1940 – John Lennon is born in Liverpool, England. …

1940 – John Lennon is born in Liverpool, England. One of the founding members of the Beatles. This great day in rock history!

John Winston Ono Lennon, MBE (born John Winston Lennon; 9 October 1940 – 8 December 1980) was an English rock musician, singer, writer, songwriter, artist, actor and peace activist who gained worldwide fame as one of the founding members of The Beatles.

In his solo career, Lennon wrote and recorded many songs such as “Give Peace a Chance” and “Imagine”. Lennon revealed his rebellious nature and wit on television, in films such as A Hard Day’s Night, in books such as In His Own Write, and in press conferences and interviews. He was controversial through his work as a peace activist, artist, and author.

Lennon had two sons: Julian Lennon, with his first wife Cynthia Lennon, and Sean Ono Lennon, with his second wife, avant-garde artist Yoko Ono. After a self-imposed retirement from 1976 to 1980, Lennon reemerged with a comeback album, but was murdered one month later in New York City on 8 December 1980. In 2002, respondents to a BBC poll on the 100 Greatest Britons voted Lennon into eighth place. In 2004, Rolling Stone magazine ranked Lennon number 38 on its list of “The Immortals: The Fifty Greatest Artists of All Time” and ranked The Beatles at number one.

Early years: 1940–1957

Further information: Julia Lennon, Alfred Lennon, Mimi Smith, and George Toogood Smith

John Winston Lennon was born in the Liverpool Maternity Hospital, Oxford Street, Liverpool, to Julia Lennon (née Stanley) and Alfred (Alf, or Freddie) Lennon, during the course of a German air raid in World War II.
Mendips; George and Mimi Smith’s home, where Lennon lived for most of his childhood and adolescence.
Mendips; George and Mimi Smith’s home, where Lennon lived for most of his childhood and adolescence.

Throughout the rest of his childhood and adolescence, Lennon lived with his Aunt Mimi and her husband George Smith, who had no children of their own, in Woolton, in a house called “Mendips” (251 Menlove Avenue). Mimi bought volumes of short stories for Lennon, and George, who was a dairyman at his family’s farm, engaged Lennon in solving crossword puzzles, and bought him a harmonica. (Smith died on 5 June 1955).

Lennon was raised as an Anglican, and attended Dovedale County Primary School until he passed his Eleven-Plus exam.

Julia bought Lennon his first guitar in 1957, which was a Gallotone Champion acoustic (a cheap model that was “guaranteed not to split”).

Lennon failed all his GCE O-level examinations, and was only accepted into the Liverpool College of Art with help from his school’s headmaster and Mimi. There, Lennon met his future wife, Cynthia Powell, when he was a Teddy Boy.

The Beatles: 1957–1970

Main articles: The Quarrymen, Lennon/McCartney, and The Beatles
Further information: The Beatles discography

Lennon’s guitars.
Lennon’s guitars.

When Lennon decided that he wanted to try making music himself, he and fellow Quarry Bank Grammar School friend, Eric Griffiths, took guitar lessons at Hunts Cross in Liverpool, although Lennon gave up the lessons soon after.

Allan Williams became the Beatles’ first manager in May 1960, after they had played in his Jacaranda club.

After Harrison turned 18 and the immigration problems had been solved, The Beatles went back to Hamburg for another residency in April 1961. While they were there, they recorded “My Bonnie” with Tony Sheridan.

On 9 May 1962, George Martin signed The Beatles to EMI’s comedy label, Parlophone. After their first recording session, Martin voiced his displeasure with Best.
The Beatles arriving in the U.S. in 1964.
The Beatles arriving in the U.S. in 1964.

The album and single hit #1 in Britain, and EMI offered the album to their U.S. subsidiary, Capitol Records, but they turned it down.

Lennon complained that nobody heard them play for all the screaming, and their musicianship was beginning to suffer. Many radio stations banned The Beatles’ music, and some concert venues cancelled performances. At a press conference in Chicago, on 11 August 1966, Lennon addressed the growing controversy:
“     I was not saying whatever they’re saying I was saying. I’m sorry I said it really. I never meant it to be a lousy anti-religious thing. I apologise if that will make you happy. I still do not know quite what I’ve done. I’ve tried to tell you what I did do, but if you want me to apologise, if that will make you happy, then OK, I’m sorry.     ”

The Vatican accepted Lennon’s apology.

At the end of 1968, Lennon performed as part of the group Dirty Mac, in The Rolling Stones’ film Rock and Roll Circus. The supergroup, made up of Lennon, Eric Clapton, Keith Richards and Mitch Mitchell, also backed Ono’s performance.

