John Winston Ono Lennon, MBE (9 October 1940 – 8 December 1980) was an English singer-songwriter who rose to worldwide fame as one of the founding members of The Beatles, and together with Paul McCartney formed one of the most successful songwriting partnerships of the 20th century.
Born and raised in Liverpool, Lennon became involved in the skiffle craze as a teenager, his first band, The Quarrymen, evolving into The Beatles in 1960. As the group began to undergo the disintegration that led to their break-up towards the end of that decade, Lennon launched a solo career that would span the next, punctuated by critically acclaimed albums, including John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band and Imagine, and iconic songs such as "Give Peace a Chance" and "Imagine".
Lennon revealed a rebellious nature and acerbic wit in his music, his writing, on film, and in interviews, and became controversial through his work as a peace activist. He moved to New York City in 1971, where his criticism of the Vietnam War resulted in a lengthy attempt by Richard Nixon's administration to deport him, while his songs were adapted as anthems by the anti-war movement. Disengaging himself from the music business in 1975 to devote time to his family, Lennon reemerged in October 1980 with a new single and a comeback album, Double Fantasy, but was murdered weeks after their release.
Lennon's solo album sales in the United States alone stand at 14 million units, and as performer, writer, or co-writer he is responsible for 27 number one singles on the US Hot 100 chart.a In 2002, a BBC poll on the 100 Greatest Britons voted him eighth, and in 2008 Rolling Stone ranked him the fifth greatest singer of all time. He was posthumously inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1987 and into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1994.
1940–57: Early yearsLennon was born on 9 October 1940 in Liverpool Maternity Hospital, Oxford Street, Liverpool, to Julia and Alfred Lennon. According to some biographers, a German air raid was taking place, and Julia's sister, Mary "Mimi" Smith, used the light cast by the explosions to see her way as she ran through the blacked-out back roads to reach the hospital. Smith said later, "I knew the moment I saw John in that hospital that I was the one to be his mother, not Julia. Does that sound awful? It isn't, really, because Julia accepted it as something perfectly natural. She used to say, 'You're his real mother. All I did was give birth.'" Lennon was named after his paternal grandfather, John "Jack" Lennon, and Winston Churchill.
Lennon's father, a merchant seaman during World War II, was often away from home and sent regular pay cheques to 9 Newcastle Road, Liverpool, where Lennon lived with his mother. The cheques stopped when Alfred Lennon went absent without leave in 1943. When he eventually came home in 1944, he offered to look after the family, but his wife (who was pregnant with another man's child) rejected the idea. Under considerable pressure, she handed the care of Lennon over to her sister after the latter registered a complaint with Liverpool's Social Services. In July 1946, Lennon's father visited Smith and took his son to Blackpool, secretly intending to emigrate to New Zealand with him. Lennon's mother followed them, and, after a heated argument, his father forced the five-year-old to choose between his parents. Lennon chose his father—twice. As his mother walked away, Lennon began to cry and followed her. Lennon then lost contact with his father for 20 years.
George Smith, at Mendips, 251 Menlove Avenue, Woolton. In September 1980 he would have this to say about his childhood, his family and his rebellious nature:
The couple had no children of their own. His aunt bought him volumes of short stories, and his uncle, who was a dairyman at his family's farm, bought him a mouth organ and engaged him in solving crossword puzzles. Lennon's mother visited Mendips almost every day, and when he was 11 he often visited her at 1 Blomfield Road, Liverpool. She played him Elvis Presley records, and taught him to play the banjo. The first song he learned to play was Fats Domino's "Ain't That a Shame".Part of me would like to be accepted by all facets of society and not be this loudmouthed lunatic musician. But I cannot be what I am not. Because of my attitude, all the other boys' parents ... instinctively recognised what I was, which was a troublemaker, meaning I did not conform and I would influence their kids, which I did. ... I did my best to disrupt every friend's home ... Partly, maybe, it was out of envy that I didn't have this so-called home. But I really did ... There were five women who were my family. Five strong, intelligent women. Five sisters. One happened to be my mother. ... She just couldn't deal with life. She had a husband who ran away to sea and the war was on and she couldn't cope with me, and when I was four and a half, I ended up living with her elder sister ... those women were fantastic ... That was my first feminist education ... that knowledge and the fact that I wasn't with my parents made me see that parents are not gods.
Lennon regularly visited his cousin Stanley Parkes in Fleetwood. Seven years Lennon's senior, Parkes frequently took him on trips, and the pair enjoyed films together at the local cinema. During the school holidays, Parkes often visited Lennon with Leila, another cousin, and they would all go to Blackpool on the tram two or three times a week to watch shows. They would visit the Blackpool Tower Circus and see artists such as Dickie Valentine, Arthur Askey, Max Bygraves and Joe Loss. Parkes recalls that Lennon particularly liked George Formby. They regularly passed Formby's house on the bus journey from Preston to Fleetwood, often spotting the singer and his wife sitting in deck chairs in their front garden and exchanging waves with them. Parkes and Lennon were keen fans of Fleetwood Flyers Speedway Club and Fleetwood Town FC. After Parkes's family moved to Scotland, the three cousins often spent their school holidays together there. Parkes recalled, "John, cousin Leila and I were very close. From Edinburgh we would bundle into the car and head up to the family croft at Durness. That went on from about the time John was nine years old until he was about 16".
