gigatos | November 19, 2021
John Winston Ono Lennon , born October 9, 1940 in Liverpool and died December 8, 1980 in New York, is a British singer-songwriter, guitarist, multi-instrumentalist, writer and peace activist.
He is the founder of the Beatles, an English music group that has been a worldwide success since its formation in the early 1960s. In the Beatles, he and Paul McCartney formed one of the most influential and prolific songwriting tandems in rock history, writing over two hundred songs.
As a teenager, influenced by his American rock ”n” roll idols, he was swept up in the wave of skiffle music that swept through Liverpool and founded the Quarrymen in early 1957, which evolved to become, with Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr, The Beatles. From the albums Please Please Me in 1963 to Let It Be in 1970, the Beatles became one of the biggest phenomena in the history of the recording industry, introducing many musical innovations and mixing genres and influences with a boldness and sophistication that had never been seen before. Lennon played a central role in this popular, critical and commercial success, composing major works for the group. The dissensions between the musicians, in particular between Lennon and McCartney, put an end to the adventure in 1970.
When the Beatles split up, John Lennon devoted himself to his solo career, supported and inspired by his wife Yoko Ono, an avant-garde Japanese artist. Yoko and John are one of the most talked about couples in the world, both for their art and their political commitment. They created the Plastic Ono Band, a group with variable geometry where they were accompanied by friends on stage and in the studio. In 1971, John Lennon wrote one of his most iconic songs, Imagine; the album of the same name was also his biggest solo commercial success. Lennon retired from public life in 1975 to care for his newborn son Sean, and resumed his career in 1980, weeks before he was murdered by Mark David Chapman, a psychotic fanatic, outside his home in the Dakota Building in New York City.
In addition to his music, Lennon is also famous for his numerous statements, especially pacifist, from the late 1960s. His activities and his commitment, especially against the war in Vietnam, earned him regular trouble with the United States government, which tried to expel him. A complex personality, he showed a sharp humor, tinged with absurdity and nonsense, and was also distinguished by his sometimes violent and confrontational character, in contradiction with his image as a representative of the pacifist ideal. He shows talents in the fields of painting and writing, plays in some films, and makes experimental short films.
Long after his death, he remains one of the most popular artists of the twentieth century (he sold more than 72 million records in “album equivalent”) and embodies the peace and love movement of the 1960s and 1970s. A rally in his memory continues to be held in New York every December 8, the day of his death, and several memorials have been erected in his honor around the world. The Liverpool airport has been named after him since 2002.
Childhood and adolescence (1940-1956)
John Winston Lennon, son of Alfred “Alf” Lennon and Julia Stanley, was born on Wednesday, October 9, 1940, at the Oxford Street Maternity Hospital in Liverpool (Contrary to what was written in Hunter Davies” biography, there was no German air raid that night). John got his first name from his grandfather John “Jack” Lennon, and his middle name, Winston, was given to him in honor of British Prime Minister Winston Churchill. Jack Lennon, born in 1855 in Dublin and died in 1921, was a singer by trade (the name Lennon is the anglicized version of the Irish name Ó Leannáin). He lived in the United States for a long time before returning to Liverpool, where Alf Lennon was born. Orphaned, he received a good education and left school at fifteen. He worked for a year as an office boy and then joined the merchant marine. He also began to date Julia Stanley, despite the disagreement of the girl”s family, and they eventually married in 1938. They lived in a house on Newcastle Road, in the suburb of Penny Lane, but he was frequently away from the family home. Two years later, Julia gave birth to John while Alf was at sea.
Alf was away for much of 1943, stopping to support his wife and son, and then returned the following year. He offered to take care of his family, but Julia, pregnant with another man, refused. His sister Mary Elizabeth “Mimi” Smith (en) having complained to the social services, Julia must entrust her with the custody of John who is then three years old. Mimi Smith later said, “I knew the moment I saw John in the hospital that I was the one who would be his mother, not Julia. Is that a horrible thing to say? Not really, because Julia took it as something totally natural. She often said that I was her real mother, that she had only given birth to her.” Mimi also reports that the three of them had discussed and agreed that she would officially adopt little John, but this decision never materialized. When Julia”s second child was born, a girl initially named Victoria, she gave her to the Salvation Army for adoption. (Several years later, John Lennon tried, without success, to trace this half-sister, who became Ingrid with the new name given to her by her adoptive parents, and Pedersen by her marriage. She will publish her memoirs after John”s death. Lennon”s second half-sister, named Julia like her mother, did the same in two books, first in 1988).
In June 1946, Alf picked John up from his sister-in-law”s house to spend time with his son in Blackpool, before emigrating to New Zealand. His finances were in good shape, thanks in part to the post-war black market. Although we often read that five-year-old John had to choose between his two parents on the docks in Blackpool, in reality Alf agreed to leave his son in England knowing that Julia and Mimi would take better care of him. Back in Liverpool, he was entrusted permanently to his aunt and lost all contact with his father for twenty years, until the height of Beatlemania. Lennon lived his entire childhood and adolescence surrounded by women: his mother and her four sisters. But from the age of nine to sixteen, he was also lucky enough to live with a host of cousins, among them Stanley Parkes and Leila, with whom he had many happy outings, movie sessions and even trips, all three together or only with Stanley, who was seven years older than him.
John goes to live in Woolton, another part of Liverpool, with his Aunt Mimi and Uncle George Smith, at 251 Menlove Avenue, in a house nicknamed “Mendips”. He spent the rest of his childhood and adolescence there. Of the four Beatles, he was the highest on the social ladder, living in a suburban house with a garden. Lennon was educated in the Anglican tradition; he went to Sunday school and even made his communion, of his own free will, at fifteen. He first attended Dovedale Primary School, where he learned to read and write in five months, with the help of his Uncle George. John proved to be a very curious child with a talent for literature. He invents songs from the rhymes he is taught at school. He then created a world close to his favorite novel, Alice”s Adventures in Wonderland, of which he drew all the characters. Throughout his school years, Lennon was a leader and a troublemaker, constantly fighting with other children in his school and in his neighborhood. For example, he explains, “I loved The Wind in the Willows. When I read a book, it had to be real. That”s why I wanted to be a leader at school. So that the others could play the games I liked, like in what I had just read.” While he forgets about his father fairly quickly, Lennon often thinks about his mother, whom he sees from time to time.
From 1952 to 1957, he attended Quarry Bank High School, a reputable suburban school close to his home. From the very first day, he was impressed by the number of students and the difficulty it would be for him to make his mark. Lennon”s aggressiveness and fighting was always a part of high school: “I wanted to be admired. I wanted to be the boss. I liked that more than being a middle-class kid. But John was also a humorous student, creating comic strips, saucy poems and obscene drawings, which got him into trouble regularly. His grades were poor, getting worse each year, as one teacher explained in his ninth grade report card: “Hopeless. More like the class clown. Terrible report card. Wastes other students” time.” The following year, he was redirected to the weaker classes, the “C track.” John felt ashamed, but didn”t start working because he didn”t want to “compete with morons. He drags his friend Pete Shotton down the wrong path with him. As a result, he narrowly fails the General Certificate of Education, which puts his future in jeopardy. However, he receives help from Mr. Pobjoy, a new teacher who has become attached to him. Pobjoy allowed him to enter the Beaux-Arts, knowing that he had a talent for drawing; Aunt Mimi approved of the idea. Lennon failed the drawing test at the patent: “They had to do something about travel. I drew them a hunchback with warts. I guess they didn”t like it.
In June 1955, Uncle George died of a hemorrhage, when Lennon was almost fifteen years old; he got along well with him and, even if he did not show anything about it, his aunt said that his death shocked him a lot. Lennon lives alone with Mimi. His mother visits him almost daily and he himself often goes to see her, growing up; she regularly shelters him when he argues with his aunt. Julia is then an ally in her son”s quest for independence and rebellion, mocking the parents and teachers who bully him in high school. He sees his mother more as a younger aunt or older sister. In terms of personality, John is very much like her. Julia also played an important role in his musical education, giving him his first guitar, a cheap Gallotone Champion acoustic. She taught him the banjo and the first song he could play was, according to sources, Ain”t That a Shame by Fats Domino, or That”ll Be The Day by Buddy Holly.
The first American rock ”n” roll records quickly reached the ears of the young people of Liverpool, and by his own admission, John Lennon “missed the Bill Haley period”. But one day, in 1956, he hears Heartbreak Hotel by Elvis Presley, and there, he explains, “it was the end of the world. He declares about the King: “Nothing really touched me until the day I heard Elvis. If it wasn”t for Elvis, there wouldn”t have been the Beatles. I”m an Elvis fan because he”s the one who got me out of Liverpool. As soon as I heard him and loved him, it was my whole life. He didn”t exist anymore. All I could think about was rock ”n” roll. Except for sex, food and money – but it”s the same thing, really.”
Early career (1956-1962)
While John Lennon, now crazy about rock ”n” roll, is at Quarry Bank High School, the wave of skiffle is breaking in Liverpool. He had the idea to form a band with his friend Eric Griffith, which led them to take guitar lessons, quickly abandoned by Lennon, he founded, with Griffith, Pete Shotton, Nigel Walley and Ivan Vaughan, the band Quarrymen, which performed in small parish parties. It was during one of them, on July 6, 1957, that Ivan Vaughan introduced Paul McCartney to John. The young Paul, fifteen years old and left-handed, impressed him by playing the chords of Eddie Cochran”s song Twenty Flight Rock. Lennon summed up this crucial encounter this way: “It was from the day I met Paul that things began to move forward.” Paul”s father initially thought that Lennon was a bad match for his son, but he soon agreed to let the Quarrymen rehearse at his home, and the duo began working together. By 1957, they were writing their first songs, such as Hello Little Girl, which later became one of the Fourmost”s signature songs, and One After 909, which appeared many years later on the Let It Be album. We used to skip school and go back to my house in Forthlin Road and write. There are a lot of songs from that time that we never used, because they”re very simple songs,” recalls Paul McCartney. Aunt Mimi was very skeptical about her nephew”s possible musical career, often telling him that “the guitar is great, but you”ll never make a living at it. A few years later, when the Beatles were at the height of their fame, John gave Mimi a silver platter with this sentence engraved on it.
