feel her oats

John Lennon


John Winston Ono Lennon, MBE (born John Winston Lennon; 9 October 1940 – 8 December 1980) was an English rock musician, singer, writer, songwriter, artist, actor and peace activist who gained worldwide fame as one of the founding members of The Beatles.

In his solo career, Lennon wrote and recorded many songs such as "Give Peace a Chance" and "Imagine". Lennon revealed his rebellious nature and wit on television, in films such as A Hard Day's Night, in books such as In His Own Write, and in press conferences and interviews. He was controversial through his work as a peace activist, artist, and author.

Lennon had two sons: Julian Lennon, with his first wife Cynthia Lennon, and Sean Ono Lennon, with his second wife, avant-garde artist Yoko Ono. After a self-imposed retirement from 1976 to 1980, Lennon reemerged with a comeback album, but was murdered one month later in New York City on 8 December 1980. In 2002, respondents to a BBC poll on the 100 Greatest Britons voted Lennon into eighth place. In 2004, Rolling Stone magazine ranked Lennon number 38 on its list of "The Immortals: The Fifty Greatest Artists of All Time" and ranked The Beatles at number one.

Early years: 1940–1957

John Winston Lennon was born in the Liverpool Maternity Hospital, Oxford Street, Liverpool, to Julia Lennon (née Stanley) and Alfred (Alf, or 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. 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 AWOL 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, Mary "Mimi" Smith (who contacted Liverpool's Social Services to complain about Julia), she handed the care of Lennon over to Mimi. In July 1946, Alf visited Mimi and took Lennon to Blackpool, secretly intending to emigrate to New Zealand with him. 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 until the height of Beatlemania, when father and son met again.

Throughout 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). 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 the banjo, and played Elvis Presley's records for him. The first song he learned was Fats Domino's "Ain't That A Shame".

Lennon was raised as an Anglican, and attended Dovedale County Primary School 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 sceptical 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 on Menlove Avenue (close to Mimi's house) when struck by a car driven by an off-duty police officer. Her death was a bond between Lennon and Paul McCartney, who also had lost his own mother (to breast cancer) on 31 October 1956.

Lennon 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. He was diagnosed with hyperactivity, a disorder that is now called ADHD. Lennon failed an annual Art College exam despite help from Powell, and dropped out before his last year of college.

The Beatles: 1957–1970

When Lennon decided that he wanted to try making music himself, he and fellow Quarry Bank Grammar School friend, Eric Griffiths, took guitar lessons at Hunts Cross in Liverpool, although Lennon gave up the lessons soon after. Lennon started The Quarrymen 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 Road. 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 Fourmost. 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 guitarist, 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."

Allan Williams 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 Hamburg, Germany. 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 to 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 Sheridan. News of Sheridan and The Beatles' record was published on the front page of Mersey Beat — a Liverpool music magazine — which was available at Brian Epstein's music store, and prompted Epstein to order extra copies from Polydor. 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.

On 9 May 1962, George Martin signed The Beatles to EMI's comedy label, Parlophone. After their first recording session, Martin voiced his displeasure with Best. It was decided that Ringo Starr, drummer with Rory Storm and the Hurricanes, should join, although it was left to Epstein to inform Best. Epstein dismissed Best on 16 August 1962, almost exactly two years after Best had joined the group. The Beatles released their first double-sided original single, "Love Me Do" b/w "P.S. I Love You" on 5 October; it reached #17 on the British charts (although Starr did not play on these tracks, Martin having secured the services of Andy White a session drummer, before he knew Best had been replaced). 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" and its B-side "Thank You Girl", were 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).

The album and single hit #1 in Britain, and EMI offered the album to their U.S. subsidiary, Capitol Records, but they turned it down. Epstein finally secured a deal with Vee-Jay Records; a predominantly black R&B and gospel label. Neither the single or the accompanying album, Introducing The Beatles were successful 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" in 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 Write and A Spaniard In The Works, while The Beatles achieved recognition from the British Establishment when they were appointed Members of the Order of the British Empire in the 1965 Queen's Birthday Honours.

