|John Winston Lennon MBE|
An English rock musician, singer, songwriter, artist, and peace activist who gained worldwide fame as one of the founding members of The Beatles with Paul McCartney. Together with Paul McCartney, he formed one of the most celebrated songwriting partnerships of the 20th century.
Born and raised in Liverpool, Lennon became involved as a teenager in the skiffle craze; his first band, The Quarrymen, evolved into The Beatles in 1960. As the group disintegrated towards the end of the decade, Lennon embarked on a solo career that produced the critically acclaimed albums John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band and Imagine, and iconic songs such as "Give Peace a Chance" and "Imagine". After his marriage to Yoko Ono in 1969, he changed his name to John Ono Lennon.
Lennon disengaged himself from the music business in 1975 to devote time to raising his infant son Sean, but re-emerged with Ono in 1980 with the new album Double Fantasy. He was murdered three weeks after its release.
Lennon revealed a rebellious nature and acerbic wit in his music, writing, drawings, on film, and in interviews. Controversial through his political and peace activism, he moved to New York City in 1971, where his criticism of the Vietnam War resulted in a lengthy attempt by Richard Nixon's administration to deport him, while some of his songs were adopted as anthems by the anti-war movement.
As of 2012 Lennon's solo album sales in the United States exceed 14 million units, and as writer, co-writer or performer, he is responsible for 25 number-one singles on the US Hot 100 chart.
In 2002 a BBC poll on the 100 Greatest Britons voted him eighth, and in 2008, Rolling Stone ranked him the fifth-greatest singer of all-time. He was posthumously inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1987 and into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1994.
Lennon was born in war-time England, on 9 October 1940 at Liverpool Maternity Hospital to Julia (née Stanley) and Alfred Lennon, a merchant seaman who was away at the time of his son's birth. He was named John Winston Lennon after his paternal grandfather, John "Jack" Lennon, and then-Prime Minister Winston Churchill.
His father was often away from home but sent regular pay cheques to 9 Newcastle Road, Liverpool, where Lennon lived with his mother, but the cheques stopped when he went absent without leave in February 1944. When he eventually came home six months later, he offered to look after the family, but Julia—by then pregnant with another man's child—rejected the idea.
After her sister, Mimi Smith, twice complained to Liverpool's Social Services, Julia handed the care of Lennon over to her. In July 1946 Lennon's father visited Smith and took his son to Blackpool, secretly intending to emigrate to New Zealand with him.
Julia followed them—with her partner at the time, 'Bobby' Dykins—and after a heated argument his father forced the five-year-old to choose between them. Lennon twice chose his father, but as his mother walked away, he began to cry and followed her. It would be 20 years before he had contact with his father again.
Throughout the rest of his childhood and adolescence he lived with his aunt and uncle, Mimi and George Smith, who had no children of their own, at Mendips, 251 Menlove Avenue, Woolton. His aunt bought him volumes of short stories, and his uncle, a dairyman at his family's farm, bought him a mouth organ and engaged him in solving crossword puzzles. Julia visited Mendips on a regular basis, and when he was 11 years old he often visited her at 1 Blomfield Road, Liverpool, where she played him Elvis Presley records, and taught him the banjo, learning how to play "Ain't That a Shame" by Fats Domino.
He regularly visited his cousin, Stanley Parkes, who lived in Fleetwood. Seven years Lennon's senior, Parkes took him on trips, and to local cinemas. During the school holidays, Parkes often visited Lennon with Leila Harvey, another cousin, often travelling to Blackpool two or three times a week to watch shows.
They would visit the Blackpool Tower Circus and see artists such as Dickie Valentine, Arthur Askey, Max Bygraves and Joe Loss, with Parkes recalling that Lennon particularly liked George Formby.
After Parkes's family moved to Scotland, the three cousins often spent their school holidays together there. Parkes recalled, "John, cousin Leila and I were very close. From Edinburgh we would drive up to the family croft at Durness, which was from about the time John was nine years old until he was about 16." He was 14 years old when his uncle George died of a liver haemorrhage on 5 June 1955 aged 52.