Lennon was raised as an Anglican and attended Dovedale Primary School. From September 1952 to 1957, after passing his Eleven-Plus exam, he attended Quarry Bank High School in Liverpool, where he was known as a "happy-go-lucky" pupil, drawing comical cartoons and mimicking his teachers. At the end of his third year, his school report was damning: "Hopeless. Rather a clown in class. A shocking report. He is wasting other pupils' time." He was 14 when his uncle died in June 1955.
Gallotone Champion acoustic "guaranteed not to split". She arranged for it to be delivered to her own house, knowing that her sister, sceptical of Lennon's claim that he would be famous one day, hoped he would grow bored with music, often telling him, "The guitar's all very well, John, but you'll never make a living out of it". On 15 July 1958, when Lennon was 17, his mother, out walking near the Smiths' house, was struck by a car and killed.
Lennon failed all his GCE O-level examinations, and was only accepted into the Liverpool College of Art after his aunt and headmaster intervened. Once at the college, he wore Teddy Boy clothes and acquired a reputation for disrupting classes and ridiculing teachers. As a result, he was excluded from first the painting class and then the graphic arts course. He was threatened with expulsion for his behaviour, which included sitting on a nude model's lap during a life drawing class. He failed an annual exam, despite help from fellow student and future wife Cynthia Powell, and dropped out of college before his final year.
 1957–70: From The Quarrymen to The Beatles
1957–65: Formation, commercial breakout, and touring yearsskiffle group was established by Lennon in March 1957 when he was 16. He first met Paul McCartney at their second concert, held in Woolton on 6 July at the St. Peter's Church garden fête, after which McCartney joined the band. McCartney's father said Lennon would get him "into a lot of trouble", but later allowed the band to rehearse in the front room at 20 Forthlin Road, where Lennon and McCartney began writing songs together. Lennon was 18 when he wrote his first ("Hello Little Girl", a UK top 10 hit for the Fourmost nearly five years later). George Harrison joined the band as lead guitarist, and Stuart Sutcliffe, Lennon's friend from art school, joined as bassist. Lennon, McCartney, Harrison and Sutcliffe became The Beatles after the other members left. McCartney said later that Lennon was always considered the leader: "We all looked up to John. He was older ... the quickest wit and the smartest".
In August 1960 The Beatles, engaged for a 48-night tour in Hamburg, Germany, added drummer Pete Best to their number. Lennon was now 19; his aunt, horrified when he told her about the trip, pleaded with him to continue his art studies instead. After the first Hamburg stint, the band accepted another in April 1961, and a third in April 1962. Like the other band members, Lennon was introduced to Preludin while in Hamburg, and regularly took the drug, as well as amphetamines, as a stimulant during their long, overnight performances.
Brian Epstein, The Beatles' manager from 1962, had no prior experience of artist management, but nevertheless had a strong influence on their early dress code and attitude on stage. Lennon initially resisted Epstein's attempts to encourage the band to present a professional appearance, but eventually complied, saying, "I'll wear a bloody balloon if somebody's going to pay me". McCartney took over on bass after Sutcliffe's death the same year, and drummer Ringo Starr replaced Best, completing the four-piece line-up that would endure until the group's break-up in 1970. Lennon married Cynthia in August. The band's first single, "Love Me Do", was released in October and reached number 17 on the British charts. They recorded their debut album, Please Please Me, in under 10 hours on 11 February 1963—a day when Lennon was suffering the effects of a cold. The Lennon/McCartney songwriting partnership yielded eight of its fourteen tracks. With few exceptions—one being the album title itself—Lennon in 1963 had yet to bring his love of wordplay to bear on his song lyrics: "the words were almost irrelevant".
The Beatles achieved mainstream success in the UK around the start of 1963. Lennon was away from home, touring with the band, when his first son, Julian, was born in April. During their Royal Variety Show performance, attended by the Queen Mother and other British royalty, Lennon poked fun at his audience: "For our next song, I'd like to ask for your help. For the people in the cheaper seats, clap your hands... and the rest of you, if you'll just rattle your jewellery." After a year of Beatlemania in the UK, the group's historic February 1964 US debut appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show marked their breakthrough to international stardom. A two-year period of constant touring, moviemaking, and songwriting followed, during which Lennon wrote two books, In His Own Write and A Spaniard in the Works. The Beatles received recognition from the British Establishment when they were appointed Members of the Order of the British Empire in the 1965 Queen's Birthday Honours.
 1966–70: Studio years, break-up and solo beginningsLennon grew concerned that fans attending Beatles concerts were unable to hear the music for all the screaming, and that the band's musicianship was beginning to suffer as a result. The repertoire was by now dominated by Lennon/McCartney songs, whose lyrics were receiving greater attention from the writers than in the partnership's early days. Lennon's "Help!" expressed his own feelings in 1965: "I meant it ... It was me singing 'help'". He had put on weight (he would later refer to this as his "Fat Elvis" period) and felt he was subconsciously crying out for help and seeking change. The following January he was unknowingly introduced to LSD when his dentist, hosting a dinner party attended by Lennon and Harrison and their wives, spiked the guests' coffee with the drug. Told what their host had done, and advised not to leave his house because of the likely effects, they left anyway in disbelief, only to be transported into a world of hallucination during their journey home, where the buildings around them seemed to be on fire; "We were all screaming ... hot and hysterical." Another catalyst for change occurred a few months later in March. During an interview with Evening Standard reporter Maureen Cleave, Lennon remarked, "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." Lennon's comment went virtually unnoticed in England but created a controversy when quoted by American teen magazine Datebook five months later. The uproar that followed—burning of Beatles records, Ku Klux Klan activity, and threats against Lennon—contributed to the band's decision to stop touring.
