John Winston Lennon, was born in the middle of an air raid over Liverpool on the 9th October 1940 to Julia and Alfred "Freddie" Lennon. Julia found difficulty copying with John when Freddie left her and the five year old was brought up by his Aunt Mimi. John grew up in a middle class suburb of Liverpool and although she was strict with her nephew they both shared the same sense humour and became very close friends. Uncle John, bought young Lennon his first harmonica and Julia who would visit him, taught her son to play banjo and piano before eventually buying him his first guitar. He was 17 when she died in 1957, the same year he started the Quarrymen. Despite his rough Teddy boy exterior John was severely traumatized by the loss of his mother. John showed no academic ability and was troublesome bully as a student and left art school before graduation. He did meet Cynthia Powell (his first wife) and she appeared to have a calming influence on the troubled youth. Paul joined the group then George Harrison (lead guitar) completed the line up with Stuart Sutcliff (bass) an art school friend. The Quarrymen played skiffle but were influenced by Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry, Buddy Holly and Little Richard.
Lennon and McCartney started to write songs whilst at school and their first composition was “Hello Little Girl” which was recorded by The Silver Beatles then later by The Fourmost.
The Beatles, with Lennon at the helm, went to Hamburg in 1960 with Pete Best on drums. At first they were a pretty mediocre outfit but the long sessions and endless gigs tightened their formation and stage craft. The Beatles made their recording debut with singer Tony Sheridan with ’My Bonnie” whilst still in Hamburg. “Ain’t she sweet” recorded at the same session, captures John singing lead in a distinctive Gene Vincent style.
By the time the boys were back in Liverpool in 1961, the Beatles were the best band around and regulars at The Cavern, Liverpool where Brian Epstein, local impresario saw them and signed them.
The following year the Beatles released ‘Love me do’ on the Parlophone label.
The single features John on harmonica and McCartney singing solo on the chorus line. By 1965 and two films later, Help the signature theme to the Beatles film, said much about the internal strife suffered by John in the band.
Most of the Lennon and McCartney compositions had been written in a couple of hours usually after a concert in an overcrowded hotel room. Despite their phenomenal success the Beatles stopped performing live in 1966 to concentrate instead on studio work. After the death of Brian Epstein (1967) John grew resentful of Paul and his control of the band and eventually left the Beatles in 1969. The Lennon and McCartney song writing partnership was over. Following The Beatles' split in 1970 John Lennon released the John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band album.
He had three solo singles: "Give Peace a Chance.” "Cold Turkey", and "Instant Karma!". John was back.
In the seventies John and Yoko epitomised advent garde art and as extreme eccentrics as they were always newsworthy if not controversial.
During the white period he recorded Imagine (1971) and a year later released Some Time in New York City (1972) which was more loud, raucous, and explicitly political.
John had become interested in left-wing politics and this was reflected in his songs of this time. Fighting extradition from the US and an open critic of President Nixon and Vietnam John was very high profile but radio stations refused to broadcast most of his works because of their political content. Despite this his albums sold well. Walls and Bridges came out in 1974 and featured a duet with Elton John which went to #1 "Whatever Gets You Thru the Night;" and possibly my personal favourite Lennon track, "#9 Dream".
John followed this up with a tribute to the old rockers which were produced by the controversial Phil Spectre. The best track for me was "Stand by Me" which highlight the best of Lennon sharp singing style and was produced by Phil Spectre.
John and Yoko gave up live performances with the announcement of an impending baby and John resigned himself to writing and recording only. By the end of 1980 he had an impressive amount of new material to record and now a house husband (prototype metro-man) he and Yoko produced Double Fantasy, a concept album focusing on their relationship.
As the single "(Just Like) Starting Over" began climbing the singles charts John and Yoko seriously thought about touring again. John and Yoko had been recording at a studio and were returning to the luxury flat in the Dakota Building (just across from Central Park). Mark David Chapman opened fire and John fell dying, it was 8 December 1980. The day the music died.
He continues to be mourned throughout the world three decades later and in Central Park adjacent to the Dakota Building there is Strawberry Fields, a memorial garden where fans from across the world accumulate at Imagine.
Despite his phenomenal success John Lennon was throughout his life a tormented soul who, thank goodness, was able to put his pain to good use and pleasured tens of millions with his music.
Worth a listen
Love me do (1963)
A Hard Day's Night (1964)
Ain’t she sweet (1964)
You've Got to Hide Your Love Away (1965)
Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown) (1965)
In My Life (1965)
Ticket to Ride (1965)
Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds (1967)
Strawberry Fields Forever (1968)
Come together (1969)
Plastic Ono Band
Give Peace a Chance (1969)
Cold Turkey (1969)
Instant Karma! (1970)
Working class hero (1970)
Power to the people (1971)
Happy Xmas (War is Over) (1971)
Mind Games (1973)
Whatever Gets You Thru the Night (1974)
# 9 Dream (1974)
Stand By Me (1975)
(Just Like) Starting Over (1980)
Happy Xmas (War is Over) (1982)
Jealous Guy (1988)
Nobody Told Me (1988)
Hello Little Girl (1963)