
- Coleman (1989), p. 93.
- Coleman (1989), p. 97.
- Lennon (2005), p. 67.
- Spitz (2005), p. 48.
- Spitz (2005), p. 47.
- Spitz (2005), p. 93.
- Lennon (2005), p. 46
- Miles (1997), p. 38
- Miles (1997), pp. 38–39
- Miles (1997), p. 49.
- Miles (1997), p. 47.
- Miles (1997), p. 50.
- Lennon (2005), pp. 45-46.
- Lennon (2005), p. 64.
- Miles (1997), p. 56.
- Lennon (2005), pp. 70-71.
- Miles (1997), pp. 74-75.
- Miles (1997), p. 72.
- Miles (1997), pp. 72-73.
- Lennon (2005), p. 79.
- Lennon (2005), p. 97.
- Lennon (2005), p. 109.
- Miles (1997) p. 85
- Spitz (2005) pp. 279–280
- Miles (1997), p. 93.
- Cross (2005)
- Miles (1997), p. 149.
- Miles (1997), p. 171.
- Spizer (2003), p. 11.
- Spizer (2003), p. 8.
- Spizer (2003), p. 45.
- Coleman (1984), pp. 239-240.
- Coleman (1984), p. 288.
- Lawrence John Lennon: In His Own Words 2005 p.
- Beatles Anthology, Chronicle, (2000), p. 171
- Brown (1983), p. 222.
- Brown (1983), p. 276.
- Spitz (2005), p. 853.
- John Lennon 1987 Skywriting by Word of Mouth : And Other
Writings, Including "The Ballad of John and Yoko" Harper
- Wenner (2000), p. 24.
- Fawcett, One Day At A Time, Evergreen (1976), p. 185.
- Coleman (1984), p. 279.
- Coleman (1984), pp. 48-49.
- Schechter (1997), p. 106.
- Tannenbaum, John & Yoko: A New York Love Story
- Madinger (2000)
- Ringo Starr's comments to Rolling Stone are quoted in
Nicholas Schaffner, The Beatles Forever, (Harrisburg,
Pennsylvania: Cameron House, 1977), 188.
- The Beatles after the breakup... in their own words, Miles,
Omnibus Press, (1991), p. 87.
- Lennon (2005), pp. 25-26.
- Lennon (2005), p. 27.
- Spitz (2005), p. 156.
- Miles (1997), pp. 48-49.
- Lennon (2005), p. 122.
- Lennon (2005), pp. 128-129.
- Harry (2000), p. 1165.
- Lennon (2005), p. 155.
- Lennon (2005), p. 124.
- Harry (2000), p. 1169.
- Lennon (1978), p. 182.
- Cynthia Lennon Interview, Imagine, Documentary, Warner
- Coleman (1989), p. 464
- Coleman (1989), p. 467
- Peel (2002)
- Miles (1997), p. 272.
- Liner notes for Two Virgins CD
- Lennon (1978), p. 183.
- See New York Magazine, May 25, 1981, 38 .
- Goldman, 458.
- See John Blaney, John Lennon: Listen to this Book
- Cross (2005), p. 322.
- Ray Coleman: John Ono Lennon (Vol II), p. 64.
- Geoff Emerick, Here There and Everywhere: My Life Recording The
Music of The Beatles, Gotham Books, (2006), pp. 279-280.
- Pang (2008)
- Pang (1983)
- Pang (2008), back cover
- Lennon (2005), pp. 336-340.
- Lennon (2005), p. 344.
- Lennon (2005), p. 345.
- Wiener (1999)
- Wiener v. FBI, 943 F.2d 972 (9th Cir. 1991).
- Wiener (1999), pp. 52–54, 76
- Weiner (1999)
- Miles (1997), pp. 66-67.
- Lennon (2005), p. 76.
- Miles (1997), p. 185.
- Miles (1997), pp. 188-189.
- Coleman (1989), p. 570.
- Miles (1997), p. 397.
- The Beatles - Complete Scores (1993), p. 310.
- Coleman (1989), p. 23.
- Coleman (1989), p. 90.
- Spitz (2005), p. 31.
- Lennon (2005), p. 35.
- Lennon (2005), pp. 98-99.