Lennon attended the Liverpool College of Art from the autumn of 1957, in the arts and humanities section, which he did not like; in retrospect, he thought he should have studied illustration or painting. At that time, he wore a Teddy Boy style, leather jackets, and became known to everyone as a disreputable rebel. At art school, he befriended Stuart Sutcliffe and met his future wife Cynthia Powell. Distracted, John often forgets to bring his drawing materials and does not hesitate to borrow his pencils and brushes. One day when he came to class with his guitar, he sang her the American ballad Ain”t She Sweet. Powell, as for her, dyed her hair blond after hearing Lennon compliment a girl with blond hair. However, he is insolent and inattentive during the courses, to the point of being refused by certain teachers. Having failed an exam, he left the school before the end of his year.
In addition to their passion for music, John and Paul soon shared a common bond: the loss of their mother. Less than two years after Mary McCartney”s death, Julia was hit by a car on July 15, 1958, just outside Mendips. John saw the death of his mother as a great trauma, plunging him into bitterness: “I had lost her twice. The first time was when I was sent to live with my aunt. And the second one when I was 17, when she really, physically died. That made me very, very bitter.” He never got over this disappearance, dedicating several songs to her afterwards.
In the Quarrymen, John Lennon has a certain authority over the others, because of his age and his excesses. On his position in the group, Paul McCartney says: “We all admired John. He was the oldest, and he was pretty much the leader. He was the sharpest mind, the smartest and all that sort of thing.” Lennon”s look at the time was heavily influenced by Elvis Presley and Marlon Brando. In February 1958, McCartney convinced him to include his friend George Harrison in the group. Lennon, little tempted at the beginning because persuaded that Harrison is too young, changes his mind after having auditioned him in a bus.
Later, Lennon named his group the Silver Beetles, to allude to the film Wild Crew, and then, in 1960, the Beatles, the second “e” in the word “beetle” changed to “a” on an idea of Lennon or Sutcliffe, in reference to the Beat Generation. The group, very influenced by the rock ”n” roll repertoire of the time, develops a rather aggressive play. After having made a small reputation in Liverpool, the group is hired in August 1960 by Bruno Koschmider, owner of clubs in Hamburg, Germany. From then on, the Beatles played in the clubs of the hot district of Sankt Pauli. John is full of facetiousness during his concerts: “My name is John, I play the guitar. Sometimes I play the fool too”; or “You Krauts, we won the war! – knowing that the German public will not understand him and that the English sailors present will burst out laughing.
Aunt Mimi is terrified of this trip and begs her nephew to resume his studies, without success. For this German escapade, Lennon imposes Stuart Sutcliffe to the bass. Very gifted painter, Stuart reveals himself a poor musician. Shortly after the beginning of the engagement, he leaves the group to live his love story with Astrid Kirchherr, author of the first official photographs of the Beatles. It is then McCartney who takes the bass, Lennon and Harrison refusing to leave their guitars. The group experiences other setbacks when McCartney and the drummer of the time, Pete Best, are sent back from Germany after having set fire to a condom, at the back of the cinema where they are lodged, while George is also sent back, not being of age to work. Lennon, for his part, lost his work permit shortly afterwards and also had to return to England.
They return to Germany in April 1961 and record My Bonnie with Tony Sheridan. In November, Brian Epstein offered to become the Beatles” manager, which they accepted. Epstein plays a key role in the group, pushing the members to change their leather outfits for suits and jackets, giving them a wiser image. John Lennon saw a second drama when Sutcliffe died of a cerebral hemorrhage on April 10, 1962, a few days before the return of the group to Hamburg. Lennon holds then a great role near Kirchherr: this one will declare thereafter that he saved it by raising the moral one to him, saying to him: “either you live, or you die, you cannot remain in the medium”.
John Lennon”s personal life took a new turn in mid-1962, when Cynthia told him that she was pregnant with his child. They got married on August 23, but the union remained secret. Indeed, it would be bad for the image of the group that its members are not single. Even Ringo Starr, who had just been hired by the group, was not informed and learned that Lennon was married during an interview at the accountant”s office, during which John declared that he had a wife to support. The marriage is not known until the birth of their child, Julian Lennon, on April 8, 1963. Julian grew up with no real connection to his father and later said in an interview, “I never really wanted to know the reality of how Daddy acted with me. People said some very negative things about me, like when he said I must have come from a bottle of whiskey on a Saturday night. Things like that. You think: where”s the love in that? Paul and I hung out a lot, more than Dad and I did. We were great friends and there seem to be a lot more pictures of Paul and I playing together at that age than there are of my dad and me.” At the time of Julian”s birth, John was on vacation with Brian Epstein, the Beatles” manager. He says, “Cynthia was going into labor, but I wasn”t going to miss a vacation for a baby. I thought I was a funny son of a bitch and I left.”
After several rejections from London record companies, the Beatles are signed to Parlophone, a subsidiary of EMI, under the leadership of George Martin, who later produces all the group”s albums – except Let It Be – and who will play a considerable role in its artistic evolution. The band”s first single, Love Me Do, was released on October 5, 1962. The song reached number 17 in the UK charts. The second single, Please Please Me, was released on January 11, 1962 and reached number one or two, depending on the UK chart. The band”s first album, Please Please Me, was largely recorded on February 11, 1963 in a single twelve-hour session while Lennon was suffering from a cold. Eight of the fourteen songs on the album were written by John and Paul McCartney. They were first signed “McCartney-Lennon” before the formula was permanently changed to “LennonMcCartney”. The success of the group is growing: a pack of fans follows the four young men, crowds are crowded around them, sometimes in a collective frenzy, which takes the Beatles unaware. The phenomenon is called “Beatlemania” by the British press. On November 4, 1963, they have the honor of performing in front of the royal family. If the group quickly imposed itself in Europe, it is different in the United States where the phenomenon takes longer to start. It is necessary to wait for the passage of the group to the Ed Sullivan Show on February 9, 1964, which breaks the record of audience for a television program, so that the group acquires a great fame in this country. After that, the Beatles went on to tour the world, release albums and make films, and achieve worldwide success.
This fame is not without rumors. Thus, the year 1963 saw the outbreak of an affair concerning Lennon and Brian Epstein. Both spent vacations together in Spain, which led to many speculations, as Epstein was notoriously homosexual. The matter gained momentum when, during a reception for McCartney”s 21st birthday, Lennon physically attacked someone who asked him, “How was your honeymoon, John?” It was a joke, which Lennon took as an insult, however. The Hours and Times is a fictional film about Lennon and Epstein”s vacation in Spain. During this prosperous period, Lennon began writing two books: In His Own Write and A Spaniard in the Works, a collection of surreal and humorous stories and drawings. On June 12, 1965, the four members of the group are made members of the Order of the British Empire. They also met Bob Dylan, poet and folk-rock singer at the height of his success (two of his major albums were released in 1965), who recognized John”s talent as a writer. From this recognition was born a respect and an exchange between the two icons of music, a relationship that would fluctuate over the years, ranging from sympathy to denial. It is also Dylan who makes discover marijuana to the Beatles during the first tour of the group in the United States in the summer of 1964.
Lennon did not take well to the madness that surrounded them, taking refuge in sarcasm and bulimia – he would later speak of his “fat Elvis” period in an interview. From this period where he repulses himself, is born the song Help! which he will judge, retrospectively, as a true call for help launched to the world. He is also nostalgic for the “leather and rock ”n” roll” period, when the Beatles were just obscure young musicians playing in small clubs. “The best we did was never recorded. We were performers, playing straight rock in dance halls, in Liverpool and Hamburg, and what we produced was fantastic. There was nobody to match us in Britain.”
After writing A Spaniard in the Works, John Lennon gave an interview to a journalist friend, Maureen Cleave, in March 1966, five months before the third North American summer tour – the first two were in 1964 and 1965. He said, “Christianity will disappear. It will shrink, evaporate. I don”t have to argue about that. I am right, I will be proven right. We are more popular than Jesus now. I don”t know what will disappear first, rock ”n” roll or Christianity. These words were immediately truncated and distorted, provoking a wave of animosity against the group, and Lennon in particular, from the southern United States. Thus in Alabama, Beatles” records are burned. Epstein presented a statement at a press conference that was approved by Lennon, which did not calm the situation: twenty-two radio stations broadcasting in the United States boycotted the group, the sale of its records was banned in South Africa, and the Beatles” public performances in North America remained tense. The situation did not calm down until the end of August, after a public clarification from Lennon, who did not acknowledge anything more than a clumsy wording on his part. In 2008, in an article celebrating the fortieth anniversary of the “White Album”, L”Osservatore Romano, the official newspaper of the Vatican, returned with indulgence to this discrepancy, calling it “a sentence that had provoked deep indignation, but which today sounds like a joke coming from a young English working class man overwhelmed by an unexpected success”.
It was also at this time that the Beatles held their last concerts, as they no longer knew how to reconcile their subtle musical innovations with the constant cries of their audience: they themselves could no longer hear their own music on stage. They decide unanimously to stop for good, at the end of the last concert of their American tour of the summer 1966, on August 29 at Candlestick Park in San Francisco. Thereafter, they categorically refused to play, even for a million dollars. Lennon, however, is quite unhappy with this stop, stating, “No more tours… Life without the Beatles is like a void in the future.” He even considers leaving the group.