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!", he said 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. I do not know what will go first, rock 'n' roll or Christianity. We're more popular than Jesus now. Jesus was all right, but his disciples were thick and ordinary." Five months later, an American teen magazine called Datebook reprinted part of the quote on its front cover. The American Bible Belt protested in the South and Midwest, and conservative groups staged public burnings of Beatles' records and memorabilia. Many radio stations banned The Beatles' music, and some concert venues cancelled performances. At a press conference in Chicago, on 11 August 1966, Lennon addressed the growing controversy: The Vatican accepted Lennon's apology. Lennon later wrote, "I always remember to thank Jesus for the end of my touring days; if I hadn't said that The Beatles were 'bigger than Jesus' and upset the very Christian Ku Klux Klan, well, Lord, I might still be up there with all the other performing fleas! God bless America. Thank you, Jesus."

At the end of 1968, Lennon performed as part of the group Dirty Mac, in The Rolling Stones' film Rock and Roll Circus. The supergroup, made up of Lennon, Eric Clapton, Keith Richards and Mitch Mitchell, also backed Ono's performance. Lennon also released "Two Virgins" with Ono, an album known more for its cover than the musical content. 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 left The Beatles in September 1969 (Starr had previously left and then returned during 1968, and Harrison had left on 10 January 1969, during the filming for Let It Be, but returned after a Beatles' meeting at Starr's house two days later). Lennon agreed not to make an announcement while the band renegotiated their recording contract, but McCartney released a question-and-answer interview that he had written himself 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 recorded an interview with Lennon that was played on BBC radio in 2005. The interview reveals Lennon's bitterness towards McCartney and the hostility he felt that the other members had for Ono. Lennon said: "One of the main reasons The Beatles ended is because 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?" Lennon later expressed his displeasure with the scant credit Harrison gave him as an influence in his autobiography, I Me Mine, and unhappy that McCartney's songs, such as "Yesterday", "Hey Jude" and "Let It Be", were more often covered than his own contributions. Lennon also spoke warmly of his former band members, however, by saying: "I still love those guys. The Beatles are over, but John, Paul, George and Ringo go on."

Solo career: 1970–1980

While still a Beatle, Lennon and 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 was Live Peace in Toronto 1969—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", "Cold Turkey", and "Instant Karma!". Following The Beatles' split in 1970, Lennon released the John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band album. It included "Working Class Hero", which was banned by BBC Radio for its use of the word "fucking".

His album Imagine followed in 1971, and the title song would later become an anthem for anti-war movements. The song "How Do You Sleep?" was widely perceived as as a personal attack against McCartney, although Lennon later claimed that he wrote the song about himself. On 31 August 1971, Lennon left England for New York, and released the "Happy Xmas (War Is Over)" single in December of 1971. To advertise the single, Lennon and Ono paid for a billboard in Times Square, which read, "WAR IS OVER" in large text with "if you want it" in much smaller text underneath. Some Time in New York City was 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 Green Card. Lennon had been interested in left-wing politics since the late 1960s, and reportedly donated money to the Trotskyist Workers Revolutionary Party.

In 1972, Lennon released "Woman Is the Nigger of the World". 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 concert appearances.

In November 1973, Lennon released Mind Games, which was credited to "the Plastic U.F.Ono Band". He also wrote "I'm the Greatest" for Starr's album Ringo (his own demo version of the song appears on the John Lennon Anthology) and produced "Too Many Cooks (Spoil The Soup)" for Mick Jagger. In September 1974, Lennon released Walls and Bridges and the single "Whatever Gets You Thru the Night" (a #1 duet with Elton John). A second single from the album, "#9 Dream", was released in December. He wrote "Goodnight Vienna" 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. Lennon performed "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds", "Whatever Gets You Thru the Night" and "I Saw Her Standing There". Lennon rush-released Rock 'n' Roll, an album of cover songs, in February 1975 – with Phil Spector as producer – before Roots: John Lennon Sings the Great Rock & Roll Hits was released (issued by Morris Levy on the Adam VIII label).