Lennon was raised as an Anglican and attended Dovedale Primary School. From September 1952 to 1957, after passing his Eleven-Plus exam, he attended Quarry Bank High School in Liverpool, and was described by Harvey at the time as, "A happy-go-lucky, good-humoured, easy going, lively lad."
He often drew comical cartoons which appeared in his own self-made school magazine called The Daily Howl, but despite his artistic talent, his school reports were damning: "Certainly on the road to failure ... hopeless ... rather a clown in class ... wasting other pupils' time."
His mother bought him his first guitar in 1956, an inexpensive Gallotone Champion acoustic for which she "lent" her son five pounds and ten shillings on the condition that the guitar be delivered to her own house, and not Mimi's, knowing well that her sister was not supportive of her son's musical aspirations. As Mimi was sceptical of his claim that he would be famous one day, she hoped he would grow bored with music, often telling him, "The guitar's all very well, John, but you'll never make a living out of it".
On 15 July 1958, when Lennon was 17 years old, his mother, walking home after visiting the Smiths' house, was struck by a car and killed.
Lennon failed all his GCE O-level examinations, and was accepted into the Liverpool College of Art only after his aunt and headmaster intervened. Once at the college, he started wearing Teddy Boy clothes and acquired a reputation for disrupting classes and ridiculing teachers. As a result, he was excluded from the painting class, then the graphic arts course, and was threatened with expulsion for his behaviour, which included sitting on a nude model's lap during a life drawing class.
He failed an annual exam, despite help from fellow student and future wife Cynthia Powell, and was "thrown out of the college before his final year."
The Beatles evolved from Lennon's first band, the Quarrymen. Named after Quarry Bank High School, the group was established by him in September 1956 when he was 15, and began as a skiffle group. By the summer of 1957 the Quarrymen played a "spirited set of songs" made up of half skiffle, and half rock and roll.
Lennon first met Paul McCartney at the Quarrymen's second performance, held in Woolton on 6 July at the St. Peter's Church garden fête, after which McCartney was asked to join the band.
McCartney says that Aunt Mimi: "was very aware that John's friends were lower class", and would often patronise him when he arrived to visit Lennon. According to Paul's brother Mike, McCartney's father was also disapproving, declaring Lennon would get his son "into trouble"; although he later allowed the fledgling band to rehearse in the McCartneys' front room at 20 Forthlin Road.
During this time, the 18-year-old Lennon wrote his first song, "Hello Little Girl", a UK top 10 hit for The Fourmost nearly five years later.
George Harrison joined the band as lead guitarist, even though Lennon thought Harrison (at 14 years old) was too young to join the band, so McCartney engineered a second audition on the upper deck of a Liverpool bus, where Harrison played "Raunchy" for Lennon.
Stuart Sutcliffe, Lennon's friend from art school, later joined as bassist. Lennon, McCartney, Harrison and Sutcliffe became "The Beatles" in early 1960. In August that year The Beatles, engaged for a 48-night residency in Hamburg, Germany, and desperately in need of a drummer, asked Pete Best to join them.
Lennon was now 19, and his aunt, horrified when he told her about the trip, pleaded with him to continue his art studies instead. After the first Hamburg residency, the band accepted another in April 1961, and a third in April 1962.
Like the other band members, Lennon was introduced to Preludin while in Hamburg, and regularly took the drug, as well as amphetamines, as a stimulant during their long, overnight performances.
Brian Epstein, The Beatles' manager from 1962, had no prior experience of artist management, but nevertheless had a strong influence on their early dress code and attitude on stage.
Lennon initially resisted his attempts to encourage the band to present a professional appearance, but eventually complied, saying, "I'll wear a bloody balloon if somebody's going to pay me". McCartney took over on bass after Sutcliffe decided to stay in Hamburg, and drummer Ringo Starr replaced Best, completing the four-piece line-up that would endure until the group's break-up in 1970.
The band's first single, "Love Me Do", was released in October 1962 and reached #17 on the British charts. They recorded their debut album, Please Please Me, in under 10 hours on 11 February 1963, a day when Lennon was suffering the effects of a cold, which is evident in the vocal on the last song to be recorded that day, Twist and Shout.
