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  1. Abbey Road (album)
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  45. Hey Jude
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  50. John Lennon
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  62. Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)
  63. Nowhere man
  64. Paperback Writer
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  89. With A Little Help From My Friends
  90. Yellow Submarine
  91. Yellow Submarine (album)
  92. Yellow Submarine (film)
  93. Yesterday
  94. Yoko Ono


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John Lennon

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Some information in this article or section has not been verified and may not be reliable.
Please check for any inaccuracies, and modify and cite sources as needed.

John Winston Ono Lennon, MBE (October 9, 1940 – December 8, 1980), (born John Winston Lennon, known as John Ono Lennon) was an iconic English 20th century rock and roll songwriter and singer, best known as the founding member of The Beatles. He and fellow-Beatle Paul McCartney formed the massively successful Lennon-McCartney songwriting partnership throughout the 1960s, writing songs for The Beatles and other artists to record.[1]

Lennon's songwriting was often full of pain and hope. His melodies were at times beautiful and at times dark. His lyrics reflected his personal and career demands, philosophical outlook, his unease with his fame, and current events. As a writing pair, Lennon's hard-edged and McCartney's optimistic styles complemented one another. The Beatles, largely under Lennon and McCartney's influence and with their record producer George Martin, revolutionised rock music with their lyrics, instrumentation, harmony, and electronic effects, changing the nature of popular music at the time and paving the way for the music of the 1970s,  1980s and beyond. In his solo career distinct from The Beatles, Lennon wrote and recorded songs that became icons of the age, such as "Imagine" and "Give Peace a Chance".

Lennon, on television and in films such as A Hard Day's Night (1964), and by press conferences and interviews, revealed his rebellious, iconoclastic nature and quick, irreverent wit. He channeled his fame and penchant for controversy into his work as a peace activist, artist and author.

He had one son, Julian, with his first wife, Cynthia; he later married his second wife, avant-garde artist Yoko Ono, and they had one son, Sean. John Lennon was murdered in New York City on December 8, 1980 by a deranged fan, as he and Ono returned home from a recording session; he was, and continues to be, mourned throughout the world.

In 2002, the BBC polled the British public about the 100 Greatest Britons of all time. Respondents voted Lennon into eighth place.



John Lennon was born in Liverpool to Julia Stanley Lennon and Alfred "Freddie" Lennon, supposedly during the course of a German air raid during the World War II Battle of Britain. (Historical records show a minor raid on Merseyside during the night of 9-10 October.) Lennon's father, a merchant seaman, walked out on the family when John was five years old. Years later Lennon met him again, during the height of Beatlemania. Both of his parents had musical backgrounds and experience, though neither pursued music seriously.

Aunt Mimi and Uncle George

Due to a lack of home space and concerns expressed about her relationship with a male friend, John's mother handed over his care to her sister, Mary Smith (known as Mimi), after receiving a considerable amount of pressure from both Mimi and child services to do so. Throughout the rest of his childhood and adolescence, Lennon lived with his "Aunt Mimi" and her husband, George Smith at 251 Menlove Avenue, Mendips, Liverpool.

He was raised as an Anglican. Like much of the population of Liverpool, Lennon had some Irish heritage. While Lennon had little exposure to his Irish background growing up, he came to identify with it later in life. He lived in a fairly middle class section of Liverpool.

Mimi and George, who had no children of their own, became strong parental figures to Lennon. On 15 July, 1958, when Lennon was 17, his mother was struck and killed by a car driven by a drunk, off-duty police officer, as she returned from Mimi's house. Julia Lennon's death was one of the factors that cemented his friendship with McCartney, who had lost his own mother to breast cancer in 1956, when he was 14. Years later, Lennon named his firstborn son Julian after his mother, and later wrote a song, "Julia", as a love song for her.


Lennon attended Dovedale County Primary School until he passed his Eleven-Plus, and from September 1952 to 1957 he attended Quarry Bank Grammar School in Liverpool, which he referred to as the start of his misery. He was a trouble-maker there and did little work, sinking to the "C-stream". He started drawing cartoons, and making fun of his teachers by mimicking their odd characteristics.

Though failing at his exams by one grade at grammar school, Lennon was accepted into the Liverpool College of Art with help from his school's headmaster and his Aunt Mimi, who was insistent that her young ward should have some sort of academic qualifications. It was there that he met his future wife, Cynthia Powell. Lennon would steadily grow to hate the conformity of art school, which proved to be little different from his earlier school experience, and ultimately he dropped out.

The move to music

He then devoted himself to music, inspired by American rock 'n' roll with singers/musicians like Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry, Buddy Holly and Little Richard. Mimi bought him his first guitar, but hoped that he would soon grow bored of it. Though she loved John, Mimi was skeptical about a lot of things, including his claim that one day he would be famous, telling him frequently, "The guitar's all very well, John, but you'll never make a living out of it." Years later, when The Beatles were the top act in show business, he presented her with a silver platter, engraved with those words.

Early bands

Lennon started a skiffle band in grammar school that was called The Quarry Men after his alma mater, Quarry Bank Grammar School. With the addition of Paul McCartney and George Harrison, the band switched to playing rock 'n' roll, taking the name "Johnny and The Moondogs", followed by "The Silver Beetles" , which was later shortened to The Beatles spelled with an "a" in reference to their identification with "beat groups".

Role in the Beatles

Main article: The Beatles
John Lennon in 1964.
John Lennon in 1964.


Lennon was usually considered the "leader" of The Beatles, as he founded the original group, inviting his art school friend Stuart Sutcliffe and McCartney to join; McCartney in turn invited Harrison. But most group decisions were democratic, with the unwritten rule that if any member objected to an idea, the group wouldn't pursue it.

