John Winston Lennon was born on October 9, 1940, to a troubled, working-class Liverpool family. John’s father deserted his mother when John was only three, so at an early age Lennon was sent to live with his aunt in the suburb of Woolton, where he was a rebellious child. Frequently skipping school, Lennon left Quarry Bank High School at age 16 after his aunt persuaded the headmaster to write him a recommendation to Liverpool Art College. At art school Lennon became involved in music, buying a guitar and starting a skiffle band in early 1957. That band, the Quarrymen, evolved over the next few years into the Beatles.
Lennon remained a principle singer and songwriter for the band through its decade-long career, splitting these duties with Paul McCartney. Lennon contributes more experimental and mystical music during the band’s later years, while McCartney was more pop-oriented; Lennon also led the group into drug use during the mid-‘60s and encouraged them to follow his guru, the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.
Shortly after forming the Beatles, Lennon married an art school classmate, Cynthia Powell, with whom he had a son, Julian, in 1963. Their marriage was rocky, especially after Lennon began openly dating older Japanese-American artist named Yoko Ono. Cynthia divorced John in 1968. In the spring of 1969 Lennon and a very pregnant Ono embarked on a “honeymoon” to Europe, stopping along the way to get married in Gibraltar on March 20th. The newlyweds returned to England in May 1969, where Yoko had a miscarriage, the first of several.
To deal with their anguish, Kohn and Yoko hastily recorded two avant-garde albums, “Life with the lions” and “The Wedding Album” (whose entire B-side consists of John and Yoko screaming each other’s name).
As Lennon spent more time collaborating with Ono, he began to distance himself from the other “Beatles”. In late 1969 he informed the group that he wanted to quit the band, but because contract negotiations were underway with EMI, his decision was kept quiet. Lennon intensified his political actions, paying for billboards in various cities that called for the end of war, and returning an award given to him by the Queen in protest if Britain’s involvement in Biafra. Lennon refocused on his music career in February 1970. Two months later Paul McCartney released his debut solo album and publicly announced the end of “The Beatles”, angering Lennon, who had first had the idea and wanted to be the one to break the news.
In the spring of 1971 Lennon and Ono relocated to New York City, moving into the Dakota, an historic apartment building on Central Park West. Lennon wasted no time becoming involved in American society, siding with Chicago Seven political radicals and frequently speaking out on political issues. That fall Lennon released his most popular solo album, the ¹1charting “Imagine”, which dealt with personal and political issues in a more accessible manner than his earlier works.
In 1974 Lennon separated from Yoko Ono, relocating to Los Angeles. For the next two years Lennon became heavily involved in drugs, and became a frequent attendee of celebrity parties and wild nightclubs. Through the party circuit Lennon developed a friendship with Elton Kohn, with whom he co-wrote the song “Whatever Gets You Through the Night”, Lennon’s 1974 No.1 comeback. On thanksgiving night Lennon joined John onstage at Madison Square Garden, a legendary performance which turned out to be Lennon’s last public concert. The following year Lennon recorded a contractual obligation album, “Rock and Roll”. Several months before the official release of the album, businessman Morris Levy released a bootleg of the record. Lennon later sued Levy, winning a large judgement in court.
By the end of 1975, things had turned around for Lennon: Elton John had helped John and Yoko resolve their marital differences, and in early October an appeals court overturned the deportation order which had been haunting Lennon. The following year Ono became pregnant yet again, and on October 9, 1976 (John’s birthday) gave birth to their child, Sean. In the summer of 1976 John retired from music to raise his child.
In early 1980 Lennon came out of retirement and signed a new record. John and Yoko recorded a new album that summer, “Double Fantasy”, which was released in November.
While leaving his New York apartment on December 8, Lennon was approached by a sleazy-looking fan who requested an autograph. When John returned home several hours later, the fan was still outside his apartment, and shit Lennon several times. He died minutes later, and the crazed fan, Mark David Chapman, was quickly arrested.
On December 14, at 2p. m., Lennon fans around the world participated in a widely publicized 10-minute silent vigil. Naturally, Double Fantasy went to No.1 and sold thousands of copies. As Chapman went to trial, bizarre details came out about the disturbed loner, who apparently was obsessed not only with Lennon, but also with the popular novel Cather in the Rye. He was easily convicted and sentenced to an indefinite term in a mental institution.
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