Lennon made his last stage appearance on ATV's 18 April 1975 special called A Salute to Lew Grade performing "Imagine", "Stand By Me" (cut from the televised edition), and "Slippin' and Slidin'" from his Rock 'n' Roll LP. Lennon's backup band was BOMF (also 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 with 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 Fish, a greatest hits compilation. On 9 October 1975 – Lennon's 35th birthday – his son Sean Ono Lennon was born, and Lennon retired from the music business to care for him. Lennon interrupted his retirement briefly for Starr, writing and recording "Cookin' (In The Kitchen of Love)" in June 1976. This was his last recording session until his 1980 comeback.

Lennon emerged from retirement in November 1980, releasing Double Fantasy, which also featured Ono. In June 1980, Lennon had traveled with Sean to Bermuda for a sailing trip on a 43-foot schooner, where he wrote songs for the album. The name of the album was taken from a species of freesia flowers that Lennon had seen in the Bermuda Botanical Gardens. He liked the name and saw it as a perfect description of his marriage to Ono. After the release of the album, Lennon started planning the next album, Milk and Honey. Lennon was asked whether the group were dreaded enemies or the best of friends in 1980. He replied that they were neither, but had not seen any of them for a long time. Lennon said that the last time McCartney had visited Lennon they had watched the episode of Saturday Night Live, in which Lorne Michaels 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, Two of Us.

Marriages and relationships

In one of his last major interviews, in September 1980, Lennon said that he had never questioned his chauvinistic attitudes 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 Lennon's life, he said that he accepted the role of househusband, after taking on the role of a wife and mother in his relationship with Ono.

Cynthia Lennon

Cynthia 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 favorably about another girl who looked like Brigitte Bardot, Powell changed the color of her hair to blond. Their relationship started after a college party before the summer holidays when Lennon asked Powell to go a pub 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 Julian for three days, and shortly after went on holiday to Spain with Epstein, which would lead to speculation of an affair between the two (Epstein was widely known to be homosexual). Shortly afterwards, at Paul McCartney's twenty-first birthday party, a drunken Lennon physically attacked Cavern Club MC Bob Wooler for saying "How was your honeymoon, John?" (Wooler was referring to Lennon's marriage, and not Lennon's holiday in Spain with Epstein). In 1991, a fictionalized account of the Lennon/Epstein holiday was made into an independent movie called The Hours And Times. 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 actually suggested to Lennon that perhaps Ono was the woman for him. When Lennon and The Beatles went to Bangor to meditate, Powell and Lennon were separated on the train platform. 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 Imagine 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).

When Lennon and Ono moved to New York, Julian would not see his father again until 1973. During the time Lennon and Ono were separated, he lived with his personal assistant, May Pang. 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. In his 1980 Playboy interview, 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", which hurt Julian. 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.

Yoko Ono

There are two versions of how Lennon and Ono met: 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 physical relationship with Ono—seven years his senior—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. When Cynthia returned home she found Lennon and Ono, who was wearing Cynthia's bathrobe, drinking tea together. Lennon simply said, "Oh, Hi". Powell 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.

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 had 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 "Cold Turkey" 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". Lennon and 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 Yoko". In April 1969, on the roof of Apple Records, Lennon changed his name to John Ono Lennon. 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, Abbey Road. To escape the acrimony of The Beatles' breakup, Ono suggested they move permanently to New York, which they did on 31 August 1971. They first lived in the St. Regis Hotel on 5th Avenue, East 55th Street, and then moved a loft at 105 Bank Street, Greenwich Village, New York City, on 16 October 1971. After a robbery, they relocated to the more secure Dakota at 1 West 72nd Street, in February 1973.

May Pang and the "Lost Weekend"

In June 1973, 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 on an eighteen-month period he would later call his "Lost Weekend."

While Lennon and Pang were living in L.A., Lennon's drunken behavior was widely reported by the media. Lennon also took the opportunity to get reacquainted with his son, Julian, whom he had not seen in four years.

In May 1974, Lennon and Pang returned to New York where he began work on Walls and Bridges. On the evening of 23 August 1974, both Lennon and Pang claimed to have seen a U.F.O. in the sky from their balcony. Lennon mentioned the sighting in the booklet accompanying the Walls and Bridges album. When Lennon lost a bet to Elton John and joined 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.