Lennon usually played rhythm guitar,[2] while George Harrison played lead guitar and McCartney bass guitar after bassist Sutcliffe left the group. Lennon also frequently played keyboards, as did McCartney. Ringo Starr, brought into the group last, played drums. Lennon often sang lead, with McCartney and Harrison providing the harmony parts; or Lennon would take the harmony role when McCartney, Harrison, or Starr were singing lead, especially in live performances. As recording technology improved, and they were doing more work in the studio than live, overdubbing was used so that Lennon might provide the harmony parts as well as the lead for his songs. The unique and recognizable "Beatles" sound, however, was the classic three-part harmony with Lennon or McCartney at lead and harmony provided by the others.


"More popular than Jesus" controversy

Lennon often spoke his mind freely and the press was used to querying him on a wide range of subjects. On 4 March 1966 in an interview for the London Evening Standard with Maureen Cleave, who was a friend, Lennon made an off-the-cuff remark regarding religion.[3]

"Christianity will go. It will vanish and shrink. ... I don't 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. It's them twisting it that ruins it for me."

The article was printed and nothing came of it, until five months later when an American teen magazine called Datebook reprinted part of the quote on the front cover.[4]

A firestorm of protest swelled from the southern U.S. Bible Belt area, as conservative groups publicly burned Beatles records and memorabilia. The Beatles looked at this in a wry way, by saying, "They've got to buy them first before they burn 'em."

Radio stations banned Beatles music and concert venues cancelled performances. Even the Vatican got involved with a public denunciation of Lennon's comments. On August 11, 1966, The Beatles held a press conference in Chicago, in order to address the growing furor.

Lennon: "I suppose if I had said television was more popular than Jesus, I would have got away with it, but I just happened to be talking to a journalist friend (Maureen Cleave), and I used the words "Beatles" as a remote thing, not as what I think — as Beatles, as those other Beatles like other people see us. I just said "they" are having more influence on kids and things than anything else, including Jesus. But I said it in that way which is the wrong way."

Reporter: Some teenagers have repeated your statements — "I like The Beatles more than Jesus Christ." What do you think about that?

Lennon: "Well, originally I pointed out that fact in reference to England. That we meant more to kids than Jesus did, or religion at that time. I wasn't knocking it or putting it down. I was just saying it as a fact and it's true more for England than here. I'm not saying that we're better or greater, or comparing us with Jesus Christ as a person or God as a thing or whatever it is. I just said what I said and it was wrong. Or it was taken wrong. And now it's all this."

Reporter: But are you prepared to apologise?

Lennon: "I wasn't saying whatever they're saying I was saying. I'm sorry I said it really. I never meant it to be a lousy anti-religious thing. I apologise if that will make you happy. I still don't know quite what I've done. I've tried to tell you what I did do but if you want me to apologise, if that will make you happy, then OK, I'm sorry."

The governing members of the Vatican accepted his apology[5]

No more touring

The furor eventually died down, but constant Beatlemania, mobs, crazed teenagers, and now a press ready to tear them to pieces over any quote was too much to handle. The Beatles soon decided to stop touring, and never performed a scheduled concert again. A firework was thrown on the stage at one of their last concerts and McCartney later said that the band all looked at Lennon - fearing a gun had been fired at him. The pressure of dealing with incidents like that convinced even McCartney to say that he had had enough. Lennon wrote later "I always remember to thank Jesus for the end of my touring days."


"Turn on, tune in, drop out"

Lennon largely abandoned his leadership role under the influence of LSD and Timothy Leary's book The Psychedelic Experience, believing he needed to "lose his ego" to become enlightened. He resented McCartney's taking effective control of the band after Brian Epstein's death in 1967, and disliked some of the resulting projects, such as Magical Mystery Tour, and particularly Let It Be ("That film was set up by Paul, for Paul," as he said later to Rolling Stone). Lennon was the first to break the band's all-for-one sensibility, and also the rule that no wives or girlfriends would attend recording sessions, as he brought Yoko into the studio.

Lennon was also the first member to permanently quit the group (Starr had left during 1968, but was persuaded to return; Harrison walked out on a filming session early in 1969, but turned up at a business meeting a few days later), which he did in September 1969. He agreed not to make an announcement while the band renegotiated their recording contract, and blasted McCartney months later (with the negotiations complete) for going public with his own departure in April 1970. With the public unaware of the details, McCartney appeared to be the one who dissolved the group, depriving Lennon of the formalities. Lennon told Rolling Stone "I was a fool not to do what Paul did, which was use it to sell a record," and later wrote "I started the band. I finished it."

McCartney later admitted Lennon had been the first to quit, re-explaining the circumstances to CBS-TV's 48 Hours in 1989. In a subsequent Playboy interview,[6] McCartney asserted "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."

Lennon and his families

Lennon is alleged to have slapped his first wife, Cynthia, in the early years of their relationship, as she claimed in her book, John. The rise of Beatlemania and rigours of touring only furthered the strain on the relationship. He was also distant to his son, Julian, who felt closer to McCartney than to him. As the younger Lennon later said, "I've never really wanted to know the truth about how dad was with me. There was some very negative stuff talked about me... like when he said I'd come out of a whiskey bottle on a Saturday night. Stuff like that. You think, where's the love in that? Paul and I used to hang about quite a bit... more than dad and I did. We had a great friendship going and there seems to be far more pictures of me and Paul playing together at that age than there are pictures of me and my dad."

John is quoted as saying: "Sean is 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."

According to Cynthia, after the break-up with John, Paul visited Cynthia and jokingly suggested marriage. He is reported as saying, "How's about you and me, Cyn?" After that visit, he did not stay in touch with her, and in her book John, she published a copy of the first postcard from Paul — after 17 years of no contact — that he sent to her.

In the last major interview of his life conducted in September 1980, three months before his death — published in the January 1981 issue of Playboy— Lennon said that he'd always been very macho and had never questioned his chauvinistic attitudes towards women until he met Yoko Ono. By the end of his life, he had embraced the role of househusband and even said that he had taken on the role of wife and mother in their relationship. While Lennon was always distant with his first son (Julian) he was very close to his second son (Sean), and called him "my pride". Lennon also spoke about having a child with Ono: "We were both finally unselfish enough to want to have a child."