The Lennon–McCartney songwriting partnership yielded eight of its fourteen tracks. With few exceptions—one being the album title itself—Lennon had yet to bring his love of wordplay to bear on his song lyrics, saying: "We were just writing songs ... pop songs with no more thought of them than that–to create a sound. And the words were almost irrelevant".
In a 1987 interview, McCartney said that the other Beatles idolised John: "He was like our own little Elvis ... We all looked up to John. He was older and he was very much the leader; he was the quickest wit and the smartest".
The Beatles achieved mainstream success in the UK during the beginning of 1963. Lennon was on tour when his first son, Julian, was born in April. During their Royal Variety Show performance, attended by the Queen Mother and other British royalty, Lennon poked fun at his audience: "For our next song, I'd like to ask for your help.
For the people in the cheaper seats, clap your hands ... and the rest of you, if you'll just rattle your jewellery." After a year of Beatlemania in the UK, the group's historic February 1964 US debut appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show marked their breakthrough to international stardom.
A two-year period of constant touring, moviemaking, and songwriting followed, during which Lennon wrote two books, In His Own Write and A Spaniard in the Works. The Beatles received recognition from the British Establishment when they were appointed Members of the Order of the British Empire in the Queen's Birthday Honours of 1965.
Lennon grew concerned that fans attending Beatles' concerts were unable to hear the music above the screaming of fans, and that the band's musicianship was beginning to suffer as a result.
Lennon's "Help!" expressed his own feelings in 1965: "I meant it ... It was me singing 'help'". He had put on weight (he would later refer to this as his "Fat Elvis" period), and felt he was subconsciously seeking change. The following January he was unknowingly introduced to LSD when a dentist, hosting a dinner party attended by Lennon, Harrison and their wives, spiked the guests' coffee with the drug.
When they wanted to leave, their host revealed what they had taken, and strongly advised them not to leave the house because of the likely effects. Later, in an elevator at a nightclub, they all believed it was on fire: "We were all screaming ... hot and hysterical." A few months later in March, during an interview with Evening Standard reporter Maureen Cleave, Lennon remarked, "Christianity will go. It will vanish and shrink ... We're more popular than Jesus now—I don't know which will go first, rock and roll or Christianity." The comment went virtually unnoticed in England but caused great offence in the US when quoted by a magazine there five months later. The furore that followed—burning of Beatles' records, Ku Klux Klan activity, and threats against Lennon—contributed to the band's decision to stop touring.
Deprived of the routine of live performances after their final commercial concert on 29 August 1966, Lennon felt lost and considered leaving the band. Since his involuntary introduction to LSD in January, he had made increasing use of the drug, and was almost constantly under its influence for much of the year.
According to biographer Ian MacDonald, Lennon's continuous experience with LSD during the year brought him "close to erasing his identity". 1967 saw the release of "Strawberry Fields Forever", hailed by TIME magazine for its "astonishing inventiveness", and the group's landmark album Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, which revealed Lennon's lyrics contrasting strongly with the simple love songs of the Lennon–McCartney's early years.
In August, after having been introduced to the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, the group attended a weekend of personal instruction at his Transcendental Meditation seminar in Bangor, Wales, and were informed of Epstein's death during the seminar. "I knew we were in trouble then", Lennon said later. "I didn't have any misconceptions about our ability to do anything other than play music, and I was scared".
They later travelled to Maharishi's ashram in India for further guidance, where they composed most of the songs for The Beatles and Abbey Road.
The anti-war, black comedy How I Won the War, featuring Lennon's only appearance in a non–Beatles' full-length film, was shown in cinemas in October 1967. McCartney organised the group's first post-Epstein project, the self-written, -produced and -directed television film Magical Mystery Tour, released in December that year. While the film itself proved to be their first critical flop, its soundtrack release, featuring Lennon's acclaimed, Lewis Carroll-inspired "I am the Walrus", was a success.
With Epstein gone, the band members became increasingly involved in business activities, and in February 1968 they formed Apple Corps, a multimedia corporation comprising Apple Records and several other subsidiary companies. Lennon described the venture as an attempt to achieve, "artistic freedom within a business structure", but his increased drug experimentation and growing preoccupation with Yoko Ono, and McCartney's own marriage plans, left Apple in need of professional management.