The Beatles now work in the studio. From Revolver onwards, Lennon saw McCartney take a dominant position in the group. However, even when the author is unique, as in the case of Yesterday (composed by Paul alone), the songs continue to be signed “LennonMcCartney”, on decision of Epstein who does not want to degrade the cohesion of the group. Unoccupied after the end of the tours, Lennon had his hair cut to play in Richard Lester”s parody film, How I Won the War. If it is neither a great commercial nor critical success at its release on October 18, 1967, the film allows him to express his pacifist positions on the Vietnam War. During the filming, Lennon composed one of his flagship songs, Strawberry Fields Forever. During this period, Lennon changed markedly physically, becoming much thinner and accepting to publicly wear glasses, round and now legendary, because of his myopia.
The Beatles” rise and fall (1967-1970)
“I formed the group, I dissolved it.”
– John Lennon
The year 1967 saw the apogee of the Beatles with the release of the album Sgt. Pepper”s Lonely Hearts Club Band, which triumphed at the top of the charts on both sides of the Atlantic. It was also a fruitful period for the Lennon-McCartney tandem, with both men spending many hours working on their songs and experimenting with new sounds, in a constant creative emulation. Lennon goes further and dives into psychedelism, with a lot of drugs and complex sounds. The role of psychotropic drugs is more important in the songs of the group, McCartney admits, and sometimes causes controversy, as the fact that Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds is a supposed reference to LSD due to the initials of its title and chorus. On June 25, 1967, the Beatles perform, live from the Abbey Road Studio No. 1 and in Worldvision, a song by John Lennon specially composed for the program Our World, broadcast to more than 400 million viewers around the world: All You Need Is Love, which becomes No. 1 almost everywhere in the world. The triumph is total.
Shortly after, a dramatic event occurs: Brian Epstein dies on August 27, 1967, while the group receives the teaching of the technique of transcendental meditation of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in Bangor (Wales). The Beatles needed a new leader, and Paul McCartney took on this role. He takes charge of the direction of the film Magical Mystery Tour, which turns out to be a commercial and critical failure, despite the excellent songs that make up its soundtrack (including some of the most emblematic of the group and not released on the official albums). Lennon did not take this setback well: “I realized then that we were in trouble. I wasn”t sure we could do anything other than music, and I was afraid.” He increasingly seeks inner peace, and gets closer to a Japanese avant-garde artist, Yoko Ono (member of the Fluxus movement), met at an exhibition at the Indica Gallery in London in 1966. Between February and April 1968, during a stay in Rishikesh in the âshram of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, intended to deepen their experience of transcendental meditation, John lives, like Paul, an intense creative period and composes a large number of new songs, which will appear on the “White Album”, on the last two records of the group and even on their first solo albums.
Lennon finally divorced on his return. He tries to sue his wife, claiming to be a victim and not guilty of adultery. However, the situation changes when it is discovered that Yoko is pregnant by John. The divorce proceedings become more complicated and finally turn against Lennon. This divorce leads Paul McCartney to compose Hey Jude, a song intended to comfort Julian Lennon, then five years old, to whom he is very close.
From May 1968 onwards, the presence of Yoko Ono at the recording sessions, alongside John and literally in the middle of the band, caused unease, resentment and animosity. Until then, no wife had been tolerated during the recordings, but Lennon made it clear to the others that they could take it or leave it. The artist having found his muse, most of his new compositions are very strongly influenced by Ono, or refer directly to her: I”m So Tired, Happiness Is a Warm Gun, Yer Blues, Julia, Revolution 9, and many others. Yoko even sings on the track The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill. These sessions lead to the “White Album”, a double untitled album with thirty tracks, consecrating the splitting of the Beatles, insofar as there is no longer any real collaboration and where each member and author uses the others as studio musicians. A more and more obvious split takes place between Lennon and McCartney. Excited by the behavior of the musicians, and in particular that of John, the sound engineer Geoff Emerick slams the door in the middle of the recording sessions, while Ringo Starr escapes to Sardinia. The album is nevertheless a resounding success (which will be tarnished however by the crimes of the Manson “family” in California, fomented by the psychopathic guru Charles Manson by making a delirious interpretation of the songs of these two records).
Upon his return from India, John began to lose interest in the Beatles, wanting to continue to evolve outside the restrictive framework of the Fab Four. Between November 1968 and the end of 1969, to mark his first adventure outside the Beatles, he published three albums of experimental music attributed to “John Lennon and Yoko Ono”: Unfinished Music No.1: Two Virgins, better known for its cover (showing John and Yoko completely naked) than for its musical content, Unfinished Music No.2: Life with the Lions and the Wedding Album. The participation of the couple in the Rock and Roll Circus of the Rolling Stones, in December 1968, is another step outside the Beatles. Lennon formed a supergroup for the occasion called The Dirty Mac (in reference to the band Fleetwood Mac). In addition to himself on vocals and rhythm guitar, the band includes Eric Clapton on lead guitar, Mitch Mitchell (of the Jimi Hendrix Experience) on drums and Keith Richards (of the Rolling Stones) on bass. The band performs Yer Blues, a song written by John and released a month earlier on the “White Album”, followed by a jam session with Yoko on vocals and Ivry Gitlis on violin.
On the shooting of the documentary Get Back (George Harrison goes so far as to leave the band for twelve days in January 1969. Yoko continues to attend all the recording sessions of the Beatles, sitting next to John. At the same time, the latter becomes more openly involved politically, especially in relation to the war, under the influence of Yoko Ono. John and Yoko were married on March 20, 1969 in Gibraltar and later organized the famous bed-in for peace in Amsterdam and Montreal. This period inspired the song The Ballad of John and Yoko, recorded on April 14, 1969 by Lennon and McCartney alone, with McCartney playing many instruments. That same year, Lennon adopted Ono as his middle name, replacing Winston. The British authorities accepted the addition of Ono, but not the removal of Winston.
In July, he launched Give Peace a Chance, his first solo single, although attributed to the Plastic Ono Band. It was then only a theoretical band, inspired by an idea of Yoko Ono to manipulate mannequins on stage, hence the name. However, the song is still credited LennonMcCartney, Lennon feeling both guilty of launching, the first, a real solo record, and not yet ready to “cut the cord with Paul”. In mid-September, the Plastic Ono Band played a show in Toronto and the performance was released in December on the album Live Peace in Toronto 1969.
At the end of September, in the wake of the recording of the album Abbey Road, Lennon announced to the other members of the group that he was leaving the Beatles but, for commercial reasons, the announcement of the separation of the group was kept secret. In October, he released his second solo single, Cold Turkey, with Eric Clapton on guitar. The song had been considered for inclusion on Abbey Road, but was eventually deemed too personal to be released other than as a solo. Lennon further accelerated this separation by hiring Allen Klein as the band”s new manager, while McCartney preferred his father-in-law, Lee Eastman. Having also convinced George Harrison and Ringo Starr, Klein took over. However, the actual separation of the Beatles remained a secret, and Klein asked Phil Spector to assemble the album Let It Be, provoking the anger of McCartney, who felt that his songs had been distorted by the North American producer, known for putting his “touch” voluntarily overloaded on all the recordings he produced. It is finally McCartney who makes public the rupture, on April 10, 1970, in a press release inserted in the promotional pressing of his first solo album, a gesture very badly taken by Lennon, who sees it as an attempt to promote the first opus of his partner. In an interview with Rolling Stone magazine, he said: “I was stupid not to do what Paul did, which served to sell a record,” and added: “I formed the group, I dissolved it. In December, a British television program declared him “Man of the Decade”, along with John F. Kennedy and Ho Chi Minh.
Solo career (1970-1980)
After the Beatles split up, John Lennon devoted himself to his career, his wife and politics. He dreamed of going on a ship to the Pacific Islands with Eric Clapton, Klaus Voormann, Jim Keltner, Nicky Hopkins and Phil Spector to record songs and perform concerts, but this project did not come to fruition. In February 1970, he released his third solo single, Instant Karma! which marked the beginning of his collaboration with renowned producer Phil Spector. For promotion, Lennon returned to the British Top of the Pops show for the first time since 1966; the song reached the top 5 of the British charts. During this time, Lennon underwent primal scream therapy with mixed results. In September, he began recording his first real solo album, John LennonPlastic Ono Band. For four weeks, he surrounded himself with close friends: Ringo Starr, his ex-Beatles partner, on drums; Klaus Voormann, a friend from Hamburg, on bass; and Billy Preston (a well-known studio musician who had collaborated on several Beatles albums) or, occasionally, Phil Spector himself, on piano. The album contains God, a song in which he declares that he does not believe in the Bible, in magic, in Hitler, in Jesus, in Kennedy, in Elvis, in Bob Dylan (named by his real name, Zimmerman), and last but not least, in the Beatles.
In 1971, Lennon visited Yoko Ono”s family in Japan for the first time. He is also involved in two legal disputes: the dissolution of the Beatles by the courts, and obtaining custody of Kyoko, Yoko”s daughter. In July, he recorded his second album, Imagine, which gave him real credibility as a solo artist. The album contains the eponymous song, Imagine, a pacifist and utopian anthem often considered his greatest song. The album also includes political pamphlets (such as Gimme Some Truth, addressed to Richard Nixon), and How Do You Sleep? a fierce charge against McCartney. Another song on the record proved popular, Oh Yoko! but Lennon decided against releasing it as a single, fearing that “it wouldn”t be representative of the image I had of myself, a hard, biting rock ”n” roller with acid words. On August 31, 1971, he moved to New York, and in December released Happy Xmas (War Is Over), with the children of the Harlem Baptist Choir: the single remained discreet in the United States, but was a success in the United Kingdom when it was published a year later. In addition, through his many commitments, John Lennon becomes the embodiment of political activism of his generation and uses his fame for peace or various good causes.
In 1972, in the midst of his troubles with the United States administration, which no longer wanted him on its soil, Lennon recorded Some Time in New York City, but the reviews as well as the sales proved to be bad. On August 30, he gave two charity concerts at Madison Square Garden, which were the last complete performances of his life, apart from occasional appearances. At the beginning of the following year, Lennon lost the thread of his production, saying about his upcoming record: “It becomes a job, and it kills the music. It”s like when you get out of school and don”t feel like reading a book.” In April 1973, he moved from Greenwich Village to the Dakota Building, in a much more upscale neighborhood.