In the same interview, Lennon said he was trying to re-establish a connection with the then 17-year-old Julian, and confidently predicted that "Julian and I will have a relationship in the future." [7]

Both Julian and Sean Lennon went on to have recording careers years after their father's death.

Lennon and Yoko Ono

John Lennon and Yoko Ono with Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, 22 December 1969 Ottawa, Ontario
John Lennon and Yoko Ono with Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, 22 December 1969 Ottawa, Ontario

On November 9, 1966, after their final tour ended and right after he had wrapped up filming a minor role in the film How I Won the War, Lennon visited an art exhibit of Yoko Ono's at the Indica art gallery at No. 6, Mason's Yard in London. Lennon began his love affair with Ono in 1968 after returning from India and leaving his estranged wife Cynthia; Cynthia filed for divorce later that year, on the grounds of John's adultery with Ono which was evidenced by Yoko's apparent pregnancy and miscarriage of their son. Lennon and Ono became inseparable in public and private, as well as during Beatles recording sessions.

The press was extremely unkind to Ono, posting a series of unflattering articles about her - frequently with racist overtones - with one even going so far as to call her "ugly". This infuriated Lennon, who rallied around his new partner and said publicly that there was no John and Yoko, but that they were one person, "JohnAndYoko." These developments led to friction with the other members of the group, and heightened the tension during the 1968 White Album sessions.

At the end of 1968, Lennon and Ono performed as Dirty Mac on The Rolling Stones' Rock and Roll Circus. During his last two years as a member of The Beatles, Lennon spent much of his time with Ono partaking in public protests against the Vietnam War. He sent back his MBE (Member of the Order of the British Empire) (which he had received from Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II during the height of Beatlemania) "in protest against Britain's involvement in the Nigeria-Biafra thing and its support of America in Vietnam," adding as a joke, "as well as 'Cold Turkey' slipping down the charts."

On March 20, 1969, Lennon and Ono were married in Gibraltar, and spent their honeymoon in Amsterdam in a "Bed-In" for peace. Behind their bed were posters displaying the words "Hair Peace. Bed Peace." They followed up their honeymoon with another "Bed-In" for peace, this time held in Montreal at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel. During the second "Bed-In" the couple recorded "Give Peace a Chance", which would go on to become an international anthem for the peace movement. They were mainly patronised as a couple of eccentrics by the media, yet they did a great deal for the peace movement, as well as for other related causes, such as feminism and racial harmony. As with the "Bed-In" campaign, Lennon and Ono usually advocated their causes with whimsical demonstrations, such as Bagism, first introduced during a Vienna press conference. Shortly after, Lennon changed his name to John Winston Ono Lennon. Lennon wrote "The Ballad of John and Yoko" about his marriage and the subsequent press it generated.

The Break-up of The Beatles

Portrait of John Lennon by Richard Avedon.
Portrait of John Lennon by Richard Avedon.

The failed Get Back/Let It Be recording/filming sessions did nothing to improve relations within the band. After both Lennon and Ono were injured in the summer of 1969 in a car accident in Scotland, Lennon arranged for Ono to be constantly with him in the studio (including having a full-sized bed rolled in) as he worked on The Beatles' last album, Abbey Road. While the group managed to hang together to produce one last acclaimed musical work, soon thereafter business issues related to Apple Corps came between them.

Lennon decided to quit The Beatles but was talked out of saying anything publicly. Phil Spector's involvement in trying to revive the Let It Be material then drove a further wedge between Lennon (who supported Spector) and McCartney (who opposed him). Though the split would only become legal some time later, Lennon and McCartney's partnership had come to a bitter end. McCartney soon made a press announcement, declaring he had quit The Beatles, and promoting his new solo record.

In 1970, Jann Wenner recorded an interview with Lennon that was played on BBC in 2005. The interview reveals his bitterness towards McCartney and the hostility he felt that the other members held towards Yoko Ono. Lennon said: "One of the main reasons The Beatles ended is because... I pretty well know, we got fed up with being sidemen for Paul. After Brian Epstein died we collapsed. Paul took over and supposedly led us. But what is leading us when we went round in circles? Paul had the impression we should be thankful for what he did, for keeping The Beatles going. But he kept it going for his own sake."[8]

Solo career

John Lennon, early 1970; his Beatle locks shorn — as were Yoko's — for a charity auction.
John Lennon, early 1970; his Beatle locks shorn — as were Yoko's — for a charity auction.

Of the four former Beatles, Lennon had perhaps the most varied recording career. While he was still a Beatle, Lennon and Ono recorded three albums of experimental and difficult music, Unfinished Music No.1: Two Virgins, Unfinished Music No.2: Life with the Lions, and Wedding Album. His first 'solo' album of popular music was Live Peace in Toronto 1969, recorded in 1969 (prior to the breakup of The Beatles) at the Rock 'n' Roll Festival in Toronto with The Plastic Ono Band, which included Eric Clapton and Klaus Voormann. Apparently, they learned the whole set of songs on the plane from England to Canada. Lennon remembered that the conversation was mostly questions like, "Is it in E, or A?"

He also recorded three singles in his initial solo phase, the anti-war anthem "Give Peace a Chance", "Cold Turkey" (about his struggles with heroin addiction) and "Instant Karma!"

Following The Beatles' split in 1970, Lennon released the John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band album, a raw, brutally personal recording, which was directly inspired by what he had experienced earlier that year while going through Primal therapy with Dr. Arthur Janov in Los Angeles. (For more on this subject, see the webpage, "John Lennon - Primal therapy,"which includes an account of one of John's therapy sessions written by Pauline Lennon.) The influence of the therapy, which in part consists of screaming out one's emotional pain, is apparent in songs like "Mother" ("Mama don't go!/Daddy come home!"), "Remember," "Isolation," "I Found Out", "My Mummy's Dead," and "Well Well Well".