Lennon asked Lord Beeching to take on the role, but he declined, advising Lennon to go back to making records. Lennon approached Allen Klein, who had managed The Rolling Stones and other bands during the British Invasion. Klein was appointed as Apple's chief executive by Lennon, Harrison and Starr, but McCartney never signed the management contract.
At the end of 1968, Lennon featured in the film The Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus (not released until 1996) in the role of a Dirty Mac band member. The supergroup, comprising Lennon, Eric Clapton, Keith Richards and Mitch Mitchell, also backed a vocal performance by Ono in the film.
Lennon and Ono were married on 20 March 1969, and soon released a series of 14 lithographs called "Bag One" depicting scenes from their honeymoon, eight of which were deemed indecent and most of which were banned and confiscated. Lennon's creative focus continued to move beyond The Beatles and between 1968 and 1969 he and Ono recorded three albums of experimental music together: Unfinished Music No.1: Two Virgins (known more for its cover than for its music), Unfinished Music No.2: Life with the Lions and Wedding Album. In 1969 they formed The Plastic Ono Band, releasing Live Peace in Toronto 1969.
In protest at Britain's involvement in the Nigerian Civil War, Lennon returned his MBE medal to the Queen, though this had no effect on his MBE status, which could not be renounced. Between 1969 and 1970 Lennon released the singles "Give Peace a Chance" (widely adopted as an anti-Vietnam-War anthem in 1969), "Cold Turkey" (documenting his withdrawal symptoms after he became addicted to heroin and "Instant Karma!".
Lennon left the group in September 1969, and agreed not to inform the media while the band renegotiated their recording contract, but he was outraged that McCartney publicised his own departure on releasing his debut solo album in April 1970. Lennon's reaction was, "Jesus Christ! He gets all the credit for it!"
He later wrote, "I started the band. I disbanded it. It's as simple as that." In later interviews with Rolling Stone magazine, he revealed his bitterness towards McCartney, saying, "I was a fool not to do what Paul did, which was use it to sell a record." He spoke too of the hostility he perceived the other members had towards Ono, and of how he, Harrison, and Starr "got fed up with being sidemen for Paul ... After Brian Epstein died we collapsed. Paul took over and supposedly led us. But what is leading us when we went round in circles?"
In 1970, Lennon and Ono went through primal therapy with Dr. Arthur Janov in Los Angeles, California. Designed to release emotional pain from early childhood, the therapy entailed two half-days a week with Janov for four months; he had wanted to treat the couple for longer, but they felt no need to continue and returned to London.
Lennon's emotional debut solo album, John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band (1970), was received with high praise. Critic Greil Marcus remarked, "John's singing in the last verse of 'God' may be the finest in all of rock." The album featured the songs "Mother", in which Lennon confronted his feelings of childhood rejection, and the Dylanesque "Working Class Hero", a bitter attack against the bourgeois social system which, due to the lyric "you're still fucking peasants", fell foul of broadcasters.
The same year, Tariq Ali's revolutionary political views, expressed when he interviewed Lennon, inspired the singer to write "Power to the People". Lennon also became involved with Ali during a protest against Oz magazine's prosecution for alleged obscenity. Lennon denounced the proceedings as "disgusting fascism", and he and Ono (as Elastic Oz Band) released the single "God Save Us/Do the Oz" and joined marches in support of the magazine.
Imagine (1971), critical response was more guarded. Rolling Stone reported that "it contains a substantial portion of good music" but warned of the possibility that "his posturings will soon seem not merely dull but irrelevant". The album's title track would become an anthem for anti-war movements, while another, "How Do You Sleep?", was a musical attack on McCartney in response to lyrics from Ram that Lennon felt, and McCartney later confirmed, were directed at him and Ono. However, Lennon softened his stance in the mid-1970s and said he had written "How Do You Sleep?" about himself.
