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John Winston Lennon

1940 - 1980

John Winston Lennon was born on the 9th October 1940 in the middle of a German air raid on Liverpool in World War II. John’s mother Julia was so relieved to have survived the raid she gave John his middle name Winston after Winston Churchill. His father was a seaman who deserted John and his mother when he was just 3 years old, his mother found it difficult to cope on her own and John was sent to live with his Aunt Mimi in Woolton, Liverpool.

John Winston Lennon 1940 - 1980

John went to Quarry Bank High School in Liverpool but he did not enjoy his school years, showing little interest in lessons apart from art and played truant whenever he could. At the age of 14 John heard Elvis singing ‘Heartbreak Hotel’ on Radio Luxembourg and this stirred his interest in music.

On leaving school at 16 he secured a place at Liverpool Art School where he met and later married his first wife Cynthia Powell. In 1957 he bought his first guitar and joined a skiffle group. It was during this period that he also began to grow close to his mother again but tragedy struck when Julia was knocked down and killed by a car driven by an off duty Policeman called Chapman.

Later in the same year John met Paul McCartney for the first time at St Peters Church fete in Woolton, they found they had a mutual love of rock ‘n’ roll and it wasn’t long before they started playing together in a band called the Quarrymen. After many changes to the Quarrymen’s line up, John and Paul, were joined by Pete Best on drums and Paul’s friend, George Harrison, on guitar.

The Quarrymen began to play gigs in their native Liverpool and around 1961 they changed their name to The Beatles. As they built their reputation in Liverpool at clubs like the now famous Cavern Club, one night a local record shop owner Brian Epstein noticed their talent and in particular how the crowd went wild when they played. Immediately after the gig he asked the band if he could be their manager they agreed. Their new manager arranged for them to play a residency at The Star Club in Hamburg West Germany where they continued to improve their talent and allow the song writing partnership of Lennon & McCartney to blossom for the first time.

In 1962 they had signed a recording contract and had moved back to England where Ringo Starr replaced Pete Best on drums, the now famous Beatles line up was complete. Their first single ‘Love Me Do’ was released in October 1962 and reached no. 17 in the charts and their second single ‘Please Please Me’ which was released in January 1963 went to no. 2.

The Beatles
The Beatles - With the Beatles - 1963
With the Beatles 1963
Their next four singles ‘From Me To You’, ‘She Loves You’, ‘I Want To Hold Your Hand’ and ‘Can’t Buy Me Love’ all went straight to no. 1 – Beatlemania swept the country and they were mobbed wherever they went. John’s wife Cynthia gave birth to a son Julian in the same year.

Beatlemania went global in 1964 when they took the United States by storm their records going to no. 1, playing the massive Shea Stadium on their first tour their and appearing on such prestigious shows as the Ed Sullivan Show. The Beatles were now breaking all previous records for record sales and concert attendances. Merchandise sold like crazy, and still does to this day even – bags, coffee mugs, clothing...the Beatles were everywhere! Critics, musicians and the public worldwide acclaimed Lennon & McCartney's song writing.

MBE - Member of the British Empire

In 1965, they were all awarded MBE’s by Her Majesty the Queen. John continued to show his rebellious side though and in 1966 he caused a storm in the USA when he declared that ‘the Beatles were more popular than Christ’. Religious groups began burning Beatles records and merchandise in protest. It was during the mid-1960’s that John and the Beatles began experimenting with drugs for the first time and also began following the teachings of the Indian guru Maharishi Mahesh Yogi who they visited in India. It was at one of the Maharishi’s gatherings in Wales that they heard of the suicide of their manager Brian Epstein, this was a massive blow to John and the band and it signalled the end for the Beatles.

MBE (Member of the British Empire)

By now John and Cynthia’s marriage had also fallen apart especially after John had met and fallen in love with a Japanese – American artist called Yoko Ono. John and Cynthia were divorced in 1968 allowing to John and Yoko to marry in Gibraltar in 1969.