The centrepiece of the album is "God", in which he lists all of the people and things he no longer believes in -- ending with "Beatles". Lennon's growing political radicalisation is especially evident in the song "Working Class Hero", whose lyrics show clear traces of Primal therapy all the way through (beginning with "As soon as you're born they make you feel small ... 'til the pain is so big you feel nothing at all"). The song's repeated use of the word "fucking" got it banned from the airwaves. Lennon continued his effort to demythologise his old band and reclaim his individuality with a lengthy, no-holds barred interview published in Rolling Stone magazine. Many consider Plastic Ono Band to be a major influence on later hard rock and punk music.

That album was followed in 1971 by Imagine, Lennon's most successful solo album, which alternates in tone between dreaminess and anger. The title track has become an anthem for anti-religion and anti-war movements, and was matched in image by Lennon's "white period" (white clothes, white piano, white room, etc.). He specifically wrote one track, "How Do You Sleep?" as a biting personal attack against McCartney, but later admitted that, in the end, it was really about himself. George Harrison played slide guitar on the incisive song.

Perhaps in reaction, his next album, Some Time in New York City (1972), was loud, raucous, and explicitly political, with songs about prison riots, racial and sexual relations, the British role in the sectarian troubles in Northern Ireland, and his own problems in obtaining a United States Green Card. Lennon had been interested in left-wing politics since the late 1960s, and was said to have given donations to the Trotskyist Workers Revolutionary Party.[9]

It was during the period of the recording of this album that his links to this group were perhaps at their strongest. On 30 August 1972 Lennon and his backing band Elephant's Memory staged two benefit concerts at Madison Square Garden in New York; it was to be his last full-length concert appearance. Lennon and Ono also did a week-long guest co-host stint on the Mike Douglas Show, in an appearance that showed Lennon's wit and humour still intact.

In 1972, Lennon released an anti-sexism song, "Woman Is the Nigger of the World", implying that as black people were discriminated against in some countries, so were women globally. Radio refused to broadcast the song, and it was banned nearly everywhere, although he managed to play it to television viewers during his second appearance on The Dick Cavett Show.

Lennon rebounded in 1973 with Mind Games, which featured a strong title tune and some vague mumblings about a "conceptual country" called "Nutopia", which satirised his ongoing immigration case. His most striking song of that year was the wry "I'm the Greatest", which he wrote for Ringo Starr's very successful Ringo album.

The Anti-War Years and the Deportation Battle

Recording "Give Peace A Chance", by Roy Kerwood
Recording "Give Peace A Chance", by Roy Kerwood

"Give Peace a Chance", recorded in 1969 at the height of the Vietnam War, marked Lennon’s transformation from loveable mop-top to anti-war activist, and began a process that culminated in 1972 when the Nixon Administration sought to silence him by ordering him deported from the US.

The Vietnam War mobilized a generation of young people to take a stand opposing US government policy, but few pop stars joined them – antiwar protest was more common among folk musicians such as Phil Ochs, Joan Baez and Bob Dylan. Lennon however was determined to use his power as a superstar to help end the war, especially after he left the Beatles and teamed up with Yoko. They declared their honeymoon at the Amsterdam Hilton in March 1969 a "bed-in for peace," winning world-wide media coverage. At a second bed-in in Montreal in June, 1969, they recorded "Give Peace a Chance" in their hotel room; the song quickly became the anthem of the anti-war movement, and was sung by half a million demonstrators in Washington DC at Vietnam Moratorium Day in November 1969.

When John and Yoko moved to New York City in August 1971, they became friends with antiwar leaders Jerry Rubin, Abbie Hoffman, and others, and planned a national concert tour to coincide with the 1972 presidential election. It would have been the first US tour by any of the ex-Beatles since the lads had waved farewell at Candlestick Park in San Francisco at the end of their 1966 tour. But it would not have been the usual rock tour. 1972 was the first year 18-year-olds had been given the right to vote in the US, and Lennon wanted to help persuade young people to register to vote and vote against the war, which meant voting against Nixon. Thus the planned tour was to combine rock music with anti-war organizing and voter registration.

The Nixon Administration found out about Lennon's plans from an unlikely source: Republican Senator Strom Thurmond, who suggested in a February, 1972 memo that "deportation would be a strategic counter-measure." The next month the Immigration and Naturalization Service began deportation proceedings against Lennon, arguing that his 1968 misdemeanour conviction for cannabis possession in London had made him ineligible for admission to the US. Lennon spent the next two years in and out of deportation hearings, constantly under a 60-day order to leave the country, which his attorney managed to get extended each time.

The 1972 concert tour never happened, but Lennon and his friends did do one of the events they had been thinking about: the "Free John Sinclair" concert in Ann Arbor, Michigan in December 1971. Sinclair was a local antiwar activist who was serving ten years in the state prison for selling two joints of marijuana to an undercover cop. Lennon appeared onstage along with Phil Ochs, Stevie Wonder and other musicians, plus antiwar radical Jerry Rubin and Bobby Seale of the Black Panthers. 20,000 attended; two days after the concert, the state of Michigan released John Sinclair from prison.

While his deportation battle was going on, Lennon spoke often against the Vietnam War, appearing 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. He was tailed by a team of FBI agents, who concluded "Lennon appears to be radically oriented however he does not give the impression he is a true revolutionist since he is constantly under the influence of narcotics."

In the end, Nixon left the White House in the Watergate scandal, and Lennon stayed in the USA, winning his green card in 1975. The full story didn't come out until after Lennon’s murder, when historian Jon Wiener filed a Freedom of Information request for FBI files on Lennon. The FBI admitted it had 281 pages of 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 all the way to the Supreme Court before the FBI settled it in 1997, releasing all but ten of the contested documents. (The pages are reproduced in the book Gimme Some Truth: The John Lennon FBI Files, by Jon Wiener; some of them are posted online at The story is told in the documentary, "The U.S. Versus John Lennon," by David Leaf and John Scheinfeld, released by Lions Gate in September, 2006.