He said in 1980: "I used my resentment against Paul ... to create a song ... not a terrible vicious horrible vendetta ... I used my resentment and withdrawing from Paul and The Beatles, and the relationship with Paul, to write 'How Do You Sleep'. I don't really go 'round with those thoughts in my head all the time".
Lennon and Ono moved to New York in August 1971, and in December released "Happy Xmas (War Is Over)". To advertise the single, they paid for billboards in 12 cities around the world which declared, in the national language, "WAR IS OVER—IF YOU WANT IT".
The new year saw the Nixon Administration take what it called a "strategic counter-measure" against Lennon's anti-war propaganda, embarking on what would be a four-year attempt to deport him: embroiled in a continuing legal battle, he was denied permanent residency in the US until 1976.
Recorded as a collaboration with Ono and with backing from the New York band Elephant's Memory, Some Time in New York City was released in 1972. Containing songs about women's rights, race relations, Britain's role in Northern Ireland, and Lennon's problems obtaining a green card, the album was poorly received—unlistenable, according to one critic.
"Woman Is the Nigger of the World", released as a US single from the album the same year, was televised on 11 May, on The Dick Cavett Show. Many radio stations refused to broadcast the song because of the word "nigger". Lennon and Ono gave two benefit concerts with Elephant's Memory and guests in New York in aid of patients at the Willowbrook State School mental facility. Staged at Madison Square Garden on 30 August 1972, they were his last full-length concert appearances.
While Lennon was recording Mind Games (1973), he and Ono decided to separate. The ensuing 18-month period apart, which he later called his "lost weekend", was spent in Los Angeles and New York in the company of May Pang.
Mind Games, credited to the "Plastic U.F.Ono Band", was released in November 1973. Lennon also contributed "I'm the Greatest", to Starr's album Ringo (1973), released the same month. (an alternate take, from the same 1973 Ringo sessions, with Lennon providing a guide vocal, appears on John Lennon Anthology).
In early 1974, Lennon was drinking heavily and his alcohol-fuelled antics with Harry Nilsson made headlines. Two widely publicised incidents occurred at The Troubadour club in March, the first when Lennon placed a menstruation "towel" on his forehead and scuffled with a waitress, and the second, two weeks later, when Lennon and Nilsson were ejected from the same club after heckling the Smothers Brothers.
Lennon decided to produce Nilsson's album Pussy Cats and Pang rented a Los Angeles beach house for all the musician but after a month of further debauchery, with the recording sessions in chaos, Lennon moved to New York with Pang to finish work on the album. In April, Lennon had produced the Mick Jagger song "Too Many Cooks (Spoil the Soup)" which was, for contractual reasons, to remain unreleased for more than 30 years. Pang supplied the recording for its eventual inclusion on The Very Best of Mick Jagger (2007).
Settled back in New York, Lennon recorded the album Walls and Bridges. Released in October 1974, it yielded his only number-one single in his lifetime, "Whatever Gets You Thru the Night", featuring Elton John on backing vocals and piano.
A second single from the album, "#9 Dream", followed before the end of the year. Starr's Goodnight Vienna (1974) again saw assistance from Lennon, who wrote the title track and played piano. On 28 November, Lennon made a surprise guest appearance at Elton John's Thanksgiving concert at Madison Square Garden, in fulfilment of his promise to join the singer in a live show if "Whatever Gets You Thru the Night"—a song whose commercial potential Lennon had doubted—reached number one. Lennon performed the song along with "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" and "I Saw Her Standing There", which he introduced as "a song by an old estranged fiancee of mine called Paul".
Lennon co-wrote "Fame", David Bowie's first US number one, and provided guitar and backing vocals for the January 1975 recording. The same month, Elton John topped the charts with his cover of "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds", featuring Lennon on guitar and back-up vocals (Lennon is credited on the single under the moniker of "Dr. Winston O'Boogie").
He and Ono were reunited shortly afterwards. Lennon released Rock 'n' Roll (1975), an album of cover songs, in February. "Stand by Me", taken from the album and a US and UK hit, became his last single for five years.