Deprived of the routine of live performances after their final commercial concert in 1966, Lennon felt lost and considered leaving the band. Since his involuntary introduction to LSD in January, he had made increasing use of the drug, and was almost constantly under its influence for much of the year. In the words of music historian Jonathan Gould, "More than any of the other Beatles, John Lennon's involvement with LSD over the course of 1966 had the aura of personal quest." Lennon "turned his attention inward with the help of LSD, in the hope that this drastic form of introspection might wean him from his dependence on the persona of Beatle John", and spent "long hours in diffuse contemplation, wandering the corridors of his mind." According to biographer Ian MacDonald, Lennon's continuous experience with LSD during the year brought him "close to erasing his identity". His use of the drug began to profoundly affect his songwriting, both as a product of his self-examination, and in what Gould calls the "hallucinatory imagery" he captured in his lyrics. During 1967 he appeared in his only non–Beatles film, the black comedy How I Won the War. The same year, the group's landmark album Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band revealed Lennon lyrics contrasting strongly with the simple love songs of the Lennon/McCartney partnership's early years. Gould calls "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" "a song like no other love song John Lennon had ever written, a chaste, ethereal fairy tale in which Boy meets Girl, Boy loses Girl, and then keeps on meeting her and losing her again". Evidencing Lennon's surrealistic lyricism in full force, "The dreamy pursuit continues across a surreal landscape of gargantuan flowers, then on via 'newspaper taxis' to ... a train in a station, and a final fleeting glimpse of the girl with kaleidoscope eyes." In August, introduced to the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, the group attended a weekend of personal instruction at his Transcendental Meditation seminar in Bangor, Wales. They later travelled to his ashram in India for further guidance, and while there composed most of the songs for The Beatles and Abbey Road.
The group were shattered by the sudden death of Epstein during the Bangor seminar. "I knew we were in trouble then", Lennon said later. "I didn't have any misconceptions about our ability to do anything other than play music, and I was scared". McCartney orchestrated the group's first post-Epstein project, the film Magical Mystery Tour, which proved to be their first critical flop. Its soundtrack album, Magical Mystery Tour, was a commercial success, with lyrics once again infused with Lennon surrealism. Describing "I am the Walrus", Gould writes, "For readers of Lewis Carroll, the Walrus and the Eggman are unmistakable characters from the pages of Through the Looking Glass. In "Strawberry Fields Forever", Lennon used simple phrases to powerful effect: "'Strawberry fields ... Nothing is real.' Sharing a rhythm and a rhyme, these two phrases—the image and the ethos—are fused in meaning for the duration of the song."
With Epstein gone, the band members were becoming increasingly involved in business activities, and in February 1968 they formed Apple Corps, a multimedia corporation comprising Apple Records and several other subsidiary companies. Lennon described the venture as an attempt to "see if we can get artistic freedom within a business structure". However, Lennon's increased drug experimentation, his growing preoccupation with Yoko Ono, and McCartney's own marriage plans left Apple in need of professional management. Lennon asked Lord Beeching to take on the role, but he declined, advising Lennon to get back to making records. Lennon approached Allen Klein, who had managed The Rolling Stones and other bands during the British Invasion. Klein was appointed against McCartney's wishes.
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Sample of "Give Peace a Chance", recorded in 1969 during Lennon and Ono's second Bed-In for Peace. As described by biographer Bill Harry, Lennon wanted to "write a peace anthem that would take over from the song 'We Shall Overcome'—and he succeeded ... it became the main anti-Vietnam protest song."
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Lennon left The Beatles in September 1969. He agreed not to inform the media while the band renegotiated their recording contract, and was outraged that McCartney publicised his own departure on releasing his debut solo album in April 1970. Lennon's reaction was, "Jesus Christ! He gets all the credit for it!" He later wrote, "I started the band. I disbanded it. It's as simple as that." In late interviews with Rolling Stone, he revealed his bitterness towards McCartney, saying, "I was a fool not to do what Paul did, which was use it to sell a record." He spoke too of the hostility he perceived the other members had towards Ono, and of how he, Harrison, and Starr "got fed up with being sidemen for Paul... After Brian Epstein died we collapsed. Paul took over and supposedly led us. But what is leading us when we went round in circles?"
1970–80: Solo career
1970–73: First post-Beatles yearsFollowing The Beatles' break-up in 1970, Lennon and Ono went through primal therapy with Dr. Arthur Janov in Los Angeles, California. Designed to release emotional pain from early childhood, the therapy entailed two half-days a week with Janov for four months; he had wanted to treat the couple for longer, but they felt no need to continue and returned to London. Lennon's emotional debut solo album, John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band (1970), included "Mother", in which he confronted his feelings of childhood rejection, and "Working Class Hero", banned by BBC Radio for its inclusion of the word "fucking". The same year, Tariq Ali's revolutionary political views, expressed when he interviewed Lennon, inspired the singer to write "Power to the People". Lennon also became involved with Ali during a protest against Oz magazine's prosecution for alleged obscenity. Lennon denounced the proceedings as "disgusting fascism", and he and Ono (as Elastic Oz Band) released the single "God Save Us/Do The Oz" and joined marches in support of the magazine.
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Sample of "Imagine", Lennon's "most famous post-Beatles track." Like "Give Peace a Chance", the song became an anti-war anthem, but its lyrics offended religious groups. Lennon's explanation was, "If you can imagine a world at peace, with no denominations of religion—not without religion, but without this 'my God is bigger than your God' thing—then it can be true."