The "lost weekend" period

In 1973, Yoko approached May Pang — their personal assistant at the time — with a unique proposal. Ono, who thought May Pang would be an "ideal companion" for Lennon, asked her to "be with John and to help him out and see to it that he gets whatever he wanted." Lennon's personal life then fell into disrepair after Yoko kicked him out of the house. Lennon and Pang soon moved to Los Angeles, a period which has been dubbed the "lost weekend", though it lasted until the beginning of 1975. During their time together, Pang encouraged Lennon to spend time with his son, Julian Lennon, and she became friends with Cynthia Lennon.

Lennon also spent his time during these months with his close friend, the singer/songwriter Harry Nilsson, and an assortment of his drinking buddies (Keith Moon, Ringo Starr, Alice Cooper, Micky Dolenz and others), who collectively dubbed themselves the Hollywood Vampires. Though Lennon's public drunkenness had been the subject of gossip during 1974, Pang wrote that he was usually sober in his private life and created a large body of work. One notable session, captured in the bootleg A Toot and a Snore in '74, saw Lennon and his new friends jamming with Paul McCartney.

Despite publicised episodes of drunkenness, Lennon put together the well-received album, Walls and Bridges (1974), which featured a collaboration with Elton John on the up-tempo number one hit "Whatever Gets You Thru the Night". Another top ten hit from the album was the Beatlesque reverie "#9 Dream". Also, on the album, he made his last reference to Primal therapy in his song "Nobody Loves You (When You're Down and Out)", referring to Arthur Janov as "the one-eyed witch-doctor leading the blind." During 1974, Lennon also produced Nilsson's Pussy Cats album, and Nilsson worked with Ringo Starr on Apple Films' Son of Dracula and the accompanying soundtrack album.

Lennon capped the year by making a surprise guest appearance at an Elton John concert in Madison Square Garden where they performed "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds", "Whatever Gets You Thru the Night" and "I Saw Her Standing There" together. It was to be his last-ever concert appearance in front of a rock audience. Following the performance, Lennon travelled to Florida and it was here that he signed the papers finally breaking up The Beatles legally. Following the Christmas holidays, he returned to Yoko Ono in New York.

John Lennon’s last public performance on the TV special A Salute to Sir Lew Grade, 1975.
John Lennon’s last public performance on the TV special A Salute to Sir Lew Grade, 1975.

On 18 April, 1975, John Lennon made his last public appearance on ATV's special A Salute to Lew Grade. During the event Lennon performed "Imagine" and "Slippin' and Slidin" from his Rock 'n' Roll LP. John's bandmates, known as "Etc.", were costumed in two-faced masks during the performance. The "two-faced" stunt, and the line "... don't want to be your fool no more" (from "Slippin' and Slidin") were seen as digs at Grade, [citation needed] who Lennon and McCartney had been in conflict with due to his previous control of The Beatles publishing concerns. Dick James had sold the publishing to Grade from under the group in 1969. During "Imagine" Lennon interjects the line "... and no immigration too...", a reference to his then-unresolved battle to remain in the United States.

In 1975, Lennon released the Rock 'n' Roll album of cover versions of old rock and roll songs of his youth. This project was conceived several years earlier, and moved ahead in fits and starts. It was complicated by the unpredictable Phil Spector's involvement as producer and by several legal battles; the result received generally negative reviews, though it yielded a powerful, lauded cover of "Stand by Me".

Also in 1975, David Bowie achieved his first US number one hit with "Fame", co-written by Bowie, Lennon (who also contributed backing vocals and guitar) and Carlos Alomar.


Yoko Ono was pregnant with what would be their only child, after several previous unsuccessful pregnancies, three miscarriages with John. Lennon — regretful of the limited relationship he had with first son Julian — retired from music and dedicated himself to family life.

This was made easier in 1976 when his US immigration status was finally resolved favourably, after a years-long battle with the Nixon administration that included an FBI investigation involving surveillance, wiretaps, and agents literally following Lennon around as he travelled. Lennon claimed the investigation was politically motivated. With the departure of Nixon from the White House, the administration of his successor, Gerald Ford, showed little interest in continuing the battle.

When Jimmy Carter was inaugurated as President on January 20, 1977, John and Yoko were invited to attend the Inaugural Ball, signalling the end of hostilities between the U.S. government and Lennon. After this appearance, Lennon was rarely seen in public for the next 3 1/2 years, until his 1980 comeback.

Starting over

John and Yoko, in one of their last photo shoots, 21 November 1980
John and Yoko, in one of their last photo shoots, 21 November 1980

Lennon's retirement, which he began following the birth of his second son, Sean in 1975, lasted until 1980, when Lennon wrote an impressive amount of material during a lengthy Bermuda vacation and began thinking about a new album. For this comeback, he and Ono produced Double Fantasy, a concept album dealing with their relationship. The name came from a species of freesia Lennon saw at the Bermuda Botanical Gardens; he liked the name, and thought it was a perfect description of his marriage to Yoko.

The Lennons once again began a series of interviews and video footage to promote the album. Although Lennon would say in interviews for the album that he had not touched a guitar for five years, several of the tunes, such as "I'm Losing You," and "Watching the Wheels", had been worked on at home in the Dakota in various stages with different lyrics from 1977 onward. "(Just Like) Starting Over" began climbing the singles charts, and Lennon started thinking about a brand new world tour. Lennon also commenced work on Milk and Honey which he would leave unfinished. It was some time before Ono could bring herself to complete it.

Towards the end of his life, Lennon expressed his displeasure with the scant credit he was given as an influence on George Harrison in the latter's autobiography I Me Mine. According to Ono, he was also unhappy that Paul McCartney's Beatles songs, such as "Yesterday", "Hey Jude" and "Let It Be" were more covered than his own contributions. In the 1980 Playboy interview[10], Lennon claimed that some of his Beatles songs were subconsciously sabotaged, and that the group put more work and attention into McCartney's songs, whereas with his, they tended to experiment.

