John Lennon was born on the 9th October 1940 in Liverpool England. He was named John after his grandfather and his middle name Winston after Prime Minister Winston Churchill. At the age of 16 his mother bought him his very first guitar. It was an acoustic Gallotone Champion and cost 5 pounds and 10 shillings. His mother had the guitar delivered directly to her house as she supported his keen interest in music but older sister Mimi who he was living with at the time doubted John would find success in the industry. She often told him “the guitar’s all very well John but you’ll never make a living out of it.” That same year he formed the group the Quarrymen which were described as sounding half skittle and half rock and roll. At a performance he met Paul McCartney and quickly asked him to join his band. Sadly only a year later John’s mother was struck and killed by a car while walking home.
In early 1960 McCartney recommended that his friend George Harrison join the group. At first John was reluctant thinking 14 year old George was too young for the band however after he auditioned John quickly asked him to join too. His friend Stuart Sutcliffe also joined as a bassist and the group became “The Beatles.” They soon realised they needed a drummer as all men currently played guitar. Pete Best joined as a drummer and they secured a regular gig in Hamburg over the next few years. Sutcliffe then decided to stay in Hamburg and leave the group where McCartney replaced him as Bassist. They also found Ringo Starr who would replace Best and become the permanent drummer in the band. They released their first single, “Love Me Do,” in October 1962 reaching No. 17 on the British charts. This was just the beginning as the band well known today achieved enormous mainstream success across the world becoming an icon for early rock n roll.
In the next decade they gained success with many popular songs such as, “Help!”, “Strawberry Fields Forever,” “All You Need Is Love” and the release of their most iconic album, “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.” After unknowingly being introduced to the drug LSD at a dinner party John and George started partaking regularly in the hallucinogen. They recalled of a night they were inside an elevator and both believed it was on fire desperately trying to escape. In an interview with a reporter in 1966 John stated, “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.” In their homeland of England the comment went unnoticed but in the United States it caused a backlash against the band and fans were seen burning Beatles records and making threats against John Lennon. Ultimately this led to the band’s decision to stop touring.
In 1966 the bands manager Brian Epstein sadly passed away, John later commented on the situation,”I knew we were in trouble then. I didn’t have any misconceptions about our ability to do anything other than play music.” Paul then organised the groups first project since the loss of their manager which was the film Magical Mystery Tour. At the time the film was considered a flop however the soundtrack gained success with one of their most iconic songs, “I Am The Walrus,” coming from the film. In 1968 the band travelled to India to meet Maharishi’s ashram to gain spiritual guidance. The men had a mixed experience with the Transcendental Meditation and this quickly impacted the closeness the group. With tensions rising once they returned to England John made matters worse by bringing his new girlfriend Yoko Ono to the recording studio. The four had held an agreement that no wives or girlfriends are to be invited to the band’s recordings and he later recalled the feeling of hostility between his band mates and Yoko. John’s increased drug experimentation and relationship with now wife Yoko led his focus to move beyond The Beatles. The two recorded many experimental albums together and were very public with their artistry and love for one another. Most famously one of their album covers was a photograph of the two naked with arms around each other facing the camera. Continuing his passion for freedom John released the single, “Give Peace a Chance,” which was widely associated with the Vietnam war as an anti war anthem. Shortly after John left The Beatles in September of 1969 Paul left as well only a few months later and just like that The Beatles were no more.
In 1971 John and Yoko moved to New York and publicly embraced radical left politics. They continued to release experimental music however their lyrics contained a more political focus and they explored topics like women’s rights, activism and race relations. One of their most popular songs “Happy Xmas (War is Over),” was released during this time. In 1975 John and Yoko had their only child a boy named Sean. Instantly John took on the role of doting father and husband and took a five year break from the music industry. In 1980 he re-remerged back on the music scene and released his first single in years. His music reflected the happiness John found in his stable family life.
That same year on the 8th December at approximately 5pm John left his residence and was stopped by a fan asking for his autograph. He gladly signed the album and continued on to his recording session. At 10:50pm that night both John and Yoko returned home, exited their limo and headed toward their building. John seeing the fan from earlier that morning glanced at him and nodded while continuing toward the front door. The fan then fired 5 shots at John hitting him 4 times in the back and shoulder puncturing his lung and an artery. The doorman that night shouted at the man, “Do you know what you’ve done?” To which he calmly replied, “I just shot John Lennon.” The perpetuator remained at the scene and was quickly arrested and named as 25 year old Hawaiian citizen Mark David Chapman. He had thrown his gun on the street and in his possession was a copy of the book The Catcher in the Rye. He calmly got into the police car and never attempted to flee the scene.
John’s wounds were so extensive that witnesses said blood was pouring out of his mouth and covered his body. Realising his wounds were time sensitive police rushed him to Roosevelt hospital in their police cruiser not wanting to waste time waiting for an ambulance. On the way John lost consciousness. When they arrived at the hospital he had no pulse and wasn’t breathing. Doctor’s attempted to resuscitate him and even cut open his chest to attempt a manual heart massage in order to restore circulation however the wounds were too extensive and John Winston Lennon was pronounced deceased. Many in the hospital claimed that the song, “All My Loving,” by The Beatles remarkably started playing over the hospital’s sound system when John was pronounced dead. Chapman was sentenced to 20 years to life in prison and to this day has been denied for parole 10 times.
John’s murder led to an outpouring of grief all around the world. Fans were said to be forming around the hospital and his residence singing his songs. It was documented 3 fans committed suicide after the murder and Yoko pleaded to the mourners to not give in to despair. She spoke to the singing crowd outside of their home asked everyone to form at Central Park the following Sunday for 10 minutes of silence for John. On the 14th December millions of people all around the world not just in New York participated in Yoko’s request. 30,000 people gathered in his hometown of Liverpool and over 225,000 formed in Central Park that day. For those ten minutes every radio station remained silent and went off the air to pay respects for John. In 1985 New York dedicated an area of Central Park that John liked and was known to frequent and named it Strawberry Fields. Countries from around the world also united and donated trees and a mosaic tile centrepiece that so simply and beautifully says, Imagine, in homage to one of his most well known and loved songs.