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Lennon and Ono moved to New York in August 1971, and in December released "Happy Xmas (War Is Over)". To advertise the single, they paid for billboards in 12 cities around the world which declared, in the national language, "WAR IS OVER—IF YOU WANT IT". The new year saw the Nixon Administration take what it called a "strategic counter-measure" against Lennon's anti-war propaganda, embarking on what would be a four-year attempt to deport him: embroiled in a continuing legal battle, he was denied a green card until 1976.
Some Time in New York City was released in 1972. Recorded with the New York band Elephant's Memory, it contained songs about women's rights, race relations, Britain's role in Northern Ireland, and Lennon's problems obtaining a green card. "Woman Is the Nigger of the World", released as a US single from the album the same year, was described by Lennon as "the first women's liberation song that went out", and debuted on 11 May when it was televised on The Dick Cavett Show. Many radio stations refused to broadcast the song because of the word "nigger". Lennon gave two benefit concerts with Elephant's Memory in New York in aid of patients at the Willowbrook State School mental facility. Staged at Madison Square Garden on 30 August 1972, they were his last full-length concert appearances.
1973–80: Lost and foundWhile Lennon was recording Mind Games (1973), he and Ono decided to separate. The ensuing eighteen-month period apart, which he later called his "lost weekend", was spent in Los Angeles and New York in the company of May Pang. Mind Games, credited to "the Plastic U.F.Ono Band", was released in November 1973. Its title track, "Mind Games", was a top 20 hit in the US and reached number 26 in the UK. Lennon contributed a revamped version of "I'm the Greatest", a song he wrote two years earlier, to Starr's album Ringo (1973), released the same month. (Lennon's 1971 demo appears on John Lennon Anthology.) During 1974 he produced Harry Nilsson's Pussy Cats and the Mick Jagger song "Too Many Cooks (Spoil The Soup)". The latter was destined, for contractual reasons, to remain unreleased for more than thirty years. Pang supplied the recording for its eventual inclusion on The Very Best of Mick Jagger (2007).
Walls and Bridges (1974) yielded Lennon's only number one single in his lifetime, "Whatever Gets You Thru the Night", featuring Elton John on backing vocals and piano. A second single from the album, "#9 Dream", followed before the end of the year. Starr's Goodnight Vienna (1974) again saw assistance from Lennon, who wrote the title track and played piano. On 28 November, Lennon made a surprise guest appearance at Elton John's Thanksgiving concert at Madison Square Garden, in fulfilment of his promise to join the singer in a live show if "Whatever Gets You Thru the Night", a song whose commercial potential Lennon had doubted, reached number one. Lennon performed the song along with "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" and "I Saw Her Standing There".
Lennon co-wrote "Fame", David Bowie's first US number one, and provided guitar and backing vocals for the January 1975 recording. He and Ono were reunited shortly afterwards. The same month, Elton John topped the charts with his own cover of "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds", featuring Lennon on guitar and back-up vocals. Lennon released Rock 'n' Roll (1975), an album of cover songs, in February. Soon afterwards, "Stand By Me", taken from the album and a US and UK hit, became his last single for five years. He made what would be his final stage appearance in the ATV special A Salute to Lew Grade, recorded on 18 April and televised in June. Playing acoustic guitar, and backed by his eight-piece band BOMF (introduced as "Etcetera"), Lennon performed two songs from Rock 'n' Roll ("Slippin' and Slidin'" and "Stand By Me", the latter of which was excluded from the television broadcast) followed by "Imagine". The band wore masks on the backs of their heads, making them appear two-faced, a dig at Grade, with whom Lennon and McCartney had been in conflict because of his control of The Beatles' publishing company. (Dick James had sold his majority share to Grade in 1969.) During "Imagine", Lennon interjected the line "and no immigration too", a reference to his battle to remain in the United States.
Lennon's second son, Sean, was born in October 1975. Lennon now took on the role of househusband, beginning what would be a five-year break from the music industry during which he gave all his attention to his family. Within the month, he fulfilled his contractual obligation to EMI/Capitol for one more album by releasing Shaved Fish, a greatest hits compilation. He devoted himself to Sean, rising at 6 am daily to plan and prepare his meals and to spend time with him. He wrote "Cookin' (In The Kitchen of Love)" for Starr's Ringo's Rotogravure (1976), performing on the track in June in what would be his last recording session until 1980. He formally announced his break from music in Tokyo in 1977, saying, "we have basically decided, without any great decision, to be with our baby as much as we can until we feel we can take time off to indulge ourselves in creating things outside of the family." During his career break he created several series of drawings, and drafted a book containing a mix of autobiographical material and what he termed "mad stuff", all of which would be published posthumously.
He emerged from retirement in October 1980 with the single "(Just Like) Starting Over", followed the next month by the album that spawned it. Released jointly with Ono, Double Fantasy contained songs written during Lennon's journey to Bermuda on a 43-foot sloop the previous June, and took its title from a species of freesia, seen in the Bermuda Botanical Gardens, whose name he regarded as a perfect description of his marriage to Ono. The new material, according to Schinder and Schwartz, found Lennon "passionate and reenergized, having found fulfillment in the stable family life that he'd been deprived of in his own youth." During the Double Fantasy sessions, Lennon and Ono recorded sufficient additional material for a planned follow-up album. Milk and Honey was released posthumously in 1984.