In the summer of 1973, John”s relationship with Yoko Ono deteriorated to the point where she kicked him out, and Lennon moved to Los Angeles with May Pang, his young assistant and new girlfriend. He describes this period as his “lost weekend” (a reference to the title of a 1945 American film noir), although it actually lasts more than a year. He, who regularly has to say that Yoko did not cause the end of the Beatles, jokes about this period when he was away from her: “We were apart for eighteen months, Yoko and I. And, as far as I know, the Beatles are still together. And, as far as I know, the Beatles didn”t get back together! So Yoko was not the cause of their separation.” However, it is indeed a John Lennon in perdition that settles in California, admitting himself “to have become completely crazy”, vainly trying “to drown in alcohol” all that he felt. Under the influence of May Pang, he tries to reconnect with his son Julian and meets him and Cynthia during a trip to Disneyland. He later gave him a guitar and other instruments and taught him to play.
Lennon also briefly reunited with Paul McCartney, and befriended several music celebrities, such as Elton John and David Bowie. On the one hand, he invites the former to sing on his song Whatever Gets You Thru the Night. In the period of wandering that Lennon is going through, this song, published as a single in October 1974, is a great success and revives his career: on the North American market, it is his only No. 1 solo and in his lifetime. In addition, having bet with Elton John that he would accompany him in concert if the record reached number one, Lennon did so on November 28, 1974, at Madison Square Garden, where he also played Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds and I Saw Her Standing There. This last appearance on stage is published with the other songs of the concert on the album of Elton John Here and There. On the other hand, John Lennon co-wrote the song Fame with David Bowie, his first big hit in the United States. Lennon also accompanies Bowie in his cover of Across the Universe, while Bowie covers the opening words of A Day in the Life (“I read the news today oh boy”) in the title track of Young Americans.
During this period, Lennon recorded two albums with producer Phil Spector: Walls and Bridges and Rock ”n” Roll, the latter consisting of covers of rock ”n” roll classics such as Be-Bop-A-Lula, Peggy Sue and Stand By Me. This album is however recorded with reluctance, because it is a contractual obligation towards Morris Levy, manager of Chuck Berry. Indeed, Lennon was accused of plagiarism, in 1969, for having borrowed, on his title Come Together, the four words “here come old flat-top” to the song You Can”t Catch Me of Berry (whose rights belonged to Morris Levy). He has to commit himself to record three songs from Levy”s catalog, and takes the opportunity to revisit other songs that marked his adolescence. Finally, he declares about Rock ”n” Roll: “It was a humiliation, and I regret to have found myself in this position, but I did it.”
At this time, the connection with Julian continued, with Julian playing drums on a Walls and Bridges track.
At the same time, he produces, writes and sings on the album Pussy Cats with his friend Harry Nilsson (a record that quickly became “cult” among the initiated), and he goes on tour for concerts with the informal group playing on the record: Ringo Starr, Keith Moon of the Who, and other merry revellers and famous freaks for unbridled concerts
In early 1975, Yoko Ono agreed that Lennon could return to live with her, provided that he met certain conditions. He agreed to follow a healthy macrobiotic diet, without meat or alcohol, but also to let his wife manage his business entirely; she then invested in real estate and livestock. Yoko ends up pregnant but, in her forties and with the memory of her previous miscarriages, she wants to have an abortion. Lennon refuses categorically and manages to convince her to keep the child, committing himself to take care of it. Thus, on October 9, the day of John”s thirty-fifth birthday, was born his second son, Sean. Lennon retires from public life and music to devote himself to the education of his son, his last public appearance is on June 13, 1975, during a televised show in tribute to Lew Grade, a producer and tycoon of the British audiovisual.
During this period, Lennon drew and wrote a lot, and also took care of domestic tasks. His musical activity was slowed down but far from being stopped, as shown by the Lost Lennon Tapes, or the songs Real Love and Free as a Bird, which he composed around 1977 and 1978. But this public silence leaves perplexed, as well as his fans, always in expectation, as the media – on January 14, 1978, the New Musical Express title “Where are you, John Lennon? – or his colleagues in the rock scene. On this period, Lennon explains himself in a song, Watching the Wheels, during his public return in 1980. He made a trip to Bermuda that year, where he wrote most of the songs for a new album. He found a record company with David Geffen and began recording on August 4. Released in November in the United States, the album Double Fantasy, with tracks sung alternately by Yoko and him, marks the return of Lennon. The sales, correct at first, soar after the murder of the musician.
On December 8, 1980, at 10:52 p.m., after an evening of work in the studio and as he returned to his apartment in the Dakota Building, next to Central Park, Lennon was shot four times by Mark David Chapman, an unbalanced fan suffering from psychosis, in front of his wife. He was rushed to Roosevelt Hospital and pronounced dead at 11:07 p.m., fifteen minutes after the shooting. The next day, Yoko announced: “There will be no ceremony for John. John loved and prayed for humanity. Please do the same for him. Thank you. Yoko and Sean. His body is cremated and his ashes given to Yoko.
The murderer, Mark Chapman, pleads guilty and is sentenced to life imprisonment, with fifteen years to serve. His parole was denied ten times. In 2010, the committee in charge of judging his sixth application for release stated: “This premeditated, senseless, selfish act with tragic consequences leads to the conclusion that release remains incompatible with the safety of the community. The reasons for this murder remain unclear. Some see it as a sense of betrayal by Chapman, accusing the idol of not living up to the promises of peace and equal wealth that he communicated in his songs. Others see it as a “response” to his media statement that the Beatles were more popular in England than Jesus. And some see it as a blunder by an uncontrolled element that had been manipulated by the secret service. According to Parker, John Lennon was murdered because he was about to support Japanese workers in the United States who demanded a fair wage, but also because he was considering running for president in the United States.
Lennon had evoked his violent death in songs, in disturbing ways, such as with the repeated “shoot” before each verse of Come Together, as well as in an interview. On the same day he was murdered, he had said, “I don”t consider my work finished until I”m dead and buried, and I hope that”s a long, long time from now.” Within months, his latest album, Double Fantasy, sold seven million copies worldwide.
John Lennon is known for his sense of humor, which is an integral part of his image and personality. This humor is particularly present in the Beatles songs he wrote or in his contributions. In Getting Better, for example, while Paul McCartney sings that everything is getting better all the time, Lennon adds that “it can”t get any worse anyway. On the chorus of his song Girl, he sings with the other Beatles “tit-tit-tit-tit”, which is slang for “tit-tit-tit-tit”, but it passes for harmless vocalizing and no one notices. Lennon could also be more acerbic: when he learned that teachers were studying his songs in class, he decided to write a meaningless one, I Am the Walrus (which literally means: I Am the Walrus (which literally means: “I am the walrus”, in reference to Alice in Wonderland), in order to see “what these assholes can find in there” (the text will indeed be the subject of meticulous exegesis, especially among fans, and will be often quoted, especially the famous introductory formula: “I am he as you are me and you are he and we are all together”, which will be used, for example, as an epigraph to the novel Villa Vortex by Maurice Dantec). He later wrote Glass Onion in the same spirit, “revealing” that in reality the “walrus” was Paul.
During press conferences, Lennon, like the other Beatles, did not hesitate to make some humorous remarks, sometimes tinged with absurdity and nonsense. Thus, when asked in 1964 where the name “Beatles” came from, he replied: “I had a vision when I was twelve years old. I saw a man on a flaming pie who said to me: “You are the Beatles with an a! This interview humor became a Beatles habit and continued throughout Beatlemania. In 1966, during a press conference at a concert in Candlestick Park, they were asked what inspired Eleanor Rigby, to which Lennon replied, a bit sarcastically and causing general hilarity: “Two homos. Two fags.” Later, he moderates and relativizes this humor in an interview: “We were asked questions-jokes and we made answers-jokes but, in reality, we were not funny at all. It was only humor of potaches, the one that makes you laugh at school.” In the confines of the Abbey Road recording studios, Lennon never fails to provoke great laughter, especially by transforming the traditional counts (One, two, three, four) into other formulations that he has the secret. On Anthology 2, for example, he launched the first take of A Day in the Life with a “sugarplum fairy, sugarplum fairy”.
This humor can also be irreverent. On November 4, 1963, when the Beatles had the honor of playing before the royal family at the “Royal Variety Performance” at the Prince of Wales Theatre in London, Lennon made a humorous quip before singing Twist and Shout, much to the chagrin of the band”s manager, Brian Epstein, who feared such an outburst: “For our last number I”d like to ask your help. Would the people in the cheaper seats clap your hands. And the rest of you, if you”d just rattle your jewellery. Thank you. We”d like to sing a song called “Twist And Shout”. Would the people in the cheaper seats please clap their hands? And everyone else, wave your jewelry! Thank you, everyone. (We”d like to sing a song called Twist and Shout.”) Lennon uses humor in these kinds of intimidating situations to cope with the pressure. When the Beatles return to perform a series of concerts in Liverpool, they are unsure of themselves, fearing the judgment of everyone they know there. During an appearance in the balcony, facing the crowd, Lennon then makes a Nazi salute, which nobody seems to notice. He also likes to amuse his partners on stage, imitating the psychomotor disabled, a recurring joke in 1964, when he asks the audience to clap their hands and stomp their feet. John also has fun changing the lyrics of I Want to Hold Your Hand, knowing that the audience will not distinguish anything: he sings “I want to hold your glans”, in reference to the female breast protuberances. In August 1965, when the Beatles became the first rock band to perform in a stadium, Shea Stadium in New York, in front of a record audience, Lennon put his comrades at ease with a lot of mimicry and gesticulation, including hammering a Farfisa organ with his elbows during the interpretation of I”m Down, throwing amused winks at George Harrison. McCartney testifies: “It was one of the nice things about John: when a concert turned out to be a bit tricky, and this one definitely was, his old comic reflexes always came back.”