Lennon left The Beatles in September 1969 (Starr had previously left and then returned during 1968, and Harrison had left on 10 January 1969, during the filming for Let It Be, but returned after a Beatles’ meeting at Starr’s house two days later).

In 1970, Jann Wenner recorded an interview with Lennon that was played on BBC radio in 2005. The interview reveals Lennon’s bitterness towards McCartney and the hostility he felt that the other members had for Ono. Lennon said: “One of the main reasons The Beatles ended is because we got fed up with being sidemen for Paul. After Brian Epstein died we collapsed. Paul took over and supposedly led us. But what is leading us when we went round in circles?”

Solo career: 1970–1980

Further information: John Lennon discography

While still a Beatle, Lennon and Ono recorded three albums of experimental music, Unfinished Music No.1: Two Virgins, Unfinished Music No.2: Life with the Lions, and Wedding Album. His first “solo” album was Live Peace in Toronto 1969—recorded prior to the breakup of The Beatles—recorded at a Rock ‘n’ Roll Festival in Toronto with The Plastic Ono Band. He also recorded three solo singles: the anti-war anthem, “Give Peace a Chance”, “Cold Turkey”, and “Instant Karma!”. Following The Beatles’ split in 1970, Lennon released the John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band album. It included “Working Class Hero”, which was banned by BBC Radio for its use of the word “fucking”.

His album Imagine followed in 1971, and the title song would later become an anthem for anti-war movements. The song “How Do You Sleep?” was widely perceived as as a personal attack against McCartney, although Lennon later claimed that he wrote the song about himself.

In 1972, Lennon released “Woman Is the Nigger of the World”. Many radio stations refused to broadcast the song, although Lennon was allowed to perform it on The Dick Cavett Show.

In November 1973, Lennon released Mind Games, which was credited to “the Plastic U.F.Ono Band”. He also wrote “I’m the Greatest” for Starr’s album Ringo (his own demo version of the song appears on the John Lennon Anthology) and produced “Too Many Cooks (Spoil The Soup)” for Mick Jagger. In September 1974, Lennon released Walls and Bridges and the single “Whatever Gets You Thru the Night” (a #1 duet with Elton John). A second single from the album, “#9 Dream”, was released in December. He wrote “Goodnight Vienna” for Starr, and played piano on the recording.

Lennon made his last stage appearance on ATV’s 18 April 1975 special called A Salute to Lew Grade performing “Imagine”, “Stand By Me” (cut from the televised edition), and “Slippin’ and Slidin'” from his Rock ‘n’ Roll LP.

Lennon emerged from retirement in November 1980, releasing Double Fantasy, which also featured Ono. In June 1980, Lennon had traveled with Sean to Bermuda for a sailing trip on a 43-foot schooner, where he wrote songs for the album.

Marriages and relationships

In one of his last major interviews, in September 1980, Lennon said that he had never questioned his chauvinistic attitudes towards women until he met Ono. Lennon was always distant with his first son, Julian, but was close to his second son, Sean, calling him, “My pride”. Near the end of Lennon’s life, he said that he accepted the role of househusband, after taking on the role of a wife and mother in his relationship with Ono.

Cynthia Lennon

Further information: Cynthia Lennon

Lennon and Cynthia Powell in 1959.
Lennon and Cynthia Powell in 1959.

Cynthia Powell met Lennon at the Liverpool Art College in 1957.

Lennon was on tour and would not see Julian for three days, and shortly after went on holiday to Spain with Epstein, which would lead to speculation of an affair between the two (Epstein was widely known to be homosexual). Shortly afterwards, at Paul McCartney’s twenty-first birthday party, a drunken Lennon physically attacked Cavern Club MC Bob Wooler for saying “How was your honeymoon, John?” (Wooler was referring to Lennon’s marriage, and not Lennon’s holiday in Spain with Epstein).

Cynthia Lennon had become aware of Lennon’s infidelities, but cites his increasing drug use for their growing apart. She was also aware of Lennon’s friendship with Ono. Eventually, according to Powell, she actually suggested to Lennon that perhaps Ono was the woman for him.

When Lennon and Ono moved to New York, Julian would not see his father again until 1973.

Yoko Ono

Further information: Yoko Ono

Ono at the opening ceremony of her art exhibition in São Paulo, Brazil. November 2007.
Ono at the opening ceremony of her art exhibition in São Paulo, Brazil. November 2007.

There are two versions of how Lennon and Ono met: 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.