He made what would be his final stage appearance in the ATV special A Salute to Lew Grade, recorded on 18 April and televised in June. Playing acoustic guitar, and backed by an eight-piece band, Lennon performed two songs from Rock 'n' Roll ("Stand By Me", which was not broadcast, and "Slippin' and Slidin'") followed by "Imagine".
With the birth of his second son Sean on 9 October 1975, Lennon took on the role of househusband, beginning what would be a five-year hiatus from the music industry during which he gave all his attention to his family.
Within the month, he fulfilled his contractual obligation to EMI/Capitol for one more album by releasing Shaved Fish, a compilation album of previously recorded tracks. He devoted himself to Sean, rising at 6 am daily to plan and prepare his meals and to spend time with him.
He wrote "Cookin' (In the Kitchen of Love)" for Starr's Ringo's Rotogravure (1976), performing on the track in June in what would be his last recording session until 1980.
He formally announced his break from music in Tokyo in 1977, saying, "we have basically decided, without any great decision, to be with our baby as much as we can until we feel we can take time off to indulge ourselves in creating things outside of the family."
During his career break he created several series of drawings, and drafted a book containing a mix of autobiographical material and what he termed "mad stuff", all of which would be published posthumously.
He emerged from retirement in October 1980 with the single "(Just Like) Starting Over", followed the next month by the album Double Fantasy, which contained songs written during a journey to Bermuda on a 43-foot sailing boat the previous June, that reflected Lennon's fulfilment in his new-found stable family life.
Sufficient additional material was recorded for a planned follow-up album Milk and Honey (released posthumously in 1984). Released jointly with Ono, Double Fantasy was not well received, drawing comments such as Melody Maker's "indulgent sterility ... a godawful yawn"
At around 10:50 pm on 8 December 1980, as Lennon and Ono returned to their New York apartment in The Dakota, Mark David Chapman shot Lennon in the back four times at the entrance to the building. Lennon was taken to the emergency room of the nearby Roosevelt Hospital and was pronounced dead on arrival at 11:07 pm. Earlier that evening, Lennon had autographed a copy of Double Fantasy for Chapman.
Ono issued a statement the next day, saying "There is no funeral for John", ending it with the words, "John loved and prayed for the human race. Please pray the same for him." His body was cremated at Ferncliff Cemetery in Hartsdale, New York.
Ono scattered his ashes in New York's Central Park, where the Strawberry Fields memorial was later created. Chapman pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and was sentenced to 20 years to life. As of 2012, he remains in prison, having been denied parole seven times.
Lennon and Cynthia Powell met in 1957 as fellow students at the Liverpool College of Art. Although being scared of Lennon's attitude and appearance, she heard that he was obsessed with French actress Brigitte Bardot, so she dyed her hair blonde. Lennon asked her out, but when she said that she was engaged, he screamed out, "I didn't ask you to fuckin' marry me, did I?"
She often accompanied him to Quarrymen gigs and travelled to Hamburg with McCartney's girlfriend at the time to visit him. Lennon, jealous by nature, eventually grew possessive and often terrified Powell with his anger and physical violence. Lennon later said that until he met Ono, he had never questioned his chauvinistic attitude to women. The Beatles' song "Getting Better", he said, told his own story, "I used to be cruel to my woman, and physically—any woman. I was a hitter. I couldn't express myself and I hit. I fought men and I hit women. That is why I am always on about peace".
Recalling his reaction in July 1962 on learning that Cynthia was pregnant, Lennon said, "There's only one thing for it Cyn. We'll have to get married." The couple were married on 23 August at the Mount Pleasant Register Office in Liverpool. His marriage began just as Beatlemania took hold across the UK.
He performed on the evening of his wedding day, and would continue to do so almost daily from then on. Epstein, fearing that fans would be alienated by the idea of a married Beatle, asked the Lennons to keep their marriage secret. Julian was born on 8 April 1963; Lennon was on tour at the time and did not see his son until three days later.
Cynthia attributes the start of the marriage breakdown to LSD, and as a result, she felt that he slowly lost interest in her. When the group travelled by train to Bangor, Wales, in 1967, for the Maharishi Yogi's Transcendental Meditation seminar, a policeman did not recognise her and stopped her from boarding. She later recalled how the incident seemed to symbolise the ending of their marriage.