John Lennon knows a period where he opposes Christianity, in reaction to his Christian education. In the song Girl, he slips in allusions to this religion, about the suffering necessary to reach Paradise. He also challenges this notion in the two books he writes, where he attacks, among others, the Church: “I went hard against the Church but, although it was blatant, it was never raised.” Lennon opened up to other spiritualities in the mid-1960s when he read The Psychedelic Experience by Timothy Leary, Richard Alpert and Ralph Metzner, based on the Book of the Dead from Tibetan Buddhism. This book, deeply linked to the use of LSD, inspired Lennon to write one of his first psychedelic songs, Tomorrow Never Knows, which closes the album Revolver in 1966. However, Lennon declared in 1972 that he had never read the Tibetan Book of the Dead, and was content with this adaptation.
Like the other three members of the group, John Lennon also met Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in August 1967 and participated in a weekend of personal training in Transcendental Meditation. In 1968, the group retreated to India to the Maharishi”s âshram; there they meditated and composed many of the songs on the “White Album.” However, Lennon finally got angry with the spiritual master, whose weaknesses he thought he had perceived (a rumor circulated on the camp, later denied, that he had committed sexual abuse on a participant); he expresses it in his song Sexy Sadie, released on this album. This dispute, however, did not stop Lennon from continuing to practice meditation. In the same spirit, he is also interested in mantras and yoga.
John Lennon has a passion for certain mystical or occult fields, such as tarot cards or numerology. He particularly attributes an important value to the number 9, which he considers to be intimately linked to his life. Born on October 9th like his son, and having lived at number 9 of Newcastle Road in Liverpool, he uses it in several titles of his songs: One After 909, Revolution 9 (on which he asserts in loop “number nine, number nine…”), or
In 1970, to get rid of the weight of his mother”s death and his heroin addiction problems, Lennon started a primal therapy with Dr. Arthur Janov, after reading one of his books. In need of publicity, Janov sent his book to celebrities of the moment, such as Peter Fonda or the Rolling Stones. Especially attracted by the prospect of this “liberating cry”, John, accompanied by Yoko, underwent a shock treatment, where he had to go back to his childhood and receive vigorous massages, to stop his “neurotic gasps”. After three weeks, Dr. Janov offered him the prospect of entering the United States for medical reasons, which delighted the musician. The couple went to California and the treatment went on, which, according to John, strengthened his emotional bond with Yoko. This lasts until an argument between Lennon and Janov, who wanted to film him during a group screaming session. Lennon accused Janov of trying to get a scoop, and the criticism of Yoko Ono, which became more and more regular, convinced him to stop the therapy. He left Janov just as his American visa expired; the therapy was incomplete and lasted only a few months. The vestiges of it are however audible on his first album, released at the end of 1970, John LennonPlastic Ono Band: for example, on the song Mother, he laments about his parents and hollers, at the end of the song: “Mama, don”t go, Daddy, come home! (“Mama, don”t go, Daddy, come home!”). From this demanding treatment, Lennon emerged in worse shape than when he arrived.
Lennon and Ono are also at the origin of the concept of bagism. Their idea is to criticize prejudices based on appearances, and to consider only the message of the interlocutor, by speaking to him as if he were in a bag. Lennon defines bagism as a “total form of communication”. He mentions the practice in several songs, including Give Peace a Chance and The Ballad of John and Yoko.
Lennon”s first contact with drugs was when the Beatles were playing in Hamburg: both Astrid Kirchherr and some of the club patrons used to give them amphetamines, which kept them going for the eight hours they had to perform almost every night. During the Beatles” first and triumphant tour of the United States in the summer of 1964, Bob Dylan introduced them to marijuana. Dylan thought they were regulars, having understood the line “I can”t hide” in the song I Want to Hold Your Hand as “I get high.
In an interview with Playboy, Lennon explained that during the filming of Help! the Beatles “smoked marijuana for breakfast. His first wife also said in a 1995 interview that their marriage had begun to break down because of the band”s notoriety and Lennon”s increasing use of drugs. Lennon also used LSD, like the rest of the band. He also experienced, with Yoko Ono, an addiction to heroin for several years. In August 1969, he tried a total withdrawal (mentioned at that time in his song Cold Turkey, the expression is commonly used in English to describe a sudden withdrawal from a drug) to conceive a viable child, without success: the withdrawal fails and Yoko miscarried. In an interview with Rolling Stone magazine in 1971, he explains that he took it with her when they were suffering, “because of what the Beatles and the others were doing”. He also said that it was because of the number of bad trips he had experienced on LSD, that he decided to stop using it. The Lennon couple said they have not used drugs since Sean was born in 1975, although Yoko admitted to a brief relapse at the end of the decade.
The psychotropic substances have a notable influence on the creativity of the Beatles and that of Lennon in particular. Thus, from 1965 and Day Tripper in particular, he wrote more and more songs referring directly to the use of drugs (Tomorrow Never Knows, She Said She Said, A Day in the Life, etc.). Subsequently, everyone looks for allusions to drugs in the songs of the group: the title Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds is frequently associated with LSD, in reference to its initials, while the Lucy in question was a classmate of Lennon”s son. On the other hand, Paul McCartney explained that it was “pretty obvious” that the drug inspired the song”s lyrics. The drugs – especially LSD – also changed the way the group functioned: until then, Lennon was considered the leader of the Beatles, but he gradually withdrew to let Paul McCartney take the reins. The album Sgt. Pepper”s Lonely Hearts Club Band is thus to be attributed mainly to McCartney, Lennon having explained, afterwards, that he was too busy “destroying his ego”, one of the supposed effects of LSD. It is then the heroin that contributes to the estrangement of Lennon towards the group, plunging him gradually, according to McCartney, in paranoia.
Like many celebrities of the 1960s, Lennon did not escape legal trouble because of his drug use. In October 1968, while living in London with Yoko, the drug squad raided his home and found a small amount of cannabis resin. Lennon was convinced that he did not have anything, having been warned three weeks earlier of the possibility of a search. He decides to plead guilty and gets off with a bail of 400 pounds to pay for himself and Ono. Detective Sergeant Norman Pilcher, of the London Police Drug Squad, who conducted the search, was known at the time for tracking down pop-rock celebrities, having already succeeded in convicting Donovan, Marianne Faithfull and the Rolling Stones on the same charges. This episode put an end to the “immunity” that surrounded the Beatles until then, George Harrison was also caught the following year; the latter even spoke of a “conspiracy of the establishment”. Later, Norman Pilcher is found guilty of perjury, under different circumstances. However, this case will be held against John Lennon, when he wants to settle permanently in the United States in the 1970s.
If Lennon is sometimes very attentive – this attention can go to the point of obsession in the case of Yoko Ono – he also sometimes has violent reactions against his loved ones. During his meeting with Cynthia Powell, when she declines an invitation from Lennon on the pretext that she is dating another boy, he retorts: “Damn, I did not ask you to marry me, did I?” Similarly, he goes so far as to hit her when he catches her dancing with her friend Stuart Sutcliffe. The strong tendency to jealousy of the singer contrasts with his own tendency to adultery, which he is guilty of several times during the career of the Beatles. He evokes this aspect of his personality in song, especially in the album Rubber Soul, with Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown) and Run for Your Life.
This aspect of the artist”s personality is not only reflected in his emotional life, because he sometimes gets angry with his friends and colleagues. He expresses, in 1980, a disappointment about some of his compositions of the Beatles period, blaming Paul McCartney, who, according to him, unconsciously tried to destroy his great songs, especially Across the Universe and Strawberry Fields Forever. Lennon even refused to participate in the recording of Maxwell”s Silver Hammer, which he called “a song for grandmothers”. In an interview with Rolling Stone, published after the dissolution of the group, he let go his resentment against Paul McCartney and Brian Epstein, accusing the latter of having knowingly robbed the group of a large part of its income.
Finally, John Lennon himself tells his story and his path to pacifism in the bridge of Getting Better, his contribution to Paul McCartney”s song (in addition to the famous “can”t get no worse” in the chorus). He explains in the 1980 interview for Playboy: “All that ”I used to be cruel to my woman, I beat her and kept her apart from the things that she loved” was me. I was cruel to my wife and, physically, to any woman. I was a bruiser. I couldn”t express myself and I would hit. I fought with men and hit women. That”s why I”m constantly plugged into peace.” In this 1967 song, track four on Sgt. Pepper”s Lonely Hearts Club Band, he adds, “Man, I was mean but I”m changing my scene and I”m doing the best that I can.”
Each member of the Beatles has often evoked the very strong friendship that bound the quartet, from its beginnings to the height of Beatlemania. Very close, and considering themselves “in the eye of the storm”, creating an ocean of empathy in the middle of the madness that surrounds them permanently, the Beatles are even nicknamed “the four-headed monster” in the early 1960s. Ringo Starr, for example, spoke of “an incredible intimacy, just four guys who loved each other. It was sensational.” From the start, too, a very strong bond bound John Lennon to Paul McCartney, his writing partner, his alter ego, who explained, “The fact is, we”re really the same person. We”re just four parts of the same whole.”
After the group disbanded, Lennon”s relationships with the other former members varied greatly. Only Ringo Starr keeps a good relationship with him. He even composed some songs for him during his period of tension with Yoko Ono. Also, he participates, as Harrison and McCartney, in the third album of Starr, Ringo. However, if the four Beatles participate in the album, they are not at any time all together.
John and George Harrison maintained a good relationship until Lennon left for the United States. When Harrison goes on tour in New York, Lennon agrees to join him on stage. However, their relationship became strained when Lennon did not show up for the meeting that would legally disband the group. Similarly, when in 1980, Harrison publishes his autobiography I, Me, Mine, Lennon is exasperated not to be quoted and does not hesitate to launch some spikes on this subject during an interview for Playboy.