In this same 1980 Playboy interview, Lennon was ambivalent about his time with the Beatles and the group's legacy, not interested in talking about them any more than he would about old high school buddies. He was prompted that there was considerable speculation about whether the Beatles were now "dreaded enemies or the best of friends." He replied that they were neither, and that he hadn't seen any of The Beatles for "I don't know how much time." He also said that the last time he had seen McCartney they had watched the episode of Saturday Night Live where Lorne Michaels made his $3200 cash offer to get The Beatles to reunite on the show. The two had seriously considered going to the studio to appear on the show for a joke, but were too tired.


Entrance to the Dakota building where Lennon lived.
Entrance to the Dakota building where Lennon lived.
An unwitting Lennon signs Chapman's Double Fantasy, six hours before Chapman shoots him
An unwitting Lennon signs Chapman's Double Fantasy, six hours before Chapman shoots him

At 10:50 p.m. on 8 December 1980, Mark David Chapman deliberately shot and fatally wounded John Lennon in front of Lennon's residence, the Dakota, when Lennon and Ono returned from recording Ono's single "Walking on Thin Ice" for their next album.

Earlier that day at around 5 p.m., Lennon and Ono left their apartment in the historic Dakota on Central Park West in New York City to go to their recording studio to supervise the transfer of some of the Double Fantasy album numbers to singles. David Geffen, their record producer and friend, said that more than 700,000 album copies had already been sold up to that time.

As they were leaving the Dakota, they were approached by several people who were seeking autographs. Among them was a man who would be later identified as Mark David Chapman. John Lennon scribbled an autograph on the Double Fantasy album cover for Chapman.

The Lennons spent several hours at the studio on West 44th Street — returning to the Dakota at about 10:50 p.m. They exited their limousine on the 72nd Street curb even though a car could have driven through the entrance and into the courtyard.

Three witnesses (Jose Perdomo, who was a doorman at the entrance; an elevator operator; and a cab driver who had just dropped off a passenger) saw Chapman standing in the shadows by the arch.

The Lennons walked by, and after Ono had opened the inner door and had walked inside — when Lennon was the only person inside the entrance archway — Chapman called out, "Mr. Lennon." Then he dropped into "a combat stance" and shot Lennon four times with hollow point rounds from a Charter Arms .38 revolver. According to the autopsy, two shots struck Lennon in the left side of his back and two in his left shoulder. All four caused serious internal damage and bleeding. The fatal shot pierced Lennon's aorta.

According to police, Lennon staggered up six steps to the room at the end of the entrance used by the concierge, said, "I'm shot," and then collapsed. After shooting Lennon, Chapman calmly sat down on the sidewalk and waited. The doorman walked to Chapman and reportedly said, "Do you know what you've just done?" Chapman replied, in a matter-of-fact tone, "I just shot John Lennon."

The first policemen at the scene were Officers Steve Spiro and Peter Cullen, who were in a patrol car at 72nd Street and Broadway when they heard a report of shots fired at the Dakota. The officers found Chapman sitting "very calmly" on the sidewalk. They reported that Chapman had dropped the revolver after firing it, and that he had a paperback book, J.D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye and a cassette recorder with over 10 audio cassettes, which had 14 hours of Beatles songs on them.

The second police team at the Dakota, Officers Bill Gamble and James Moran, rushed Lennon to Roosevelt Hospital. Officer Moran said they stretched Lennon out on the back seat and that the singer was "moaning." Moran asked, "Do you know who you are?" Lennon nodded slightly and tried to speak, but could only manage to make a gurgling sound. Lennon lost consciousness shortly after.

John Lennon, at the age of forty, was pronounced dead on arrival at Roosevelt Hospital at approximately 11:15 p.m. by Dr. Stephen Lynn. The cause of death was reported as hypovolemic shock, as a result of losing more than 80% of his blood volume. Dr. Elliott M. Gross — the Chief Medical Examiner — said after the autopsy that no one could have lived more than a few minutes with such injuries. The use of hollow point bullets allowed for substantial internal bleeding. Chapman's killing of Lennon was intended to be merciless.

Yoko Ono, crying "Tell me it's not true," was taken to Roosevelt Hospital and led away in shock after she learned that her husband was dead. Geffen later issued a statement in her behalf: "John loved and prayed for the human race. Please do the same for him."

Within the first minutes after the news broadcasts announcing the shooting, people began to gather at Roosevelt Hospital and in front of the Dakota, reciting prayers, singing Lennon's songs and burning candles.

The first national transmission of the news across the USA was on the fledgling Cable News Network, on which anchorwoman Kathleen Sullivan reported that Lennon had been shot and was en route to a New York hospital (his death had not yet been confirmed).

When Lennon was shot, the ABC television network was in the midst of airing an NFL game between the Miami Dolphins and New England Patriots on Monday Night Football. After having the news fed directly to his headset by ABC News chief Roone Arledge, legendary football announcer Howard Cosell (who had interviewed Lennon on MNF on December 9, 1974) announced the news of the murder:

"This, we have to say it, is just a football game, no matter who wins or loses. An unspeakable tragedy, confirmed to us by ABC News in New York City. John Lennon, outside of his apartment building on the West Side of New York City, the most famous perhaps of all of The Beatles, shot twice in the back, rushed to Roosevelt Hospital, dead on arrival."

The news was broken on competing network NBC in a traditional manner: a comedy piece on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson was interrupted by an anonymous announcer voicing the news bulletin over a text slide visual, then returning, in what had to seem surreal to viewers, to the Carson sketch that had been interrupted.

When reporters intrusively questioned Paul McCartney on how he felt about his friend's death, McCartney, who had been caught off guard, muttered "Drag, isn't it?"[11] This seemingly glib response was criticised at the time, though McCartney was clearly shaken, and later stated in a Playboy interview that "I had just finished a whole day in shock and I said, 'It's a drag.' I meant drag in the heaviest sense of the word, you know: 'It's a — DRAG.' But, you know, when you look at that in print, it says, 'Yes, it's a drag.' Matter of fact." George Harrison prepared a more comprehensive press release and re-wrote the song "All Those Years Ago" for Lennon. Ringo Starr and his wife flew to New York to comfort Ono.