After arriving home at Kenwood, and finding Lennon with Ono, Cynthia left the house to stay with friends. Alexis Mardas later claimed to have slept with her that night, and a few weeks later he informed her that Lennon was seeking a divorce and custody of Julian on grounds of her adultery with him. After negotiations, Lennon capitulated and agreed to her divorcing him on the same grounds. The case was settled out of court, with Lennon giving her £100,000, and custody of Julian.
Two versions exist of how Lennon met Ono. According to the first, on 9 November 1966 Lennon went to the Indica Gallery in London, where Ono was preparing her conceptual art exhibit, and they were introduced by gallery owner John Dunbar.
Although his friendship with Starr remained consistently warm during the years following The Beatles' break-up in 1970, Lennon's relationship with McCartney and Harrison varied. He was close to Harrison initially, but the two drifted apart after Lennon moved to America.
When Harrison was in New York for his December 1974 Dark Horse tour, Lennon agreed to join him on stage, but failed to appear after an argument over Lennon's refusal to sign an agreement that would finally dissolve The Beatles' legal partnership. (Lennon eventually signed the papers while holidaying in Florida with Pang and Julian.) Harrison incensed Lennon in 1980 when he published an autobiography that made little mention of him. Lennon told Playboy, "I was hurt by it. By glaring omission ... my influence on his life is absolutely zilch ... he remembers every two-bit sax player or guitarist he met in subsequent years. I'm not in the book."
Lennon's most intense feelings were reserved for McCartney. In addition to attacking him through the lyrics of "How Do You Sleep?", Lennon argued with him through the press for three years after the group split.
The two later began to reestablish something of the close friendship they had once known, and in 1974 even played music together again, before growing apart once more. Lennon said that during McCartney's final visit, in April 1976, they watched the episode of Saturday Night Live in which Lorne Michaels made a $3,000 cash offer to get The Beatles to reunite on the show. The pair considered going to the studio to make a joke appearance, attempting to claim their share of the money, but were too tired.
Lennon summarised his feelings towards McCartney in an interview three days before his death: "Throughout my career, I've selected to work with...only two people: Paul McCartney and Yoko Ono....That ain't bad picking."
Along with his estrangement from McCartney, Lennon always felt a musical competitiveness with him and kept an ear on his music. During his five-year career break he was content to sit back so long as McCartney was producing what Lennon saw as mediocre "product".
When McCartney released "Coming Up" in 1980, the year Lennon returned to the studio and the last year of his life, he took notice. "It's driving me crackers!" he jokingly complained, because he could not get the tune out of his head. Asked the same year whether the group were dreaded enemies or the best of friends, he replied that they were neither, and that he had not seen any of them in a long time. But he also said, "I still love those guys. The Beatles are over, but John, Paul, George and Ringo go on.
Lennon's Les Paul Jr.His playing of a mouth organ during a bus journey to visit his cousin in Scotland caught the driver's ear.
Impressed, the driver told Lennon of a harmonica he could have if he came to Edinburgh the following day, where one had been stored in the bus depot since a passenger left it on a bus.
The professional instrument quickly replaced Lennon's toy. He would continue to play harmonica, often using the instrument during The Beatles' Hamburg years, and it became a signature sound in the group's early recordings. His mother taught him how to play the banjo, later buying him an acoustic guitar. At 16, he played rhythm guitar with the Quarrymen.
As his career progressed, he played a variety of electric guitars, predominantly the Rickenbacker 325, Epiphone Casino and Gibson J-160E, and, from the start of his solo career, the Gibson Les Paul Junior.
Occasionally he played a six-string bass guitar, the Fender Bass VI, providing bass on some Beatles' numbers that occupied McCartney with another instrument. His other instrument of choice was the piano, on which he composed many songs, including "Imagine", described as his best-known solo work His jamming on a piano with McCartney in 1963 led to the creation of The Beatles' first US number one, "I Want to Hold Your Hand".
In 1964, he became one of the first British musicians to acquire a Mellotron keyboard, though it was not heard on a Beatles' recording until "Strawberry Fields Forever" in late 1966.