Lennon began his physical relationship with Ono—seven years his senior—in May 1968, after Lennon returned from India, where he had received numerous postcards from Ono, who was in London.

During Lennon’s last two years in The Beatles, he and Ono began public protests against the Vietnam War. Lennon sent back his MBE insignia in 1969, which Queen Elizabeth had bestowed upon him in 1965.

May Pang and the “Lost Weekend”
May Pang.
May Pang.

Further information: May Pang

In June 1973, Ono decided that she and Lennon should separate. Ono suggested that he take their personal assistant, May Pang, as a companion.

While Lennon and Pang were living in L.A., Lennon’s drunken behavior was widely reported by the media. Lennon also took the opportunity to get reacquainted with his son, Julian, whom he had not seen in four years.

In May 1974, Lennon and Pang returned to New York where he began work on Walls and Bridges. On the evening of 23 August 1974, both Lennon and Pang claimed to have seen a U.F.O. in the sky from their balcony. Lennon mentioned the sighting in the booklet accompanying the Walls and Bridges album.

In December 1974, Harrison was in New York on the Dark Horse tour, and Lennon agreed to join him on stage, but they had an argument over Lennon’s refusal to sign the agreement that would legally dissolve The Beatles partnership, which was meant to be at New York’s Plaza Hotel on 19 December 1974. Lennon finally signed the papers in Walt Disney World in Florida, while on holiday there with Pang and Julian.

On 31 January 1975, the Lennons reunited and, on 9 October 1975 – Lennon’s 35th birthday – Ono gave birth to a son, Sean Ono Lennon. Lennon issued a statement: “I feel higher than the Empire State Building”, and soon retired from the music business.

Political activism
Recording “Give Peace a Chance”.
Recording “Give Peace a Chance”.

Lennon and Ono used their honeymoon at the Amsterdam Hilton, in March 1969, as a “Bed-in for Peace” that attracted world-wide media coverage.

In 1972, the Nixon Administration tried to have Lennon deported from the U.S., as Richard Nixon believed that Lennon’s support for George McGovern could lose him the next election.

On 23 March 1973, Lennon was ordered to leave the U.S. within 60 days, while Ono was granted permanent residence.

Lennon’s order of deportation was overturned in 1975. After Lennon’s death, historian Jon Wiener filed a Freedom of Information request for FBI files on Lennon.

In 1976, Lennon’s U.S. immigration status was finally resolved favorably, and he received his green card. Nixon’s successor, Gerald Ford, showed little interest in continuing the battle. When Jimmy Carter was inaugurated as president on 19 January 1977, Lennon and Ono attended the Inaugural Ball.

Drugs, meditation and primal therapy

Lennon was first given drugs in Hamburg, Germany, as The Beatles had to play long sets and were often given Preludin by customers or by Astrid Kirchherr, whose mother bought them for her.

In a 1995 interview, Cynthia said there were problems throughout their marriage because of the pressures of The Beatles’ fame and rigorous touring, and because of Lennon’s increasing use of drugs. Later that day, he phoned Ono, whose own husband Tony (Anthony Cox) was in Paris on business, and invited her to Kenwood.

In 1970, Lennon and Ono went through primal therapy with Dr. Arthur Janov in Los Angeles, California. The therapy consisted of releasing emotional pain from early childhood. Lennon and Ono ended the sessions before completing a full course of therapy, as Ono constantly argued with Janov.


Each of The Beatles was known, especially during Beatlemania, for their sense of humour. During live performances of “I Want to Hold Your Hand”, Lennon often changed the words to “I want to hold your gland”, because of the difficulty hearing the vocals above the noise of screaming audiences. At the Royal Variety Show in 1963 — in the presence of members of the British royalty — Lennon told the 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 jewelery.”

During the “Get Back” sessions, Lennon introduced “Dig a Pony” by shouting, “I dig a pygmy by Charles Hawtrey and the Deaf Aids; phase one in which Doris gets her oats!” The phrase was later edited to precede “Two of Us” on Let It Be. Lennon often counter-pointed McCartney’s upbeat lyrics, as in “Getting Better”:

McCartney: “I’ve got to admit it’s getting better, a little better, all the time.”

Lennon: “Can’t get no worse.”

Lennon appeared in various television comedy shows, such as the Morecambe and Wise show with the rest of The Beatles, and played a doorman in a gents’ toilet in Not Only But Also.

Writing and art
Lennon’s comic, “The Daily Howl”.
Lennon’s comic, “The Daily Howl”.