In December 1974, Harrison was in New York on the Dark Horse tour, and Lennon agreed to join him on stage, but they had an argument over Lennon's refusal to sign the agreement that would legally dissolve The Beatles partnership, which was meant to be at New York's Plaza Hotel on 19 December 1974. Lennon finally signed the papers in Walt Disney World in Florida, while on holiday there with Pang and Julian. In January 1975, David Bowie achieved his first U.S. #1 hit with "Fame", co-written with Lennon (who contributed vocals and guitar) and Carlos Alomar.

On 31 January 1975, the Lennons reunited and, on 9 October 1975 – Lennon's 35th birthday – Ono gave birth to a son, Sean Ono Lennon. Lennon issued a statement: "I feel higher than the Empire State Building", and soon retired from the music business. He cited many reasons, but they were primarily the fact that he had been under contract since he was 22 years old and he was now free, rock 'n' roll was not as interesting as it once was, and the limited relationship he had had with first son influenced his decision to become a family man.

Political activism

Lennon and Ono used their honeymoon at the Amsterdam Hilton, in March 1969, as a "Bed-in for Peace" that attracted world-wide media coverage. At the second "Bed-in" in Montreal, in June 1969, they recorded "Give Peace a Chance" in their hotel room. The song was sung by over half a 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 and Abbie Hoffman. Lennon performed at the "Free John Sinclair" concert in Ann Arbor, Michigan, on 10 December 1971. Sinclair was an antiwar activist and poet who was serving ten years in state prison for selling two joints of marijuana to an undercover policeman. Lennon and Ono appeared on stage with Phil Ochs, Stevie Wonder and other musicians, plus antiwar radical and Yippie member, Jerry Rubin, and Bobby Seale 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. This performance was released on the two-CD John Lennon Anthology (1998) and the album Acoustic (2004). Lennon later performed the song on the David Frost Show accompanied by Ono and Jerry Rubin.

In 1972, the Nixon Administration tried to have Lennon deported from the U.S., as Richard Nixon believed that Lennon's support for George McGovern could lose him the next election. Republican 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 Naturalization Service began deportation proceedings against Lennon, arguing that his 1968 misdemeanor conviction for cannabis possession in London had made him ineligible for admission to the U.S. 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 in February 1972, where Jerry Rubin and Bobby Seale appeared as his guests.

On 23 March 1973, Lennon was ordered to leave the U.S. 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 Association 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 U.S. while waving the white flag of Nutopia; two white handkerchiefs. The entire press conference can be seen in the 2006 documentary released by Lions Gate, The U.S. vs. John Lennon. In June 1973, Lennon and Ono made their last political statement by attending the Watergate hearings in Washington, D.C.

Lennon's order of deportation was overturned in 1975. After Lennon’s death, historian Jon Wiener filed a Freedom of Information request for FBI files on Lennon. The FBI admitted it had 281 pages in its files on Lennon but refused to release most of them, claiming they were national security documents. In 1983, Wiener sued the FBI with the help of the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California. The case went to the Supreme Court before the FBI settled out of court in 1997; releasing all but 10 of the contested documents. The story is told in the documentary The U.S. vs. John Lennon, by David Leaf and John Scheinfeld, released in theaters in September 2006, and on DVD in February 2007. The final 10 documents in Lennon's FBI file were released in December 2006.

In 1976, Lennon's U.S. immigration status was finally resolved favorably, and he received his green card. Nixon's 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.

Drugs, meditation and primal therapy

Lennon was first given drugs in Hamburg, Germany, as The Beatles had to play long sets and were often given Preludin by 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 cannabis with Bob Dylan 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 The Beatles "smoked marijuana for breakfast", and that other people had trouble talking to them, because they were sniggering all the time.

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 Dead. He later used heroin, and wrote about the withdrawal symptoms he experienced in "Cold Turkey". On 24 August 1967, The Beatles met the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi at the London Hilton, and later went to Bangor, in North Wales, to attend a weekend of personal instruction. The time Lennon later spent in India at the Maharishi's ashram was productive, as most of the songs recorded for The White Album, and Abbey Road 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 Pete Shotton; his school friend and so-called assistant. After several days of taking LSD and smoking marijuana, Lennon convened a meeting at the Beatles' business HQ to inform the others that he felt he was the reincarnation of Jesus Christ. Later that day, he phoned Ono, whose own husband Tony (Anthony Cox) was in Paris on business, and invited her to Kenwood.