But it is with Paul McCartney that the relationship is most strained. For his album Imagine, Lennon created a violent song against him, How Do You Sleep? (in response to Paul”s song Too Many People), in which he violently attacks his former friend for his conformity, claims that he has done nothing but Yesterday and sings: “Those freaks was dead”, a reference to the rumor of McCartney”s death launched in 1966. However, Lennon later said that he had attacked himself more than Paul. Their relationship warms up somewhat in 1974, and in 1975 McCartney says that the last time they were together at Lennon”s house, they watched Saturday Night Live, in which Lorne Michaels offered to reunite the band for $3,000. In his interview with Playboy, Lennon says that, at the time, they considered going to the TV studios to make a joke, but they were too tired. The result was imagined in the TV movie Two of Us, released in 2000.
After Lennon”s murder, McCartney was shocked: his last attempt at reconciliation had ended in failure, with John literally kicking him out. However, shortly before his death, Lennon had said: “I only ever asked two people to be my working partners; one was Paul McCartney, and the other was Yoko Ono. Not bad, right?” Thereafter, McCartney paid tribute to his friend several times, in song. In 1982, he composed Here Today in his honor, released on Tug of War, the first album he published after Lennon”s death. McCartney also paid tribute to him in concert; from 2008, he covered A Day in the Life, Give Peace a Chance and Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite! on stage.
This is the person who best sums up his relationship with the other members of the group: when asked, in 1980, if they were his worst enemies or his best friends, Lennon replied that they were neither, and that he hadn”t seen any of them for some time. He also says, “I still love those guys. The Beatles are over, but John, Paul, George and Ringo are still going.”
Ideals and polemics
While Lennon”s ideas were already visible in the 1967 film How I Won the War, he did not write his first overtly political song until the following year: Revolution, released as a single with the Beatles. In it, he indicated in substance his way of making the revolution, according to him more a question of state of mind, distrusting institutions, big words and collective movements rarely free of resentments and alienations. His meeting with Yoko Ono pushed him to express his ideas further: the year 1969 saw him active on all media fronts, accompanied everywhere by the woman who was to become his wife. On their honeymoon in Amsterdam in March, Lennon and Ono organized a “Bed-in for Peace” in their hotel room where, in their pajamas in bed, they received journalists for a week to promote peace in the world, thus obtaining worldwide visibility. The Lennons then organized a second bed-in in June, in Montreal; they had to give up their first choice, the United States, because Lennon was banned from entering it. In Canada, Lennon and his friends recorded Give Peace a Chance in their hotel room on June 1, 1969. The song was covered by anti-war protesters in Washington, D.C., on October 15: Lennon, following the events from his home in London, described the day as “one of the best days of .
Also in song, Lennon offers to support the candidacy of Timothy Leary, “the Pope of LSD”, for governor of California, by composing Come Together, in line with Leary”s campaign theme (“come together, join the party”). However, he eventually decided to keep the song and recorded it with the Beatles to release as a single. At the end of November 1969, John pushed his commitment to the point of returning his British Empire badge, then held by his aunt “Mimi” Smith, to the Queen of England, in protest against certain commitments of the British army. If some see it as a publicity stunt, Lennon receives, in this case, the support of the philosopher Bertrand Russell. He even took the liberty of a little dig at the Queen, in a note accompanying his medal: “Your Majesty, I am returning my MBE to protest against Britain”s involvement in the Nigeria-Biafra conflict, against our support of the United States in Vietnam, and against the poor sales of Cold Turkey. With love, John Lennon. In December, Lennon and Ono launched the War Is Over campaign: the couple broadcast, in several languages and around the world, the message “The war is over… if you want it. Merry Christmas, John and Yoko. The same month, the Lennon couple participates in a demonstration dedicated to James Hanratty (en), executed in 1962 although his guilt was questioned.
Lennon also became involved with other activists and gradually became more radical. In January 1970, he shaved his head and sold his hair at auction to support Michael X (en), an activist and black revolutionary from London. The following month, Lennon appeared with short hair on the Top of the Pops show, where he performed his new single, Instant Karma! The following year, he befriended Jerry Rubin and Abbie Hoffman, founders of the left-wing anti-war and anti-racist Youth International Party, and agreed to perform a concert in support of black prisoners shot during prison riots. The following month, when poet John Sinclair was arrested for selling two joints of marijuana to an undercover police officer, Lennon dedicated a song to him and participated in a support concert on December 10, 1971. He appears on stage alongside Yoko Ono, Phil Ochs, Stevie Wonder and peace activists. Sinclair is released three days later. It was during this concert that the FBI began to take an interest in Lennon”s case, with agents hidden in the crowd recording everything that happened. In 1972, the following year, Lennon wrote the song Angela to support the campaign to free Angela Davis, an activist close to the Black Panthers.
A former MI-5 agent, David Shayler, also said that Lennon had given money to the Irish Republican Army, following Bloody Sunday. Shocked by the event, the singer explained that he preferred to be on the side of the IRA rather than the British army. Lennon wrote two songs in reference to this episode: The Luck of the Irish and Sunday Bloody Sunday (where he expresses his support for Catholics), released on the album Some Time in New York City in 1972. In that year, Lennon is also said to have financed the Workers Revolutionary Party, a British Trotskyist party. The singer”s donations to the IRA and the WRP totalled £45,000. This information, revealed only in 2000 in the press, was firmly denied by Yoko Ono.
In 1972, fearing that Lennon”s pacifist activities and support for Democrat George McGovern would cost Richard Nixon his re-election, the U.S. government attempted to remove the singer from the country. In February, John Lennon was quoted in a confidential report by the Homeland Security Committee about left-wing activists in the midst of an anti-Nixon campaign: “These leftists, including Rennie Davis, who had already been arrested for similar actions at the 1968 Democratic Party rally in Chicago, plan to use John Lennon to recruit as many people as possible.” Nixon himself reportedly personally requested that Lennon be monitored from now on. In addition, Senator Strom Thurmond considered that “expulsion could be a strategic countermeasure” against Lennon. Moreover, some of his songs were banned and he was constantly followed, according to him, by FBI agents who did not even try to hide: “I opened my door, and there was a guy on duty. There was a guy on guard across the street. They followed me everywhere, all the time! And most of all, they wanted me to know about it!”
Proceedings to deport him began the following month, based on a cannabis possession charge dating back to 1968, when Lennon was still living in London. Four years of trial followed. On March 16, 1972, Lennon received his deportation order from the United States. However, he managed to stay there, thanks to his lawyer Leon Wildes and the support of many personalities, via a petition signed by Bob Dylan, Fred Astaire and even John Lindsay, then Mayor of New York. Lennon”s problems with the U.S. administration did not prevent him from continuing his action. In May, he participated in a pacifist demonstration in Manhattan. In June, he released a new album, Some Time in New York City, by far his most politically committed record.
On March 23, 1973, Lennon was again asked to leave the country within 60 days. He and Ono responded on April 1 with a speech expressing their desire to create a conceptual state, without borders, territory or passport, but only a people: Nutopia (pronounced like new-topia). This “New Utopia” (the first one was the one of Thomas More, in his book Utopia) has for national anthem a silence of a few seconds, and all its citizens are ambassadors. However, the concept did not catch on with the public and fell into oblivion. On June 27, the couple appeared at the Watergate scandal trial.
Later, Nixon”s successors – Gerald Ford, then Jimmy Carter – were less involved in the fight against Lennon; the latter was even present at Carter”s inauguration gala. Finally, he received his permanent resident card in July 1976, with the possibility of becoming a citizen of the United States of America after five years. The story of these events was the subject of a documentary, The U.S. vs. John Lennon, released in 2006.
Although John Lennon sings much of the Beatles” repertoire, he still hates his voice. George Martin recalls that “he had an innate distaste for his own voice, which I never understood. He always told me to do something with his voice, put something over it, make it different.” In fact, the producer regularly makes alterations or corrections to satisfy the singer. Lennon is however capable of spectacular vocal performances. Thus, suffering from a cold during the recording of the album Please Please Me, completed in twelve hours in a row, he preserved his voice until the last moment, before screaming on Twist and Shout, while being aware that he aggravated his illness and damaged his voice for the days that followed. In the Anthology video series, George Martin plays the tape of the first take of A Day in the Life, without any artifice, and says: “Listen to John”s voice! It gives me chills every time I hear it!” But above all, from the beginning to the end of the group, the complementarity of the voices of John Lennon and Paul McCartney, the expressiveness, accuracy, finesse and timbre of their harmonies, are for much in the success of the Beatles.
With the beginnings of his solo career, Lennon composed more ballads like Imagine, on which his voice is illustrated in a softer way than on the first Beatles” rocks. In the early 1970s, the beginning of his primal scream therapy has effects that can be felt on the songs of the album John LennonPlastic Ono Band, like Mother or I Found Out, where he literally screams. But he had already been the author of such extreme performances before starting this therapy: a year earlier, on Cold Turkey, he explored the limits of his voice to report the throes of withdrawal, explaining that he was inspired by Yoko Ono.
The first instrument Lennon learned to play was the harmonica. His uncle George Smith gave him one as a child and taught him to play it. The instrument was often used in the Beatles” early performances in Hamburg and at the Cavern Club, and became a recurring effect on their first recordings, appearing on several singles such as Love Me Do, Please Please Me and From Me to You. Lennon later abandoned this instrument, which he used for the last time in the studio on I”m a Loser: he considered that the effect created was now without surprise.
John Lennon”s favorite instrument is the guitar, which he was introduced to in his youth by his mother Julia, who first taught him the banjo, as well as the piano. On most of the Beatles” songs, he plays the rhythm guitar, while George Harrison is the solo guitarist. If he uses an acoustic guitar with the Quarrymen, he uses mostly electric guitars with the Beatles. One of them, his Rickenbacker 325, became iconic, and was reproduced as the game controller for The Beatles: Rock Band, released in 2009. He also made another guitar model famous, the Epiphone Casino, which was used in clips for Hey Jude and Revolution in 1968, as well as the Apple rooftop concert in 1969. Lennon plays bass very rarely, notably on Helter Skelter, Let It Be and The Long and Winding Road, when Paul McCartney is on piano or electric guitar. He also plays the organ, as in the sequence of The Night Before in the film Help! or during the concert at Shea Stadium in New York in 1965 for the interpretation of I”m Down.