When the Beatles recorded "Twist and Shout", the final track during the mammoth one-day session that produced the band's 1963 debut album, Please Please Me, Lennon's voice, already compromised by a cold, came close to giving out. Lennon said, "I couldn't sing the damn thing, I was just screaming."
In the words of biographer Barry Miles, "Lennon simply shredded his vocal cords in the interests of rock 'n' roll." The Beatles' producer, George Martin, tells how Lennon "had an inborn dislike of his own voice which I could never understand. He was always saying to me: 'DO something with my voice! ... put something on it ... Make it different.'" Martin obliged, often using double-tracking and other techniques. Music critic Robert Christgau says that Lennon's "greatest vocal performance ... from scream to whine, is modulated electronically ... echoed, filtered, and double tracked."
As his Beatles' era segued into his solo career, his singing voice found a widening range of expression. Biographer Chris Gregory writes that Lennon was, "tentatively beginning to expose his insecurities in a number of acoustic-led 'confessional' ballads, so beginning the process of 'public therapy' that will eventually culminate in the primal screams of 'Cold Turkey' and the cathartic John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band."
David Stuart Ryan notes Lennon's vocal delivery to range from, "extreme vulnerability, sensitivity and even naivety" to a hard "rasping" style. Wiener too describes contrasts, saying the singer's voice can be "at first subdued; soon it almost cracks with despair" Music historian Ben Urish recalls hearing The Beatles' Ed Sullivan Show performance of "This Boy" played on the radio a few days after Lennon's murder: "As Lennon's vocals reached their peak ... it hurt too much to hear him scream with such anguish and emotion. But it was my emotions I heard in his voice. Just like I always had.
Music historians Schinder and Schwartz, writing of the transformation in popular music styles that took place between the 1950s and the 1960s, say that The Beatles' influence cannot be overstated: having "revolutionised the sound, style, and attitude of popular music and opened rock and roll's doors to a tidal wave of British rock acts", the group then "spent the rest of the 1960s expanding rock's stylistic frontiers".
Liam Gallagher, his group Oasis among the many who acknowledge the band's influence, identifies Lennon as a hero; in 1999 he named his first child Lennon Gallagher in tribute.
On National Poetry Day in 1999, after conducting a poll to identify the UK's favourite song lyric, the BBC announced "Imagine" the winner.
In a 2006 Guardian article, Jon Wiener wrote: "For young people in 1972, it was thrilling to see Lennon's courage in standing up to [US President] Nixon. That willingness to take risks with his career, and his life, is one reason why people still admire him today." Whilst for music historians Urish and Bielen, Lennon's most significant effort was "the self-portraits ... in his songs [which] spoke to, for, and about, the human condition."
Lennon continues to be mourned throughout the world and has been the subject of numerous memorials and tributes. In 2010, on what would have been Lennon's 70th birthday, the John Lennon Peace Monument was unveiled in Chavasse Park, Liverpool, by Cynthia and Julian Lennon.
The sculpture entitled 'Peace & Harmony' exhibits peace symbols and carries the inscription "Peace on Earth for the Conservation of Life · In Honour of John Lennon 1940–1980".
The Lennon–McCartney songwriting partnership is regarded as one of the most influential and successful of the 20th century. As performer, writer or co-writer Lennon has had 25 number one singles on the US Hot 100 chart.a His album sales in the US stand at 14 million units.
Double Fantasy, released shortly before his death, and his best-selling, post-Beatles' studio album at three million shipments in the US, won the 1981 Grammy Award for Album of the Year. The following year, the BRIT Award for Outstanding Contribution to Music went to Lennon.
Participants in a 2002 BBC poll voted him eighth of "100 Greatest Britons". Between 2003 and 2008, Rolling Stone recognised Lennon in several reviews of artists and music, ranking him fifth of "100 Greatest Singers of All Time" and 38th of "100 Greatest Artists of All Time", and his albums John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band and Imagine, 22nd and 76th respectively of "The RS 500 Greatest Albums of All Time".
He was appointed Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) with the other Beatles in 1965. He was posthumously inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1987 and into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1994.
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