Lennon started writing and drawing early in life, with encouragement from his Uncle George, and created his own comic strip in his school book, which he called “The Daily Howl”. It contained drawings—frequently of crippled people—and satirical writings, often with a play on words. Lennon wrote a weather report saying, “Tomorrow will be Muggy, followed by Tuggy, Wuggy and Thuggy.”

When Liverpool’s Mersey Beat magazine was founded, Lennon was asked to contribute. His first piece was about the origins of The Beatles: “A man appeared on a flaming pie, and said you are Beatles with an ‘A’.”


Throughout his solo career, Lennon appeared on his own albums (as well as those of other artists, like Elton John) under such pseudonyms as Dr Winston O’Boogie, Mel Torment (a play on singer Mel Tormé), and The Reverend Fred Gherkin. He and Ono (as Ada Gherkin “ate a gherkin”, and other sobriquets) also travelled under such names, thus avoiding unwanted public attention.

Lennon also named his session musicians under various different band names during his career, including:

* The Plastic Ono Band (for the Plastic Ono Band album)
* The Plastic Ono Band with the Flux Fiddlers (Imagine)
* The Plastic U.F.Ono Band (Mind Games)
* The Plastic Ono Nuclear Band/Little Big Horns and the Philharmanic Orchestrange (Walls and Bridges)


Further information: Death of John Lennon

The entrance to the Dakota building where Lennon was shot.
The entrance to the Dakota building where Lennon was shot.

On the night of 8 December 1980, Lennon was shot four times in the back (the fifth shot missed) in the entrance hallway of the Dakota by Mark David Chapman. Lennon had autographed a copy of Double Fantasy for Chapman earlier that same night.

Lennon was pronounced dead on arrival in the Emergency Room at the Roosevelt Hospital at 11:15 p.m. On the following day, 9 December 1980, Ono issued a statement: “There is no funeral for John. John loved and prayed for the human race. Please pray the same for him. Love, Yoko and Sean.”

Two days after his death, Lennon’s body was cremated at Ferncliff Cemetery in Hartsdale, New York. Ono kept his ashes.

Memorials and tributes
The Strawberry Fields Memorial in Central Park, New York City.
The Strawberry Fields Memorial in Central Park, New York City.

A crowd gathered outside the Dakota the night of Lennon’s death. Ono sent word that their singing kept her awake and asked that they re-convene in Central Park the following Sunday for ten minutes of silent prayer.

Lennon continues to be mourned throughout the world and has been the subject of numerous memorials and tributes, principally New York City’s Strawberry Fields, a memorial garden area in Central Park across the street from the Dakota building. Shortly after his death, Ono donated $1 million for its maintenance. It has become a gathering place for tributes on Lennon’s birthday and on the anniversary of his death, as well as at other times of mourning, such as after the 11 September 2001 attacks and following George Harrison’s death on 29 November 2001.

On 9 October 2007 the Imagine Peace Tower was first lit in Viðey island, off the coast of Reykjavík, Iceland. This idea, originally conceived by Yoko Ono in 1965 is lit annually from 9 October, Lennon’s birthday to 8 December, Lennon’s date of death. Into the tower the words “Imagine Peace” are carved in 24 different languages.

In late summer 2008 it was confirmed that British director Sam Taylor-Wood is to direct Nowhere Boy, a movie about Lennon’s early years, childhood and adolescence, prior to the rise to the fame and the Beatles. Nowhere Boy will be shot on location in Liverpool, and will be based on the book Imagine This: Growing Up with My Brother John Lennon, written by Lennon’s half sister Julia Baird. The film, scheduled for a 2010 release, will examine the influence of Lennon’s aunt Mimi Smith and his mother Julia upon his early life.


With The Beatles

BRIT Awards:

* 1977: Outstanding contribution to music during the past 25 years.
* 1977: Best British band of the past 25 years.
* 1977: Best British album of the past 25 years (for Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band).
* 1983: Outstanding contribution to music.

Solo career

* 1982 BRIT Awards – Outstanding contribution to music.
* 2002 In 2002, a 100 Greatest Britons BBC poll voted Lennon into eighth place.
* In 2004, Rolling Stone magazine ranked Lennon number 38 on its list of “The Immortals: The Fifty Greatest Artists of All Time”.


Main article: John Lennon discography
See also: The Beatles discography

Studio albums

* John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band (1970)
* Imagine (1971)
* Some Time in New York City (with Yoko Ono) (1972)
* Mind Games (1973)
* Walls and Bridges (1974)
* Rock ‘n’ Roll (1975)
* Double Fantasy (with Yoko Ono) (1980)
* Milk and Honey (with Yoko Ono) (1984)


Further information: John Lennon’s instrumentation


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