During his solo career, Lennon also showed a certain talent for the piano, an instrument already used during composition sessions with Paul McCartney, for example for I Want to Hold Your Hand born of a piano improvisation. The song often considered the most emblematic of Lennon”s solo work, Imagine, is also played on piano. During this time, Lennon also experimented with various sonic tinkerings with Yoko Ono, resulting in avant-garde pieces and experimental music albums such as Two Virgins. The same is true of the Beatles, where Lennon, while not the first to take an interest in the avant-garde, is the first to place a piece of the genre on an album, the Revolution 9 of the “White Album”.
Writing and art
During the Beatles” career, Lennon signed all his songs with the Lennon-McCartney trademark, with his partner doing the same, whether a song was written in collaboration or not. Formed after the two musicians met in 1957, the duo wrote their first songs during sessions at Paul”s home or at “Mendips”. It is not uncommon for one of them to have a song in mind, in which case the other adds the verses, composes a bridge or a solo. Their first international hits, From Me to You, She Loves You or I Want to Hold Your Hand, were written in total collaboration. The compositions of this type are more frequent at the beginning of their career. In the case where the original idea came from Paul McCartney, Lennon often provided a counterpoint to the optimism of his partner”s songs; thus he added a touch of sadness or impatience to We Can Work It Out and Michelle. In terms of song content, Lennon is generally more likely to write about himself, whereas McCartney is more likely to imagine situations or fictional characters. Among his influences in terms of writing, Lennon readily cites Bob Dylan, whose lyrics have pushed him towards more introspection and analysis of his own feelings.
Gradually, John and Paul preferred to compose separately, which did not prevent them from helping each other and completing their songs. In 1967, McCartney added a transition to Lennon”s A Day in the Life, while they worked together on With a Little Help from My Friends. Similarly, I”ve Got a Feeling is a mixture of unfinished songs by each. Moreover, while McCartney wrote the group”s most popular songs (Hey Jude, Yesterday), it was Lennon who wrote the most musically accomplished compositions (Strawberry Fields Forever, I Am the Walrus).
After the end of the group, Lennon readily admits to having written a few “mediocre” songs for food purposes, such as Little Child or Any Time at All. With time, he wrote more personal songs; I”m a Loser describes his feelings of the moment. Similarly, he composed Nowhere Man when he felt depressed and “a man from nowhere”, and In My Life, where, having become a world star at 25, he looks back with nostalgia on his past. He also expresses his fears about his love life in Run for Your Life, where he threatens to kill his wife in case of adultery, an act he does not deny himself on tour, or Don”t Let Me Down, a heartbreaking cry from Lennon to Yoko Ono, urging her to stay with him. In addition, he composed, from 1966, songs with psychedelic tones and lyrics full of nonsense. Other creations, such as I Want You (She”s So Heavy) or You Know My Name (Look Up the Number) are more minimalist in their text.
If, within the Beatles, John Lennon allowed himself only one political song (Revolution), he launched his solo career with Give Peace a Chance, a song with a protest and pacifist vocation. His political commitment is present throughout his solo discography, with anthems such as Power to the People, Imagine and Working Class Hero, as well as specific support songs for various causes. From his first album, John LennonPlastic Ono Band, Lennon turns the page of the Beatles, citing them, in the song God, among the symbols he no longer believes. The lyrics of the album already contain the themes that would be dear to him later, the study of himself and his doubts, and his relationship with Yoko Ono, to whom he regularly dedicates songs. He also tried other ways of writing, less conventional: “journalistic songs”, written in a hurry, on the album Some Time in New York City; lullabies (or Christmas songs (Happy Xmas (War Is Over), also a pacifist title). As he matured, Lennon drew inspiration from his readings: Mind Games is a reference to a psychology book about raising consciousness. Similarly, he explored feminism, under the influence of Ono, via Woman Is the Nigger of the World and especially Woman, which he wrote after reading The First Sex by Elizabeth Gould Davis. Lennon also willingly indulges in nostalgia, but also settles his accounts, sometimes harshly, with Paul McCartney (How Do You Sleep?), before turning against Allen Klein (Steel and Glass). Finally, he doesn”t forget his rock ”n” roll roots and composes a few more tracks in this style, like It”s So Hard, which he records with the renowned saxophonist King Curtis.
John Lennon began writing and drawing creatively at an early age, with the encouragement of his uncle. He collected his stories, poems, cartoons and caricatures in a school exercise book, which he called the Daily Howl, and showed to his friends to amuse them. It was full of puns, the drawings he created often depicted disabled people – for whom Lennon felt a certain fascination and, according to George Harrison, fear – and the stories he told were satirical to a fault. In 1964, Lennon published his first book, In His Own Write, a collection of drawings, poems, and short stories full of humor and nonsense, some of which were reprinted from The Daily Howl. “This is my form of humor. I used to mask my feelings behind gibberish.” For example, he plays with the sound of words, like the title of the book (In His Own “Write”, instead of “right”) or his introductory text (“I was bored on the 9th of Octover 1940”, bored instead of born, which gives “I was bored on…” instead of “I was born on…”, and Octover instead of October). The book is appreciated by the critics, which surprises its author: “To my great surprise, the critics liked it. I didn”t think the book would even be reviewed. I didn”t think people would accept the book the way they did. To tell you the truth, they took it more seriously than I did. It all started as a joke to me.
Following the success of the first, Lennon published a second book, A Spaniard in the Works, in 1965. The book contains a story about Sherlock Holmes, which he says is the longest thing he has ever written. As for the way he works, Lennon admits to being chaotic and dissipated: “My mind doesn”t linger on the same subject for long. I forget who I”ve directed, I get lost, I get bored and it bores me. That”s why I usually kill everybody. I killed them all in the first book, but in the second book I tried not to, I tried to move forward.” Lennon remains, moreover, very influenced by Lewis Carroll as well as Ronald Searle, and nurtures, at the time, the ambition to write a book for children. An Icicle in the Wind, however, does not sell as well as the first one.
These two books inspired a play, The John Lennon Play: In His Own Write, staged in 1968. The first performance of the play marked one of Lennon”s first public appearances on the arm of Yoko Ono. When he retired from public life to care for his son Sean, Lennon returned to writing and drawing. These works will be published in Skywriting by Word of Mouth and Real Love: The Drawings for Sean.
The discography of John Lennon is first common with that of the Beatles, and begins with the first album of the group, Please Please Me released in 1963, which quickly succeeded With the Beatles the same year. While both albums contained a number of covers, they also included the first Lennon-McCartney songs. Several albums follow one another during Beatlemania, at the frantic pace of two albums per year on average, including A Hard Day”s Night on which ten of the thirteen songs are from his pen, until the release in 1965 of Rubber Soul, which marks a turning point for the group. It is also the beginning of the hippie period of Lennon, illustrated by the song The Word.
The next two albums, Revolver (1966) and Sgt. Pepper”s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967), are often considered the artistic peak of the band. This is also true for Lennon, who wrote several of his most popular songs during this period, such as Strawberry Fields Forever, Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds and the psychedelic I Am the Walrus. The preparation of the “White Album” marks the beginning of tensions between John and Paul McCartney. Lennon composed a large number of songs at this time. The album is particularly marked by Revolution 9, a sound collage made by John and Yoko Ono, and inserted on the album despite the obvious disagreement of McCartney and George Martin. On Abbey Road, Lennon composed what he considered one of his favorite songs, Come Together.
John Lennon realizes his first album out of the group in 1968, with Two Virgins. It is about an album of experimental music realized with Yoko Ono, whose cover is decorated with a photograph of the couple completely naked. The album, which makes scandal for this reason, knows only a relative success. The first real solo single of Lennon is Give Peace a Chance, recorded in Montreal in 1969. After the final separation of the Beatles, Lennon made in 1970 his first album of songs, John LennonPlastic Ono Band, which became one of his most popular albums. It is characterized by its melancholic (Mother, Isolation) and sometimes belligerent (Working Class Hero) tones.
In 1971, the musician”s landmark album Imagine was released, which he described as “Working Class Hero with sugar”. The album contains the song Imagine, which reached the top of the charts in many countries and over time became one of the greatest pacifist anthems ever written. Over the next three years, Lennon recorded four more, relatively minor, albums, including Walls and Bridges, which reached #1 in the United States. He then retired for five years to care for his son Sean, and returned in 1980 with Double Fantasy, in very close collaboration with Yoko Ono. The singer was murdered shortly after.
Many albums were released after Lennon”s death. Although they are mostly compilations, there is also a studio album released in 1984, posthumously, Milk and Honey, and a collection of unreleased material released in 1986, entitled Menlove Ave. The John Lennon Anthology box set, released in 1998, is a panorama of the artist”s solo career, containing a number of unreleased takes.
Combining all sales formats (physical albums, physical singles, music videos, digital downloads, phone ringtones, streaming audio and video, etc …) using appropriate weights (e.g. 1 physical single = 310th album), record sales of John Lennon”s solo career in October 2018 reached 72,647,000 units in “album equivalent” worldwide.
As an actor, apart from the four films in which the group is the main subject during his career, John Lennon plays in one film, in 1967. After the Beatles” separation, he produced several avant-garde short films with his wife Yoko Ono.
The first foray of the Fab Four in cinema dates from 1964, with A Hard Day”s Night, directed by Richard Lester. This parody documentary in black and white is supposed to show how the Beatles live in the middle of Beatlemania. However, the representation of the madness that surrounds them is watered down because, in reality, the four Beatles begin to live it more and more difficult, especially Lennon. He gradually sinks into a deep mal de vivre, which he transposes in his song Help! the starting point of the film of the same name, again directed by Lester in 1965. This time, the film is in color and the story is completely fictional: the Beatles are pursued by a Hindu sect that seeks to recover a sacrificial ring that Ringo wears on his finger. All the members criticize the film at its release, considering themselves relegated to a secondary role.
