About John Winston Lennon
John Lennon achieved worldwide fame in the 1960s as a singer, songwriter and guitarist in one of the most successful bands of all time -The Beatles. He is credited as being the original and founding member of the band and was often referred to as "the smart one" of the group. He came from a working-class neighborhood in Liverpool, England but was influenced by American rock 'n' roll music and often named Elvis Presley as the artist who inspired him the most. After the Beatles disbanded in 1970, Lennon immersed himself in the counterculture scene, becoming an outspoken peace activist and producing avant-garde albums with his second wife, Japanese born, conceptual artist, Yoko Ono.
Born and raised in Liverpool, Lennon was named after his paternal grandfather, John "Jack" Lennon, and Winston Churchill. His father, a merchant seaman during World War II, was often away from home and sent regular pay checks to Lennon’s mother, Julia. The checks stopped when Alfred Lennon went absent without leave in 1943. When he eventually came home in 1944, Julia was pregnant with another man’s child. He offered to look after the family, but his wife rejected the idea. Under pressure from her family, she handed the care of Lennon over to her sister, Mimi. In July 1946, Lennon's father visited Smith and took his son to Blackpool, secretly intending to immigrate to New Zealand with him. Lennon's mother followed them, and, after a heated argument, his father forced the five-year-old to choose between his parents. Lennon chose his father—twice. As his mother walked away, Lennon began to cry and followed her. Lennon then lost contact with his father for 20 years.
Throughout the rest of his childhood and adolescence, Lennon lived with his aunt and uncle, Mimi and George Smith. Even though he did not live with his mother, he saw her quite a lot; in fact she taught John how to play the banjo. His mother bought him his first guitar in 1957, a cheap Gallotone Champion acoustic "guaranteed not to split." It was during these teen years that John formed his first group, The Quarrymen, while still at Quarry Bank High School. John had no interest in school regimentation, and subsequently failed his exams. But he loved his art and music lessons.
On July 6, 1957 The Quarrymen played at a church garden fete and John was introduced to a young man called Paul McCartney. Despite John's lack of interest at school he was thrilled to be accepted at the Liverpool College of Art. He met another student called Cynthia Powell and they began dating. Although John had no intention of giving up his music, the group had gone through a name change to The Silver Beatles, then just The Beatles. George Harrison joined the band as lead guitarist, and Stuart Sutcliffe, Lennon's friend from art school, joined as bassist. Lennon, McCartney, Harrison and Sutcliffe became "The Beatles" after the other members left.
In 1958 John learned that his mother, who he had become quite close to, had been killed in a road accident. He was devastated; it was something he never quite came to terms with. He began to throw himself into his music and the Beatles left for a grueling tour of the pubs and clubs of Hamburg. While they were there John's best friend Stu Sutcliffe, who played bass in the group suffered a severe head injury, and on April 10 1961, John received yet more bad news that his best friend had died.
The Beatles returned to Liverpool in July 1961, John took up his relationship again with Cynthia who he would marry on August 23 1962.
The Beatles were discovered by Brian Epstein in 1961 at the Cavern Club, where they were performing on a regular basis. As their new manager, Epstein secured a record contract with EMI. With a new drummer, Ringo Starr (Richard Starkey), and George Martin as producer, the group released their first single, Love Me Do in October 1962. It peaked on the British charts at number 17.
Lennon wrote the group's follow-up single, Please Please Me, inspired primarily by Roy Orbison but also fed by John's infatuation with the pun in Bing Crosby's famous "Please, lend your little ears to my please." The song topped the charts in Britain. The Beatles went on to become the most popular band in Britain with the release mega-hits like She Loves You and I Want To Hold Your Hand and while touring Lennon became a father for the first time when his son Julian was born on April 8, 1963.
In 1964, The Beatles became the first band to break out big in the United States, beginning with their appearance on TV's The Ed Sullivan Show on February 9, 1964. Beatlemania launched a "British Invasion"' of rock bands into the U.S., which included The Rolling Stones and The Kinks. After 'Sullivan,' The Beatles returned to Britain to film their first movie, A Hard Day's Night and prepare for their first world tour.
