It Would Have Been John Lennon's 79th Birthday Today
Today marks what would have been John Lennon’s 79th birthday. From revolutionizing the music industry to fueling the anti-war movement during the Vietnam war, the "Imagine" singer has made an undeniable impact on the world which is still felt 40 years following his death.
To celebrate the legendary musician, we’re looking back at his life, rise to fame, and most iconic moments throughout his career.
John Lennon was born on October 9, 1940, in Liverpool, UK, to Julia Stanley and Alfred Lennon. According to brittanica.com, Lennon went on to be raised by his maternal aunt Mimi Smith and her husband George.
As a pupil at Quarry Bank High School, Lennon formed a skiffle group with some schoolmates called The Quarrymen at the age of fifteen. On the day of their second performance, Lennon met Paul McCartney and asked him to join the group. The Quarrymen would eventually evolve into the Beatles, arguably one of the most influential bands of the 20th century.
From around 1957 until 1962, the Beatles would perform in various locations in the UK, as well as Hamburg where they held residencies in local venues.
The 60s saw the band's popularity skyrocket, with the release of their first album "Please Please Me" in 1963. 1964 saw the beginning of the Beatlemania era when the band made an appearance on the "The Ed Sullivan Show," for which 73 million people tuned in to watch.
His first wife, Cynthia Powell
In 1962, Lennon married his first wife, Cynthia Powell at the age of 21, just before the release of the Beatle’s first single, "Love Me Do." The couple had one son together, Julian Lennon, who was born in 1963.
Throughout his childhood, Julian’s relationship with his father would be quite turbulent, with John being absent for the majority of the 60s. When Cynthia and John divorced in 1968, Paul McCartney wrote the song "Hey Jules" on his way to visit Julian for whom McCartney was “like an uncle,” as John once said in an interview. The song was renamed "Hey Jude," and released in 1968.
According to Cynthia’s obituary by the Guardian, she was a restauranteur, author, and recording artist throughout her life, but could never escape Lennon’s shadow and was always known as “John Lennon’s first wife,” much to her dismay.
In 1966, Lennon was invited by John Dunbar to a contemporary art exhibition by then-up-and-coming artist Yoko Ono in his gallery in London.
John once said in an interview that he was initially unimpressed by Yoko’s art, but had a change of heart when he noticed an unprecedented positivity in her work - something he believed was not common in the male-dominated concept art genre.
“And then I see this hammer hanging on the thing with a few nails and I said, ‘Well at least hammer a nail in, I’ve come all the way from the suburbs for this,’” he said when talking about his first encounter with Yoko.
“And she says, ‘No!’ [...] she didn’t want the thing messed up. Anyway, the gallery owner has a little word with her and she says ‘alright’ [...], ‘you give me five schillings and you can hammer a nail in’.”
The two began a relationship while John was still married to Cynthia, from whom he divorced in 1968. Yoko and John wed in 1969 in Gibraltar and spent their honeymoon protesting the war in Vietnam with a ‘Bed-In’ in the Queen Elizabeth hotel in Amsterdam.
Following two miscarriages, Yoko Ono became pregnant for the third time. She initially did not want to keep the child but changed her mind when John agreed to be a house husband, which he did until his murder in 1980. Sean Ono Lennon was born on October 9, 1975, on his father’s 35th birthday.
On December 8, 1980, John Lennon was shot four times in the back by Mark David Chapman. On the day of his death, Annie Leibovitz arrived at his apartment in New York for a photoshoot with both him and his wife. Less than two hours later, John gave his last interview to radio personality Dave Sholin, in which John discusses feminism and world peace. At the end of the interview, the late singer eerily said,
"I consider that my work won't be finished until I'm dead and buried and I hope that's a long, long time."
Meanwhile, Chapman was waiting outside his apartment with a loaded gun. Hours before the shooting, Chapman approached John to get an album autographed. At around 11 pm, as Yoko and John exited their limo to return to their apartment, Chapman shot five bullets, of which four hit John in his back and chest. He was pronounced dead less than half an hour later at Roosevelt Hospital at the age of 40.
Chapman, who was 25 at the time of the murder, said he was a fan of John Lennon but was angered by the singer's beliefs. Chapman became particularly incensed with the singer because of his infamous quote, calling the Beatles “more popular than Jesus.”
He is now serving a life sentence.
What was your favorite John Lennon song? Let us know in the comments - and make sure you pass this along to your friends and family!