By August 1966, Beatlemania had reached a frightening and dangerous level, dismaying the Beatles. They decide to stop touring and stop playing in public. Lennon is not happy about this stop, which, for him, means the end of the Beatles as a rock band. He tried to find another solution and accepted a role as a soldier in the film How I Won the War, still directed by Lester and released in 1967. During the shooting, he composed Strawberry Fields Forever, a forerunner of the Beatles” productions of that year. After the resounding success of Sgt. Pepper”s Lonely Hearts Club Band, the group, under the direction of Paul McCartney, embarked on a film, which McCartney himself produced. The result is Magical Mystery Tour, directed with the collaboration of Bernard Knowles and released in late 1967. The film features the Beatles on a psychedelic bus trip, accompanied by a motley crew of random actors. The film was not a success; the critics were downbeat and even the public was disappointed. The songs from the film, collected on the double EP Magical Mystery Tour, are however well received, all in the same psychedelic vein as Sgt. Pepper”s.
Following this first critical and commercial failure and his meeting with Yoko Ono, John Lennon tries to venture outside the framework of the Beatles and participates, in late 1968, in the Rock and Roll Circus, a music show organized by the Rolling Stones. Previously, he should have been involved, with the group, in the animated film Yellow Submarine, directed by George Dunning. But the Beatles, losing interest in the project, do not even lend their voices and are exclusively concerned with providing a handful of songs, collected thereafter on the album of the same name.
John”s last film with the Beatles is a testament to the group”s breakup. At the beginning of 1969, the group had to make a last film to honor its contract with United Artists, while its members had no desire to play a new comedy. It was therefore decided to film them in rehearsal, for a final concert on the roof of the Apple offices. However, the tensions are obvious during the shooting and are reflected in the film. The Beatles waited a year before releasing the film, so dissatisfied were they with the result. Let It Be, directed by Michael Lindsay-Hogg, was released in 1970, shortly before the eponymous album. At the time of its release, the group had already separated.
In 1968, some time before the Beatles split up, Yoko Ono introduced Lennon to making short experimental films. The couple produced more than thirty of them until 1972. Most of them consisted of filmed concert excerpts and music videos, while others had a well-defined concept, such as Self-Portrait, which showed John”s penis in the process of becoming erect, and Erection, which presented, in fast-forward, the construction of the International Hotel in London.
Since Lennon”s death, it is Yoko Ono who manages his legacy. She produced a large number of posthumous albums of the musician, from unreleased recordings. When in the late 1990s, Paul McCartney asked that Yesterday be credited “McCartneyLennon” rather than “LennonMcCartney” on the compilation 1, Ono refused. Similarly, she is involved, with the Beatles still alive and the wife of George Harrison, in the production of the game The Beatles: Rock Band and, in general, in the future of the interests of the group. Ono also manages the image of her late husband, which caused a controversy in 2010 when Lennon appeared in an advertisement for Citroen.
Objects belonging to the singer are also sold at auction. In 2000, the piano on which he composed Imagine was bought by George Michael for more than two million pounds sterling. Similarly, in 2007, a British collector bought a pair of glasses that belonged to Lennon, for a sum kept secret. In 2010, the manuscript of lyrics for the song A Day in the Life was sold for $1.2 million.
In 2006, Forbes magazine announced that Lennon was the fourth richest dead person.
On November 11, 2020, Yoko Ono announced that her son Sean Lennon was now managing his father”s estate
Many songs written by Lennon – for the Beatles as well as for himself – have been covered, including Imagine (notably covered by Neil Young during a concert in tribute to the victims of the World Trade Center attacks on September 21, 2001). In 1999, a BBC poll revealed that it was the favorite song of the British. In 2002, another BBC poll ranked him 5th in the “100 Greatest British Heroes”. The American magazine Rolling Stone ranks Lennon fifth in the “Greatest Singers of All Time” and 38th in the “Greatest Artist of All Time”, while the Beatles come first. According to the same magazine, two of his solo albums, Imagine and John LennonPlastic Ono Band, are among the 500 greatest albums of all time. Finally, Lennon has been in the Songwriters Hall of Fame since 1987 and in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame since 1994.
Liam Gallagher, the singer of the band Oasis, considers Lennon a hero, and named his eldest son Lennon Gallagher, in tribute to the singer.
Tributes and memorials
Many artists have composed songs in his honor. For example, in 1982, in the album Hot Space of Queen, Freddie Mercury pays tribute to him in the song Life Is Real (Song For Lennon). Scarabée, from the album M and J by Vanessa Paradis pays tribute to the life of the artist. The Cranberries” song I Just Shot John Lennon evokes the singer”s assassination, as does Patrick Bruel”s song Gosses en cavale, the shock wave that followed the announcement of his death. The song Moonlight Shadow written by Mike Oldfield would also have been partially inspired by this same event, at least at an unconscious level.
The ex-Beatles George Harrison and Paul McCartney have each composed a tribute song to their late comrade: the former with All Those Years Ago, released on his album Somewhere in England released in 1981, and the latter with Here Today, on Tug of War released in 1982. McCartney also released the song Early Days in 2013, on his album New, in which he recounts his early life with his mate.
Elton John and Bernie Taupin, his regular collaborator, wrote Empty Garden (Hey Hey Johnny) which the singer released on a single and on his 1982 album Jump Up! An instrumental piece, written by Elton John following Lennon”s assassination, entitled The Man Who Never Died, was released in 1985 as the B-side of a 45 rpm coupled with Nikita. It will be included as a bonus track on the CD reissue of the album Ice on Fire.
Paul Simon, a New York-born singer-songwriter, wrote the song The Late Great Johnny Ace about the death of Johnny Ace and John Lennon. He first sang it in 1981 at a concert in Central Park, just steps from the Dakota Building. Although it is present on the video of the show, it is not included on the live album that came out of it, but will be re-recorded for his record Hearts and Bones released in 1983.
The scene of the first meeting between John Lennon and Paul McCartney on July 6 is depicted by Yves Sente and André Juillard in the comic book series Blake and Mortimer, in the volume The Voronov Machination, on pages 54 and 55, where Mortimer asks Paul where the priest is, then goes to the stage where John was playing to find him.
Several films were made about John Lennon after his death. Thus, a TV movie, Two of Us, romanticizes a meeting between Lennon and McCartney in New York, after the Beatles” separation. Several films also take up the assassination of John Lennon: The Killing of John Lennon and Chapter 27, both released in December 2007. In the latter film, Lennon is played by Mark Lindsay Chapman, namesake of his killer. In 2009, Lennon”s early days with the Quarrymen were chronicled in the film Nowhere Boy, which was released in October 2010 to celebrate the singer”s 70th birthday.
Documentaries have also been made about the singer, such as Imagine: John Lennon, in 1988, composed of archival footage and excerpts from interviews and The U.S. against John Lennon in 2006, which recounts the attempts to expel him by Richard Nixon and his administration in the 1970s. In 2019, John and Yoko: Above Us Only Sky, directed by Michael Epstein, is broadcast by A&E in America and Channel 4 in England. This documentary explores mainly the year 1971 and the recording of the album Imagine.
In Danny Boyle”s uchronic comedy Yesterday (2019), the hero Jack wakes up in a world where the Beatles, among others, never existed and becomes a global star by performing their songs, since no one believes they are not his. In this parallel world, Jack manages, at the end of the story, to find John Lennon, 78 years old, who lives peacefully retired in the countryside, where he paints.
Actor Simon Pegg lends his voice to John Lennon in animated segments of the documentary The Sparks Brothers (2021) about the Sparks.
Since the mid-1980s, a wall in the city of Prague continues to be covered with graffiti in his honor and has become the Lennon Wall.
An asteroid discovered in 1983 by astronomer Brian A. Skiff is named (4147) Lennon in his honor.
In 1985, the Strawberry Fields memorial was inaugurated in New York”s Central Park, near the Dakota Building. It is the scene of regular gatherings to celebrate the artist”s birthdays.
John Lennon Park or Parque John Lennon is a public park in the Vedado district of Havana, Cuba. On one of the park”s benches there is a statue of John Lennon; it was inaugurated on December 8, 2000 by President Fidel Castro. An inscription near the feet of the bench reads: “Dirás que soy un soñador pero no soy el único, John Lennon”, which is a translation of the lyrics of the song Imagine: “You can say that I am a dreamer, but I am not the only one”.
In 2002, the renovated Liverpool Airport was renamed John Lennon Liverpool Airport. A bronze statue of John is installed in the check-in hall, while the motto “above us only sky” (from the lyrics of Imagine) is painted on the ceiling. Outside, a giant Yellow Submarine greeted motorists. In the summer of 1958, Lennon worked briefly as a dishwasher and waiter in the Viscount restaurant in this terminal.
Exhibitions have also been dedicated to him, including John Lennon Unfinished Music, from October 20 to June 25, 2006 at the Cité de la musique and Imagine, John & Yoko”s Ballad for Peace, a temporary exhibition at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, from April 2 to June 21, 2009.
In 2007, on the island Viðey in the Icelandic capital Reykjavik, was inaugurated the Imagine Peace Tower, a monument, designed by his widow Yoko Ono, which projects a beam of light into the sky, every year, between October 9, the date of his birth, and December 8, that of his death.
On August 12, 2012, a tribute is paid to him during the closing ceremony of the London Olympics, with his iconic song Imagine, performed by a young choir, then by John Lennon himself, appearing on the giant screens of the Olympic Stadium.
On September 7, 2018, a postage stamp featuring John Lennon was produced by the United States Postal Service, based on a 1974 photo by Bob Gruen.
In the first season of Epic Rap Battles of History John Lennon takes on Fox News anchor Bill O”Reilly.