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John Lennon Biography
Pop star, composer, songwriter, and recording artist. John Winston Lennon was born October 9, 1940, in Liverpool, Merseyside, NW England, UK, during a German air raid in World War II.
When he was four years old, Lennon's parents separated and he ended up living with his Aunt Mimi. John's father was a merchant seaman. He was not present at his son's birth and did not see a lot of his son when he was small.
Lennon's mother, Julia, remarried, but visited John and Mimi regularly. She taught John how to play the banjo and the piano and purchased his first guitar. John was devastated when Julia was fatally struck by a car driven by an off-duty police officer in July 1958. Her death was one of the most traumatic events in his life.
As a child, John was a prankster and he enjoyed getting in trouble. As a boy and young adult, John enjoyed drawing grotesque figures and cripples. John's school master thought that he could go to an art school for college, since he did not get good grades in school, but had artistic talent.
At sixteen, Elvis Presley's explosion onto the rock music scene inspired John to create the skiffle band called the "Quarry Men," named after his school. Lennon met Paul McCartney at a church fete on July 6, 1957. John soon invited Paul to join the group and they eventually formed the most successful songwriting partnership in musical history.
McCartney introduced George Harrison to Lennon the following year and he and art college buddy Stuart Sutcliffe also joined Lennon's band. Always in need of a drummer, the group finally settled on Pete Best in 1960.
The first recording they made was Buddy Holly's That'll be the Day in mid-1958. In fact, it was Holly's group, the Crickets, that inspired the band to change its name. John would later joke that he had a vision when he was 12 years old—a man appeared on a flaming pie and said unto them "from this day on you are Beatles with an 'A.'"
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.
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
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.
Lennon had married Cynthia Powell in August 1962 and they had a son together who they called Julian, named after John's mother. Cynthia had to keep a very low profile during Beatlemania. They divorced in 1968 and he re-married Japanese avant-garde artist Yoko Ono, whom he had met at the Indica Gallery in November 1966.
John and Yoko's artist partnership began to cause further tensions within the group. Together they invented a form of peace protest by staying in bed while being filmed and interviewed, and the single recorded under the name of The Plastic Ono Band, Give Peace a Chance (1969), became the national anthem for pacifists.
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.
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.
Visit our special JOHN LENNON Tribute Site for photo gallery, timeline, and more.
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