December 1980: MurderDakota, the New York apartment building where they lived, Mark David Chapman shot Lennon in the back four times at the entrance to the building. Earlier that evening, Lennon had autographed a copy of Double Fantasy for Chapman. Lennon was taken to the emergency room of nearby Roosevelt Hospital and was pronounced dead on arrival at 11:07 pm.
Ono issued a statement the next day, saying "There is no funeral for John," ending it with the words, "John loved and prayed for the human race. Please pray the same for him." His body was cremated at Ferncliff Cemetery in Hartsdale, New York. Ono scattered his ashes in New York's Central Park, where the Strawberry Fields memorial was later created. Chapman pleaded guilty to second degree murder and was sentenced to 20 years to life; he remains in prison, having been repeatedly denied parole.
Personal relationshipsIn one of his last major interviews Lennon said that until he met Ono, he had never questioned his chauvinistic attitude to women. The Beatles' song "Getting Better", he said, told his own story: "All that 'I used to be cruel to my woman, I beat her and kept her apart from the things that she loved' was me. I used to be cruel to my woman, and physically—any woman. I was a hitter. I couldn't express myself and I hit. I fought men and I hit women. That is why I am always on about peace".
Lennon was distant from Julian, his first son, born as his commitments with The Beatles intensified at the height of Beatlemania during his marriage to Cynthia. Adopting the role of househusband in his relationship with Ono, he became close to their son Sean.
Cynthia LennonLiverpool College of Art. She recalls that although she found him frightening, scruffy and disruptive in college, she was attracted to him. After discovering that he was obsessed with Brigitte Bardot, she changed the colour of her hair to blonde. They danced together at an end-of-term event, and Lennon asked her out. When she replied that she was engaged, he told her, "I didn't ask you to fucking marry me." Continuing to Ye Cracke for a drink with his friends, they became partners. They quickly became inseparable, spending long hours together in coffee bars and at the cinema. She began to accompany him to Quarrymen gigs; later, upset to be parted from him during the Beatles' Hamburg residencies, she travelled to Germany to be with him. Lennon, jealous by nature, eventually grew possessive and mistrustful in the relationship and often terrified her with his anger and physical violence.
Beatlemania took hold across the UK. He performed with the band the same evening, and would continue to do so almost daily from then on. Epstein, fearing that fans would be alienated by the idea of a married Beatle, asked the Lennons keep their marriage secret. Cynthia complied by telling anyone who asked that her name was Phyllis McKenzie and she had never heard of Lennon. Julian was born on 8 April 1963; Lennon was on tour at the time and did not see his son for three days.
Cynthia attributes the start of the marriage breakdown to LSD. After his involuntary first ingestion of the drug when his dentist spiked his coffee, Lennon made increasing use of it. As a result, Cynthia felt, he lost interest in her. When the group travelled by train to Bangor, Wales in 1967 for the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi's Transcendental Meditation seminar, she became separated from him on the platform as they were leaving. A policeman, who did not recognise her, kept her from boarding and the train left without her. She recalls how, though she knew she could easily travel to the seminar by other means, the incident was one of profound sadness for her as it seemed to symbolize the relationship.
On learning of Lennon's affair with Ono, Cynthia had her own one-night affair with Alexis Mardas. A few weeks later Mardas told her Lennon was seeking a divorce and custody of Julian on grounds of her adultery, to which Mardas would bear witness. After negotiation, Lennon capitulated and agreed to her divorcing him on the same grounds. The case was settled out of court, Lennon giving her £100,000, roughly one month's earnings for him at the time, along with £2,400 annually, custody of Julian, and ownership of their home.
Brian EpsteinLennon met Brian Epstein when The Beatles were performing at Liverpool's Cavern Club in 1962. A Jewish record store manager, Epstein was homosexual, at a time of strong and widespread social prejudice against homosexuality. He soon became the band's manager, a role in which he remained until his death in 1967. According to biographer Philip Norman, one of his reasons for doing so was that he was physically attracted to Lennon. Biographer Bill Harry disagrees, saying the band "were not the type of sexual partners Brian was interested in".
Almost as soon as Julian was born, Lennon went on holiday to Spain with Epstein, leading to speculation about their relationship. Questioned about it later, Lennon said, "Well, it was almost a love affair, but not quite. It was never consummated. But it was a pretty intense relationship. It was my first experience with a homosexual that I was conscious was homosexual. We used to sit in a cafe in Torremolinos looking at all the boys and I'd say, 'Do you like that one? Do you like this one?' I was rather enjoying the experience, thinking like a writer all the time: I am experiencing this." Soon after their return from Spain, at McCartney's twenty-first birthday party in June 1963, Lennon physically attacked Cavern Club MC Bob Wooler for saying "How was your honeymoon, John?" The MC, known for his wordplay and affectionate but cutting remarks, was making a joke;  but ten months had passed since Lennon's marriage, and the honeymoon, deferred, was still two months in the future. To Lennon, drunk, the matter was simple: "He called me a queer so I battered his bloody ribs in". In 1991, a fictionalized account of the Lennon/Epstein holiday was made into the independent movie The Hours And Times.
Lennon delighted in mocking Epstein for his homosexuality and for the fact that he was Jewish, often ridiculing him with sarcastic remarks. When Epstein invited suggestions for his autobiography title, Lennon offered Queer Jew. On learning of the eventual title, A Cellarful of Noise, he said to a friend, "More like A Cellarful of Boys". He demanded of a visitor to Epstein's flat, "Have you come to blackmail him? If not, you're the only bugger in London who hasn't." And he taunted Epstein with twisted Beatles lyrics, changing "baby, you're a rich man too" to "baby, you're a rich fag Jew".