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 Therapy.


Each of The Beatles was known, especially during Beatlemania, for their 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 royalty — 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 jewelery." Lennon put on weight during 1965, and later said, "It was my fat-Elvis period.

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 Be. 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 show with the rest of The Beatles, and played a doorman in a gents' toilet in Not Only But Also. Lennon's humour could also be cruel, 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 Boys."

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 people—and satirical 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 of 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 Beat 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 (1964) and A Spaniard in the Works (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 Sketchbook (1992), which contained Lennon's drawings illustrating the definitions of Japanese words. Real Love: The Drawings for Sean followed in 1999. The Beatles Anthology included 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 pseudonyms as Dr Winston O'Boogie, Mel Torment (a play on singer Mel Tormé), and The Reverend Fred Gherkin. 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 album)
  • 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)


On the night of 8 December 1980, Lennon was shot four times in the back (the fifth shot missed) in the entrance hallway of the Dakota by Mark David Chapman. Lennon had autographed a copy of Double Fantasy for Chapman earlier that same night.

Lennon was pronounced dead on arrival in the Emergency Room at the Roosevelt Hospital at 11:15 p.m. On the following day, 9 December 1980, Ono issued a statement: "There is no funeral for John. John loved and prayed for the human race. Please pray the same for him. Love, Yoko and Sean." Chapman pleaded guilty to second degree murder and was sentenced to 20 years to life. He is still in prison, 27 years since his arrest, having been denied parole five times.

Two days after his death, Lennon's body was cremated at Ferncliff Cemetery in Hartsdale, New York. Ono kept his ashes.

Memorials and tributes

A crowd gathered outside the Dakota the night of Lennon's death. Ono sent word that their singing kept her awake and asked that they re-convene in Central Park the following Sunday for ten minutes of silent prayer. On 14 December 1980, millions of people around the world responded to Ono's request to pause for ten minutes of silence to remember Lennon: Thirty thousand gathered in Liverpool, and the largest group - over 100,000 - converged on New York's Central Park, close to the scene of the shooting.

Lennon continues to be mourned throughout the world and has been the subject of numerous memorials and tributes, principally New York City's Strawberry Fields, a memorial garden area in Central Park across the street from the Dakota building. Shortly after his death, Ono donated $1 million for its maintenance. It has become a gathering place for tributes on Lennon's birthday and on the anniversary of his death, as well as at other times of mourning, such as after the 11 September 2001 attacks and following George Harrison's death on 29 November 2001.

On 9 October 2007 the Imagine Peace Tower was first lit in Viðey island, off the coast of Reykjavík, Iceland. This idea, originally conceived by Yoko Ono in 1965 is lit annually from 9 October, Lennon's birthday to 8 December, Lennon's date of death. Into the tower the words "Imagine Peace" are carved in 24 different languages.

A biopic of Lennon by Matt Greenhalgh (Control) will be directed by Sam Taylor-Wood from March 2009. The script to the film, Nowhere Boy, is based on the book Imagine This: Growing Up with My Brother John Lennon, written by Lennon's half sister Julia Baird. The film, scheduled for a 2010 release, will examine the influence of Lennon's aunt Mimi Smith and his mother Julia upon his early life. The script had been in development hell for some time before funding from the UK Film Council became available.


With The Beatles

BRIT Awards:

  • 1977: Outstanding contribution to music during the past 25 years.
  • 1977: Best British band of the past 25 years.
  • 1977: Best British album of the past 25 years (for Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band).
  • 1983: Outstanding contribution to music.

Solo career

  • 1982 BRIT Awards - Outstanding contribution to music.
  • 2002 In 2002, a 100 Greatest Britons BBC poll voted Lennon into eighth place.
  • In 2004, Rolling Stone magazine ranked Lennon number 38 on its list of "The Immortals: The Fifty Greatest Artists of All Time".


Studio albums




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