On 14 December 1980, all around the world, people paused to stand alone or come together in silence, heeding a plea from Yoko Ono that they take 10 minutes to remember the former Beatle.

"Lennon had a macabre sense of humour about dying in a plane crash. "We'll either go in a plane crash or we'll be popped off by some loony.'"[12] Several 1960s Beatles concerts in the United States and Canada did have strengthened security because of threats against the individual lives of the group members, and Starr himself claims to have performed at a Montreal concert with his cymbals positioned so as to block his view from the audience after receiving a death threat, and Harrison vetoed a proposed ticker tape parade in San Francisco in 1965 for fear of assassination. [1] In retrospect, although Lennon might have meant it as a joke and did not expect it to happen, the comment turned out to be chillingly accurate. Another comment was made in his last interview (recorded on the morning of his death), where he mentioned that he often felt that somebody was stalking him, referring to the federal agents trying to make a case for deporting him.

Lennon was cremated at Ferncliff Cemetery in Hartsdale, New York, and his ashes were kept by Yoko Ono.

Chapman pleaded guilty to second degree murder and was sentenced to 20 years to life. He has been denied parole several times and remains incarcerated at Attica Correctional Facility.

Memorials and tributes

Main article: List of John Lennon Tributes
Strawberry Fields Memorial in Central Park, New York City.
Strawberry Fields Memorial in Central Park, New York City.

A much-missed figure, Lennon has been the subject of numerous memorials and tributes, principally the Strawberry Fields Memorial, constructed in Central Park across the street from the Dakota building where he lived, and where he was shot. In 2002, Liverpool also renamed its airport the Liverpool John Lennon Airport, and adopted the motto "Above us only sky".

Every December 8 - the anniversary of his death - there is a memorial in front of Capitol Records on Vine Street in Hollywood, California. It includes speakers discussing Lennon, musical tributes, and group singing. A similar gathering takes place every year on his birthday, as well as on the anniversary of his death, at Strawberry Fields.

The 25th anniversary of John Lennon's death on December 8, 2005, was a particularly emotional milestone for Beatles and Lennon fans. Celebrations of John Lennon's life and music took place in London, New York City, Cleveland, and Seattle. A tribute concert was held at John Lennon Park at Havana, Cuba, with a special guest appareance by Kents, Luis Molina and X-Alfonso.

The minor planet 4147, discovered January 12, 1983 by B. A. Skiff at the Anderson Mesa Station of the Lowell Observatory, was named in memory of John Lennon.[13]

Lennon's humour

Some information in this article or section has not been verified and may not be reliable.
Please check for any inaccuracies, and modify and cite sources as needed.

Each of The Beatles was known, especially during Beatlemania, for their sense of humour. Lennon's style of humour was always to combine the normal with the absurd, and then making it appear as if it was just a normal comment. After Ringo said "It's been a hard day's (work) night", he laughed, but then turned it into a song. This surrealist humour and love of wordplay was later evident in his Milliganesque writings John Lennon: In His Own Write and A Spaniard In The Works (meaning 'a spanner in the works' — a problem in the machine).

During live performances of "I Want to Hold Your Hand", Lennon often changed the words to "I want to hold your gland" (meaning breast/mammary gland), because no one could hear the vocals anyway, above the noise of the screaming audiences. John displayed his usual brand of humour when a reporter asked him: "Does it bother you that you can't hear what you sing during concerts?" John: "No, we don't mind. We've got the records at home."

Lennon's humour also showed up often in The Beatles' music and in his solo work. For instance, during the aborted Get Back sessions, he was recorded introducing "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 the first song on Let It Be, the McCartney-penned "Two of Us".

On one occasion, when asked if Ringo Starr was "the best drummer in the world", Lennon replied, "He isn't even the best drummer in The Beatles", showing again how he would turn things upside down to create laughter. Perhaps regretting the remark, Lennon in later years was outspoken in his conviction of Starr's importance to the band.

It was Lennon, who, at the Royal Variety Show in 1963, in the presence of numerous members of the British royalty, told the audience, "Those of you in the cheaper seats can clap your hands. The rest of you, if you'll just rattle your jewellery."

Lennon's humour was apparent during the Beatles' first American press conference, immediately after they stepped off their plane in February 1964.

Reporter: "Will you please sing something for us?" Lennon: "No, we need money first."

Reporter: "What is it about your music that excites people so much?" Lennon: "If we knew, we'd form another group and be managers."

His humour, however, could go from one extreme to the other, as shown when he mocked Brian Epstein by altering the lyrics of "Baby You're A Rich Man"(Too) to "Baby you're a rich fag-Jew".[14]

Once, in an elevator of a hotel in New York where they were staying, Brian Epstein asked John what a good title would be for the autobiography he was planning to write. John answered: "How about Queer Jew?" Brian was extremely upset by his remark. Later, when John learned that the title of the book would be A Cellarful of Noise, John said to a friend: "More like A Cellarful of Boys."

Lennon would sometimes use his humour to be extremely sarcastic, and caustic, in interviews. "We created Apple so someone wouldn't have to go down on their knees in an office — probably yours." Whilst the other Beatles laughed, he would glare to make his point, although nobody was quite sure if he was joking or not.

Lennon's partnership in songwriting with McCartney involved him — many times — in opposing McCartney's upbeat, positive outlook, with a sarcastic counter-point, as one of their songs, "Getting Better" demonstrates:

McCartney: I've got to admit it's getting better, it's getting better all the time.
Lennon: It can't get no worse!

The Beatles often made fun of George Martin, as they once sang "tit-tit-tit", as backing vocals instead of "dit-dit-dit" on the 1965 song "Girl" from the LP Rubber Soul. When Martin (who was upstairs in the control room and could not see them) asked, "Boys, was that dit, or... tit?" "It was dit, George", Lennon replied, as the others doubled up in silent laughter. They thought of George Martin (who was always dressed in a suit and tie) as being part of the establishment, and therefore open to jokes, but never ridicule.