Julian LennonLennon was touring with The Beatles when Julian was born on 8 April 1963. Julian's birth, like his mother Cynthia's marriage to Lennon, was kept secret because Epstein was convinced public knowledge of such things would threaten The Beatles' commercial success. Julian recalls how some four years later, as a small child in Weybridge, "I was trundled home from school and came walking up with one of my watercolour paintings. It was just a bunch of stars and this blonde girl I knew at school. And Dad said, 'What's this?' I said, 'It's Lucy in the sky with diamonds.'" Lennon used it as the title of a Beatles' song, though it was later reported to have derived from the initials LSD. Lennon was distant from Julian, who felt closer to McCartney than to his father. During a car journey to visit Cynthia and Julian during Lennon's divorce, McCartney composed a song, "Hey Jules", to comfort him. It would evolve into the Beatles song "Hey Jude". Lennon later said, "That's his best song. It started off as a song about my son Julian ... he turned it into 'Hey Jude'. I always thought it was about me and Yoko but he said it wasn't."
Lennon's relationship with his first son was always strained. After Lennon and Ono's 1971 move to New York, Julian would not see his father until 1973. With Pang's encouragement, it was arranged for him (and his mother) to visit Lennon in Los Angeles, where they went to Disneyland. Julian started to see his father regularly, and Lennon gave him a drumming part on a Walls and Bridges track. He bought Julian a Gibson Les Paul guitar and other instruments, and encouraged his interest in music by demonstrating guitar chord techniques. Julian recalls that he and his father "got on a great deal better" during the time he spent in New York: "We had a lot of fun, laughed a lot and had a great time in general".
Lennon told Playboy in 1980, "Sean was a planned child, and therein lies the difference. I don't love Julian any less as a child. He's still my son, whether he came from a bottle of whiskey or because they didn't have pills in those days. He's here, he belongs to me, and he always will." In an interview shortly before his death Lennon said he was trying to re-establish a connection with the then 17-year-old, and confidently predicted that "Julian and I will have a relationship in the future." After his death it was revealed that he had left Julian very little in his will.
Yoko OnoIndica gallery in London, where Ono was preparing her conceptual art exhibit, and they were introduced by gallery owner John Dunbar. Lennon was intrigued by Ono's "Hammer A Nail": patrons hammered a nail into a wooden board, creating the art piece. Although the exhibition had not yet begun, Lennon wanted to hammer a nail into the clean board, but Ono stopped him. Dunbar asked her, "Don't you know who this is? He's a millionaire! He might buy it." Ono had not heard of The Beatles, but relented on condition that Lennon pay her five shillings. Lennon replied, "I'll give you an imaginary five shillings and hammer an imaginary nail in." The second version, told by McCartney, is that in late 1965, Ono was in London compiling original musical scores for a book John Cage was working on. McCartney declined to give her any of his own manuscripts for the book, but suggested Lennon might oblige. When asked, Lennon gave Ono the original handwritten lyrics to "The Word". (The latter are reproduced in Cage's book, Notations.)
 While his wife was on holiday in Greece, Lennon invited Ono to visit. They spent the night recording what would become the Two Virgins album, after which, they said, they made love at dawn. When Lennon's wife returned home she found Ono wearing her bathrobe, drinking tea with Lennon who simply said, "Oh, hi." Ono miscarried John Ono Lennon II on 21 November 1968.
From the beginning, the relationship was bizarre. In a 1981 interview, Ono light-heartedly remarked, "I used to say to [Lennon], 'I think you’re a closet fag, you know.' Because after we started to live together, John would say to me, 'Do you know why I like you? Because you look like a bloke in drag.'" According to author Albert Goldman, Ono was regarded by Lennon as a "magical being" who could solve all his problems, but this was a "grand illusion", and she openly cheated on him with gigolos; eventually "both he and Yoko were burnt out from years of hard drugs, overwork, emotional breakdowns, quack cures, and bizarre diets, to say nothing of the effects of living constantly in the glare of the mass media." After their separation, "no longer collaborating as a team, they remained in constant communication. ... No longer able to live together, they found that they couldn’t live apart either."
During Lennon's last two years in The Beatles, he and Ono began public protests against the Vietnam War. They were married in Gibraltar on 20 March 1969, and spent their honeymoon in Amsterdam campaigning with a week-long Bed-In for peace. They planned another Bed-In in the United States, but were denied entry, so held one instead at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel in Montreal, where they recorded "Give Peace a Chance". They often combined advocacy with performance art, as in their "Bagism", first introduced during a Vienna press conference. Lennon detailed this period in The Beatles' song "The Ballad of John and Yoko". Lennon changed his name by deed poll on 22 April 1969, adding "Ono" as a middle name. The brief ceremony took place on the roof of the Apple Corps building, made famous three months earlier by The Beatles' Let It Be rooftop concert. Although he used the name John Ono Lennon thereafter, official documents referred to him as John Winston Ono Lennon, since he was not permitted to revoke a name given at birth. After Ono was injured in a car accident, Lennon arranged for a king-sized bed to be brought to the recording studio as he worked on The Beatles' last album, Abbey Road. To escape the acrimony of the band's break-up, Ono suggested they move permanently to New York, which they did on 31 August 1971. They first lived in the St. Regis Hotel on 5th Avenue, East 55th Street, then moved to a street-level flat at 105 Bank Street, Greenwich Village, on 16 October 1971. After a robbery, they relocated to the more secure Dakota at 1 West 72nd Street, in May 1973.