In 1968 The Beatles released what is now know as their ‘White Album’ but John and Yoko in the same year released their experimental ‘Two Virgins’ album which caused controversy once again when many stores refused to sell the album as the cover depicted photos of John and Yoko naked.

1968 was also the year that John and Yoko staged their famous ‘Bed In’ in the Amsterdam Hilton hotel and recorded the single ‘Give Peace a Chance’ in protest to the USA involvement in the Vietnam War.

The media then began speculating that Yoko was now influencing John and causing a rift within the Beatles (when Paul McCartney married Linda Eastman – Linda also suffered from the same accusations). Arguments between the Beatles were reported during the recording of the album ‘Let It Be’ and this album was not released until after their final album ‘Abbey Road’ in 1970.

John had now told the rest of the band he wanted to leave and they performed for the last time together on the roof of the Apple Building in London singing ‘Get Back’ from the ‘Let It Be’ album

John & Yoko performed in Toronto with the now famous Plastic Ono Band that included Eric Clapton on guitar, Klaus Voorman on bass, Alan White on drums.

In February 1970 John released his own album ‘Instant Karma’ and two months later Paul McCartney released his own album and announced publicly that the Beatles were finished.

Between 1962 and 1970 the Beatles had released 17 no. 1 singles, 14 albums including such classics as ‘Sgt Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band’, ‘Revolver’, ‘Rubber Soul’, ‘The White Album’ and ‘Abbey Road’. They also appeared in 4 films ‘A Hard Days Night’, ‘Help’, ‘Magical Mystery Tour’ and ‘Let It Be’; they also appeared in an animated film based on their song ‘Yellow Submarine’.

The Beatles - Yellow Submarine

After the Beatles, John & Yoko moved to New York in 1971 and set up home in the Dakota Apartments building on Central Park. John continued to speak out on political issues releasing the protest song ‘Power to the People’ in 1971 and returning his MBE to the Queen in response to Britain's involvement with the Biafran War in Nigeria.

Because of John’s forthright political views and his perceived power with his fans he was placed under constant surveillance by the US Government and threatened with extradition by the US Immigration Authorities.

John Lennon - Imagine

Later in 1971 John released his most popular solo album ‘Imagine’ and in 1973 the less popular album ‘Mind Games’ album came out. In 1974 John & Yoko split up for a while and John moved to Los Angeles where he was seen partying most nights and became involved again heavily with drinks and drugs. John did record a single with Elton John in 1974 ‘Whatever Gets You Through The Night’ which charted well. Elton helped John get his act together and even managed to get John & Yoko back together when they fell in love again backstage after John’s final public performance onstage with Elton at Madison Square Gardens New York in 1975.

1976 was a good year for John, not only did he finally have the threat of deportation lifted by the US Immigration Authorities, he also became a father for the second time when Yoko gave birth to his second son Sean on the 9th October (the same day as John’s birthday). John gave up working on his music to spend time with Sean while Yoko took over the running of their business and legal affairs.

In 1980 John & Yoko released their final album ‘Double Fantasy’ which did well in the charts and stirred John into recording once again. On 8th December 1980 John was returning home to the Dakota Building when he heard his name being shouted as he turned Mark David Chapman shot John, he died a few minutes later.

Mark Chapman was obsessed by Lennon and the book ‘Catcher in the Rye’ and was sentenced to an indefinite term in a mental institution where he remains to this day.

News of John’s death shocked the world, on 14th December 1980 at 2pm the time of his death; fans around the world held a 10-minute silent vigil.

John Lennon and his music is still regarded as an inspiration to many today 25 years after his death.


Did you know?

Record company Decca rejected the Beatles for a recording contract saying that guitar bands were on the way out!

Decca Records and the Beatles - Duh


Winston Churchill

John's middle name was Winston after Winston Churchill the Prime Minister of Great Britain during the Second World War.

John was born during an air raid by the German Luftwaffe on Liverpool.

German Stuka dive bomber

An electric guitar uses magnets to convert vibrations in the metal strings to electricity, which is then amplified  and sent to  speakers to produce the sound.

Electric guitar