John Winston Ono Lennon (October 9, 1940 - December 8,
1980), better known as simply John Lennon, rose to fame as songwriter,
singer, and guitarist for the influential 1960s rock group, The Beatles.
Lennon was also a solo musician, political activist, and author. He was married first to Cynthia Lennon but left her for the Japanese artist Yoko Ono; he had always disliked his middle name and at his second marriage changed it to "Ono." (His mother had named him after Winston Churchill.)
Of the four former Beatles, Lennon had perhaps the most varied recording career, often reflecting the vicissitudes of his personality. While he was still a Beatle, Lennon and Ono recorded two albums of experimental and frequently unlistenable electronic music, Unfinished Music volumes 1 & 2 and Wedding Album. His first 'solo' album of popular music was Live Peace In Toronto, recorded in 1969 (prior to the breakup of the Beatles) at the Rock 'n' Roll Festival in Toronto with a Plastic Ono Band including Eric Clapton and Klaus Voormann. He also recorded three singles in his initial solo phase, the sing-along "Give Peace A Chance", "Cold Turkey" (about his struggles with heroin) and "Instant Karma".
Following the Beatles' split in 1970, he released the Plastic Ono Band album, a raw, honest record, heavily influenced by Arthur Janov's Primal therapy, which Lennon had undergone previously. This was followed by Imagine , his most successful solo album, which dealt with some of the same themes. The title track is a lovely song which has become an anthem for world harmony, but Lennon himself was later dismissive of it, claiming he had "sugar coated" his message. Certainly there is irony in Lennon, a prodigious shopper, urging his fans to imagine life with "no possessions."
Perhaps in reaction, his next album, Sometime In New York City, was loud,
raucous, and explicitly political, with songs about prison riots, racial and
sexual relations, the British role in the sectarian troubles in Northern
Ireland, and his own problems in obtaining a United States Green Card. Two
more albums of personal songs, Mind Games and Walls And Bridges, and one of
cover versions of rock and roll songs of his youth, came before 1975 when,
following a fourteen-month split from Ono, he retired to concentrate on his
The retirement lasted until 1980, when he and Ono produced Double Fantasy, practically a concept album dealing with their relationship. Less than a month after its release, however, Lennon was shot dead on the night of December 8, 1980, by Mark David Chapman, in front of his apartment block in New York City. In a vicious kind of irony, the two Beatles most committed to pacifism were both brutally attacked; George Harrison was stabbed by an intruder in his home two decades later.
The Strawberry Fields Memorial was constructed across the street from the Dakota building in memory of Lennon.
Millions of Beatles fans had thought of John Lennon almost as a second father, an older brother, or a son. His murder touched off emotional outpourings of grief around the world - some fans reportedly committed suicide upon hearing the news and it ended the hopes of millions that the Beatles would someday reunite and stage one last world tour.
In March, 2002, his native city, Liverpool, honoured him by renaming their airport "Liverpool John Lennon Airport", and adopting as its motto a line from his song "Imagine", "above us only sky".
Lennon is included in the top 10 of the 2002 "100 Greatest Britons" poll sponsored by the BBC and voted for by the public. The BBC History Magazine comments: "Generational influence is immense".
John Lennon often spoke his mind. On March 4, 1966, in an interview for the London Evening Standard with Maureen Cleave, he made the following statement:
Lennon's son with Cynthia, Julian Lennon, enjoys a notable recording career of his own, as does his son with Yoko, Sean Lennon.
The Beatles Lyrics