May Pang/The Lost WeekendAllen Klein as an umbrella company to ABKCO Records, recruited May Pang as a receptionist in 1969. Through involvement in a project with ABKCO, Lennon and Ono met her the following year. She became their personal assistant. After she had been working with the couple for three years, Ono confided that she and Lennon were becoming estranged from one another. She went on to suggest that Pang should begin a physical relationship with Lennon, telling her, "He likes you a lot." Pang, 22, astounded by Ono's proposition, eventually agreed to become Lennon's companion. The pair soon moved to California, beginning an eighteen-month period he later called his "lost weekend". In Los Angeles, Pang encouraged Lennon to develop regular contact with Julian, whom he had not seen for four years. He also rekindled friendships with Starr, McCartney, Beatles roadie Mal Evans, and Harry Nilsson.
When Lennon decided to produce Nilsson's album Pussy Cats, Pang rented a beach house for all the musicians. Together, Lennon and Nilsson soon began to indulge in alcoholic excesses, and their drunken antics became fodder for the tabloids. Two widely publicised incidents occurred at The Troubadour club in March 1974, the first when Lennon placed a Kotex on his forehead and scuffled with a waitress, and the second, two weeks later, when Lennon and Nilsson were ejected from the same club after heckling the Smothers Brothers. On another occasion, after misunderstanding something Pang said, Lennon attempted to strangle her, only relenting when physically restrained by Nilsson.
In 1975, Lennon told Bob Harris on The Old Grey Whistle Test, "We had a lot of fun. It was Keith Moon, Harry, me, Ringo all living together in a house, and we had some moments folks... but it got a little near the knuckle. I hit the bottle like I was 18 or 19 and I was acting like I was still at college. It was the first night I drank Brandy Alexanders... I was with Harry Nilsson, who didn't quite get as much coverage as me."
Lennon returned to New York with Pang in June 1974 to finish work on Pussy Cats and record his own Walls and Bridges. They reserved a room in their newly rented apartment for Julian to visit. Lennon, hitherto inhibited by Ono in this regard, began to reestablish contact with other relatives and friends. By December he and Pang were considering a house purchase, and he was refusing to accept Ono's telephone calls. In January 1975, he agreed to meet Ono—who said she had found a cure for smoking—and after the meeting failed to return home or call Pang. When Pang telephoned the next day, Ono told her Lennon was unavailable, exhausted after a hypnotherapy session. Two days later, Lennon reappeared at a joint dental appointment, stupified and confused to such an extent that Pang believed he had been brainwashed. He told her his separation from Ono was now over.
Sean LennonWhen Lennon and Ono were reunited, she became pregnant, but having previously suffered three miscarriages in her attempt to have a child with Lennon, she said she wanted an abortion. She agreed to allow the pregnancy to continue on condition that Lennon adopt the role of househusband; this he agreed to do. Sean was born on 9 October 1975, Lennon's 35th birthday, delivered by Caesarean section. Lennon's subsequent career break would span five years. He became utterly devoted to his son. He had a photographer take pictures of Sean every day of his first year, and created numerous drawings for him, posthumously published as Real Love: The Drawings for Sean. Lennon later proudly declared, "He didn't come out of my belly but, by God, I made his bones, because I've attended to every meal, and to how he sleeps, and to the fact that he swims like a fish."
The former BeatlesWalt Disney World in Florida, while on holiday there with Pang and Julian.) Harrison incensed Lennon in 1980 when he published an autobiography that made very little mention of him. Lennon told Playboy, "I was hurt by it. By glaring omission ... my influence on his life is absolutely zilch and nil ... he remembers every two-bit sax player or guitarist he met in subsequent years. I'm not in the book."
Lennon's most intense feelings were reserved for McCartney. In addition to attacking him through the lyrics of "How Do You Sleep?", Lennon argued with him through the press for three years after the group split. The two later began to reestablish something of the close friendship they had once known, and in 1974 even played music together again for what would be the one and only time (see A Toot and a Snore in '74), before growing apart once more. Lennon said that during McCartney's final visit, in April 1976, they watched the episode of Saturday Night Live in which Lorne Michaels made a $3,000 cash offer to get The Beatles to reunite on the show. The pair considered going to the studio to make a joke appearance, attempting to claim their share of the money, but were too tired. The event was fictionalised in the 2000 television film, Two of Us.
Despite his estrangement from McCartney, Lennon always felt a musical competitiveness with him and kept an ear on his music. During his five-year career break he was content to sit back so long as McCartney was producing what Lennon saw as garbage. When McCartney released "Coming Up" in 1980, the year Lennon returned to the studio and the last year of his life, he took notice. Asked the same year whether the group were dreaded enemies or the best of friends, he replied that they were neither, and that he had not seen any of them in a long time. But he also said, "I still love those guys. The Beatles are over, but John, Paul, George and Ringo go on."
Anti-war and civil rights activitiesBed-In for Peace at the Amsterdam Hilton. The March 1969 event attracted worldwide media coverage, as did a second Bed-In three months later at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel in Montreal. Recorded during the second Bed-In, and quickly taken up as an anti-war anthem, "Give Peace a Chance" was sung by a quarter of a million anti-Vietnam-War demonstrators in Washington, DC on 15 October, the second Vietnam Moratorium Day.