The Beatles followed up with their second movie Help! in 1965. In June, the Queen of England had announced that the Beatles would be awarded the MBE (Member of the Order of the British Empire). In August, they performed to 55,600 fans at New York's Shea Stadium, setting a record for largest concert audience. When they returned to England, they recorded the breakthrough album Rubber Soul, which extended beyond love songs and pop formulas.
The magic of Beatlemania had started to lose its appeal by 1966. The group's lives were put in danger when they were accused of snubbing the presidential family in the Philippines. Then, Lennon's remark that "we're more popular than Jesus now" incited denunciations and Beatles record bonfires in the U.S. bible belt. The Beatles gave up touring after an August 29, 1966, concert at San Francisco's Candlestick Park.
After an extended break, the band returned to the studio to expand their experimental with drug-influenced exotic instrumentation/lyrics and tape abstractions. The first sample was the single Penny Lane/Strawberry Fields Forever, followed up by Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, still considered by many to be the greatest rock album ever.
The Beatles then suffered a huge blow when Epstein died of an accidental overdose of sleeping pills on August 27, 1967. Shaken by Epstein's death, the Beatles retrenched under McCartney's leadership in the fall and filmed Magical Mystery Tour. While the film was panned by critics, the soundtrack album contained Lennon's I Am The Walrus, their most cryptic work yet.
After the Magical Mystery Tour film failed, the Beatles retreated into Transcendental Meditation and the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, which took them to India for two months in early 1968. Their next effort, Apple Corps Ltd. was plagued by mismanagement. In July, the group faced its last hysterical crowds at the premiere of their film Yellow Submarine. In November, their double-album The Beatles (frequently called the White Album) showed their divergent directions.
Cynthia had to keep a very low profile during Beatlemania. It was difficult to maintain the relationship and the band at the height of their popularity, long hours away from each other just meant they drifted apart. And in 1968 after returning from a trip to India, John and Cynthia divorced.
Lennon had begun to see a young Japanese artist; her name was Yoko Ono. On March 26, 1969 on the Island of Gibraltar Lennon married for the second time. Their artist partnership began to cause further tensions within the group. Lennon left The Beatles in September 1969, just after the group completed recording Abbey Road. The news of the breakup was kept secret until McCartney announced his departure in April 1970, a month before the band released Let It Be, recorded just before Abbey Road.
After the Beatles broke up, Lennon released Plastic Ono Band, with a raw, minimalist sound that followed "primal-scream" therapy. In 1971, he followed up with Imagine, the most commercially successful and critically acclaimed of all John Lennon's post-Beatles efforts. The title track was later listed as the third all-time best song by Rolling Stone magazine.
Peace and love, however, was not always on Lennon's agenda. Imagine also included the track How Do You Sleep?, a nasty response to veiled messages at Lennon in some of McCartney's solo recordings. Later, the former songwriting duo buried the hatchet, but never formally worked together again.
Lennon and Ono moved to the U.S. in September 1971, but were constantly threatened with deportation by the Nixon administration. Lennon was told he was being kicked out of the country because of his 1968 marijuana conviction in Britain. But Lennon believed the true reason was his activism against the unpopular Vietnam War. Documents later proved him correct. Two years after Nixon resigned, Lennon was granted permanent U.S. residency in 1976.
In 1972, Lennon performed at Madison Square Garden to benefit mentally handicapped children and continued to promote peace while battling to stay in the U.S. That immigration battle took a toll on the Lennon's marriage and in the fall of 1973, they separated. John went to Los Angeles, where he partied and took a mistress, May Pang. He still managed to release hit albums, such as Mind Games, Walls and Bridges and Rock and Roll and collaborate with David Bowie and Elton John.
In the end, Lennon realized he really loved Yoko and he could not live without her. They reconciled and she gave birth to their only child, Sean, on Lennon's 35th birthday. John decided to leave the music business to raise his son and become a house husband.
In 1980, Lennon returned to the music world with the album Double Fantasy, featuring the hit single (Just Like) Starting Over. Unfortunately, just a few weeks after its release, Lennon was shot by a deranged fan in front of his apartment complex in New York. Lennon died of the age of 40 at the Roosevelt Hospital on December 8, 1980, after receiving multiple gun shots in the back.
His death affected millions of people, record sales soared, and he continues to be admired by new generations of fans.
John Lennon's Timeline
October 9, 1940
April 8, 1963
October 9, 1975
December 9, 1980
New York, NY, USA