John Lennon

Delainey Root, MVC writer

John Lennon is well-known due to his time with the Beatles during the 60s and 70s. What is less commonly known is information about his life before and after the Beatles. All people seem to see is his time with the Beatles, but Lennon had an intriguing story throughout his life. 

John Lennon was born on October 9, 1940, in Liverpool, England. Lennon’s parents refused to raise their son, and, by the age of five, he moved to Woolton to live with his aunt, Mimi Smith. Lennon’s mother, Julia, remarried but visited him and his aunt regularly. His mother taught him to play the banjo and piano, and bought him his first guitar. Julia was fatally struck by a car in July of 1958. Lennon said that her death was one of the most traumatic moments of his life. 

  When it came to music, Lennon was greatly inspired by Elvis. Lennon started a skiffle band, a band that uses homemade items as instruments, called the Quarry Men. In 1957, Lennon met Paul McCartney and asked him to join his band. The following year McCartney introduced George Harrison to the group. Harrison’s friend, Stuart Sutcliffe, also joined the band. In 1960, they chose Pete Best to be the drummer of the band. 

The first recording the band made was of Buddy Holly’s song “That’ll Be the Day” in 1958. The Crickets, the name of Buddy Holly’s band, was the inspiration behind the band’s name change. 

At Liverpool’s Cavern Club in 1961, the Beatles were discovered by Brian Epstein. They then got a contract with EMI and got a new drummer, Richard Starkey, more famously known as Ringo Starr. In October of 1962, the band released their first single, “Love Me Do,” which reached number 17 on the British charts. Their follow-up single, “Please Please Me,” was written by Lennon and topped charts in Britain. 

In 1962, Lennon married Cynthia Powell, a woman with whom he would have one child: a son named Julian, named after Lennon’s mother. They soon divorced in 1968. The following year Lennon married his second wife, Yoko Ono. 

In 1964, the Beatles became the first of many British bands to become a hit in the United States. “Beatlemania,” as it is now called, launched the “British Invasion,” leading to the introduction of bands such as Pink Floyd, The Rolling Stones and The Who to the United States. They started this invasion with an appearance on “The Ed Sullivan Show” on February 9, 1964. Following this appearance, they returned to Britain to film “A Hard Day’s Night,” their first film, and prepare for their first big tour. 

In June of 1965, Queen Elizabeth II said the Beatles would be named Members of the Order of the British Empire. The Beatles performed for 55,600 fans at New York’s Shea Stadium the same year. This performance set a record for the largest concert attendance in musical history. They also released “Rubber Soul” that year, which broke away from the romantic pop songs they were previously known for, such as “I Wanna Hold Your Hand.” 

After 1965, “Beatlemania” began to lose its popularity. In 1966, the lives of the Beatles members were at risk when they were accused of snubbing the Philippines presidential family. They received more outcry after Lennon said the band was “more popular than Jesus.” After this statement, many people hated the band and performed mass Beatle record bonfires all across the Bible belt of the US. The band took a break from performing in August of 1966. 

They used this break to explore a new type of sound and lyrics. They developed a more abstract style that can be observed in “Penny Lane/Strawberry Fields Forever,” and in the album “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.”

Tragedy struck the band after Epstein’s accidental overdose of sleeping pills in 1967. They then filmed “Magical Mystery Tour.” The soundtrack of this film included Lennon’s “I am the Walrus,” one of the Beatles’ most abstract songs yet. “Magical Mystery Tour” failed to gain much commercial success. 

In 1968, the Beatles faced their last notable big audience for the premiere of “Yellow Submarine.” That November, the group released their album “The Beatles” (also known as “The White Album.”) This album started to show the diverging paths of the members. 

Lennon’s wife, Yoko Ono, had started causing some conflict in the group. They performed a sort of peace protest by staying in their bed as they were filmed and interviewed. The couple’s single, “Give Peace a Chance,” became a popular song of the pacifist movements of the time. After the completion of “Abbey Road” in August of 1969, Lennon made the choice to leave the band he started. This news was not released to the public until McCartney left the band in April, 1970.

That same year, Lennon released his first solo album, “John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band.” He followed this up with 1971’s album, “Imagine.” This album gained commercial success. It also included the song “How do you Sleep,” in response to McCartney’s solo career. The feud between the two former Beatles soon faded away, but the two never worked again professionally. 

Despite the threats of deportation by the Nixon administration, Lennon and Ono moved to the United States in September of 1971. The government claimed this was due to a prior marijuana conviction in Britain; however, later documents proved the reason was due to his activism against the Vietnam War. They were granted permanent US residency two years after Nixon resigned. 

The couple’s immigration took a toll on their relationship and the pair separated in 1973. Lennon went to Los Angeles during this time. Despite the separation, Lennon and Ono reconnected in 1974. Ono then gave birth to their son, Sean. Soon after, Lennon decided to leave the music industry to focus on his family. 

In 1980, Lennon returned to the music scene with the album “Double Fantasy.” Just a few weeks after the release of the album, Lennon was shot four times in front of his New York City apartment by Mark David Chapman. His left lung and major blood vessels in his heart were practically destroyed upon impact. On December 8, 1980, Lennon succumbed to his injuries in New York City’s Roosevelt Hospital at the age of 40.