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 Yoko (as Ada Gherkin "ate a gherkin", and other sobriquets) also travelled under such names, thus avoiding unwanted public attention.


Numerous biographies of John Lennon have been published. Notable are Lennon: The Definitive Biography by Ray Coleman and the relentlessly hostile The Lives of John Lennon by Albert Goldman.

John Lennon wrote three books himself: John Lennon: In His Own Write, A Spaniard in the Works, and Skywriting by Word of Mouth (the last published posthumously). A personal sketchbook with Lennon's familiar cartoons illustrating definitions of Japanese words, Ai: Japan Through John Lennon's Eyes, was published posthumously. The Beatles Anthology also contains writings, drawings, and interview transcripts by Lennon, along with the other three Beatles.

  • John Lennon, Yoko Ono, David Sheff and G. Barry Olson (1981), The Playboy interviews with John Lennon and Yoko Ono. New York: Playboy Press/Putnam, 1981. ISBN 0872237052 - includes unpublished conversations and Lennon's song-by-song analysis of his work
  • Julia Baird (with Geoffrey Giuliano), John Lennon My Brother— 1989, Grafton Books. ISBN 0-586-20566-7
  • Fenton Bresler, The Murder of John Lennon — 1989, Mandarin, ISBN 0-7493-0357-3
  • Ray Coleman, Lennon: the definitive biography, 1992, Harper
  • E. Thomson and D. Gutman (editors), The Lennon Companion: Twenty-Five Years of the Comment — 2004, ISBN 0-333-43965-5
  • Albert Goldman, The Lives of John Lennon — 2001, Chicago, ISBN 1-55652-399-8
  • Jordi Sierra i Fabra El joven Lennon (The young Lennon); 1997, Ediciones SM. ISBN 987-578-038-3
  • Larry Kane, Lennon Revealed — 2005, Running Press, ISBN 0-7624-2364-1
  • Cynthia Lennon, John — 2005, Crown Publishers, ISBN 030733855X
  • Elizabeth Partridge, John Lennon: All I Want is the Truth — 2005, Viking Juvenile, ISBN 0-670-05954-4
  • Steven Roseta, (Just Like) Starting Over — A 2006, stage play, largely based on an unpublished John Lennon and Yoko Ono interview from 8 December 1980.
  • Jon Wiener, Come Together: John Lennon In His Time, 1985, Random House
  • Jon Wiener, Gimme Some Truth: The John Lennon FBI Files, 2000, Univ. of California
  • Rosaura Lopez En casa de John Lennon (At John Lennon's House), 2005, Hercules Ediciones , ISBN 8496314189


Further information: John Lennon discography


Main articles: John Lennon trivia and The Beatles trivia

Documentaries and films

  • The U.S. Versus John Lennon
  • Imagine: John Lennon

Internal link

  • John Lennon hat

External links

Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to:
John Lennon
Wikimedia Commons has media related to:
John Lennon
  • Official John Lennon website
  • Petition to create John Lennon postage stamp
  • Bagism
  • Official website of the "Liverpool Lennons" - John, Cynthia & Julian
  • BBC Lennon Site
  • John Lennon at the Notable Names Database
  • John Lennon at the Internet Movie Database
  • John Lennon as an artist
  • Lennon FBI files
  • Reference: deed poll name change to John Ono Lennon.
  • "Man of the Decade" interview transcript
  • "Power to the People: The Lost John Lennon Interview" by Tariq Ali and Robin Blackburn
  • Absolute Elsewhere: The Spirit of John Lennon
  • Radio Dial Scan of the night Lennon died
  • British TV's reaction to the death of John Lennon
  • The US Versus John Lennon
  • John Lennon's Will, 12 November, 1979
  • Roy Kerwood's Montreal Bed In Site May 1969 (Rehersal Photo above)
  • Accordion Beatles A different take on Beatles classics
  • Strawberry Fields Station
  • John Lennon Discography
  • John Lennon Photos Montreal 1969 Bed In For Peace and Yoko Ono
  • 9 Newcastle Road, John was apparently conceived here on the kitchen floor in January 1940
  • 251 Menlove Avenue ('Mendips'). John grew up in this house with his Aunt Mimi and Uncle George.
  • 3 Gambier Terrace, where John used to share a flat with Stuart Sutcliffe.
  • 36 Falkner Street, after their marriage in August 1962, John and Cynthia lived here for a short while.


  1. ^ The Lennon-McCartney Songwriting Partnership, 11 August 2005. Retrieved on 6 November 2006
  2. ^ "John Lennon rhythm guitar role"
  3. ^ "The John Lennon I Knew" from the Telegraph, October 5, 2006
  4. ^ "John Lennon Proclaims Beatles "More Popular than Jesus"" from News of the Odd, March 4, 1966
  5. ^ "We're more popular than Jesus." from AOL Music's Infamous Rock Quotes.
  6. ^ "Paul McCartney 1984 Playboy Interview"
  7. ^ Playboy interview with David Sheff, conducted September 1980; published in January 1981 issue of Playboy; reprinted in John Lennon, Yoko Ono, David Sheff and G. Barry Olson, The Playboy interviews with John Lennon and Yoko Ono New York: Playboy Press/Putnam, 1981; available online at
  8. ^ "Lennon tapes on Beatles break-up to be broadcast" from, November 18, 2005
  9. ^ "Was there a high-level MI5 agent in the British Workers Revolutionary Party?" from the World Socialist Website, March 2, 2000
  10. ^ conducted in September 1980 and published in Playboy in January 1981; republished in John Lennon, Yoko Ono, David Sheff and G. Barry Olson (1981), The Playboy interviews with John Lennon and Yoko Ono. New York: Playboy Press/Putnam, 1981. ISBN 0872237052
  11. ^ "Paul McCartney on John's death" from YouTube
  12. ^ Coleman, Ray; Lennon: The Definitive Biography, 1992, Harper
  13. ^
  14. ^ Lennon: The Definitive Biography; Ray Coleman; Pan Publishing; 1984; p559




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