When Lennon and Ono moved to New York City in August 1971, they befriended two of the Chicago Seven, Yippie anti-war activists Jerry Rubin and Abbie Hoffman. Another anti-war activist, John Sinclair, poet and co-founder of the White Panther Party, was serving ten years in the state prison for selling two joints of marijuana after a series of previous convictions for possession of the drug. At the "Free John Sinclair" concert in Ann Arbor, Michigan on 10 December 1971, Lennon and Ono appeared on stage with David Peel, Phil Ochs, Stevie Wonder, Bob Seger and other musicians, as well as Rubin and Bobby Seale of the Black Panther Party. Lennon, through his newly written song "John Sinclair", called on the authorities to "Let him be, set him free, let him be like you and me." Some 20,000 people were present at the rally, and three days later the State of Michigan released Sinclair from prison. The performance was recorded, and later appeared on John Lennon Anthology (1998) and Acoustic (2004).
Following the Bloody Sunday massacre in 1972, in which 27 civil rights protestors were shot by the British Army during a Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association march, Lennon said that given the choice between the army and the IRA he would side with the latter, and in 2000, Britain's domestic security service MI5 said that Lennon had given money to the IRA. Biographer Bill Harry records that following Bloody Sunday, Lennon and Ono financially supported the production of the film The Irish Tapes, a political documentary with a pro-IRA slant.
 Deportation attemptHappy Xmas (War is Over)", both strongly associated with the anti-Vietnam-War movement, the Nixon administration, hearing rumours of Lennon's involvement in a concert to be held in San Diego at the same time as the Republican National Convention, tried to have him deported. Nixon believed that Lennon's anti-war activities could cost him his re-election; Republican Senator Strom Thurmond suggested in a February 1972 memo that "deportation would be a strategic counter-measure" against Lennon. The next month the Immigration and Naturalization Service began deportation proceedings, arguing that his 1968 misdemeanor conviction for cannabis possession in London had made him ineligible for admission to the United States. Lennon spent the next four years in deportation hearings. While the legal battle continued, Lennon attended rallies and made television appearances. Lennon and Ono co-hosted the Mike Douglas Show for a week in February 1972, introducing guests such as Jerry Rubin and Bobby Seale to mid-America.
On 23 March 1973, Lennon was ordered to leave the US within 60 days. Ono, meanwhile, was granted permanent residence. In response, Lennon and Ono held a press conference on 1 April 1973 at the New York chapter of the American Bar Association, where they announced the formation of the state of Nutopia; a place with "no land, no boundaries, no passports, only people". Waving the white flag of Nutopia (two handkerchiefs), they asked for political asylum in the US. The press conference was filmed, and would later appear in the 2006 documentary The U.S. vs. John Lennon. Lennon's Mind Games (1973) included the track "Nutopian International Anthem" (three seconds of silence). Soon after the press conference, Nixon's involvement in a political scandal came to light, and in June the Watergate hearings in Washington, DC, led to the president's resignation. Nixon's successor, Gerald Ford, showed little interest in continuing the battle against Lennon, and the deportation order was overturned in 1975. The following year, his US immigration status finally resolved, Lennon received his green card, and when Jimmy Carter was inaugurated as president in January 1977, Lennon and Ono attended the Inaugural Ball.
FBI surveillance and de-classified documentsAfter Lennon's death, historian Jon Wiener filed a Freedom of Information Act request for FBI files documenting the Bureau's role in the deportation attempt. The FBI admitted it had 281 pages of files on Lennon, but refused to release most of them on the grounds that they contained national security information. In 1983, Wiener sued the FBI with the help of the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California. It took 14 years of litigation to force the FBI to release the withheld pages. The ACLU, representing Wiener, won a favourable decision in their suit against the FBI in the Ninth Circuit in 1991. The Justice Department appealed the decision to the Supreme Court in April 1992, but the court declined to review the case. In 1997, respecting President Bill Clinton's newly instigated rule that documents should be withheld only if releasing them would involve "foreseeable harm", the Justice Department settled most of the outstanding issues outside court by releasing all but 10 of the contested documents. Wiener published the results of his 14-year campaign in January 2000. Gimme Some Truth: The John Lennon FBI Files contained facsimiles of the documents, including "lengthy reports by confidential informants detailing the daily lives of anti-war activists, memos to the White House, transcripts of TV shows on which Lennon appeared, and a proposal that Lennon be arrested by local police on drug charges". The story is told in the documentary The U.S. vs. John Lennon. The final 10 documents in Lennon's FBI file, which reported on his ties with London anti-war activists in 1971 and had been withheld as containing "national security information provided by a foreign government under an explicit promise of confidentiality", were released in December 2006. They contained no indication that the British government had regarded Lennon as a serious threat; one example of the released material was a report that two prominent British leftists had hoped Lennon would finance a left-wing bookshop and reading room.
Writing and artLennon's biographer Bill Harry writes that Lennon began drawing and writing creatively at an early age with the encouragement of his uncle. He collected his stories, poetry, cartoons, and caricatures in a Quarry Bank High School exercise book that he called the Daily Howl. The drawings were often of crippled people, and the writings satirical, and throughout the book was an abundance of wordplay. According to classmate Bill Turner, Lennon created the Daily Howl to amuse his best friend and later Quarrymen band mate, Pete Shotton, to whom he would show his work before he let anyone else see it. Turner said that Lennon "had an obsession for Wigan Pier. It kept cropping up", and in Lennon's story A Carrot In A Potato Mine, "the mine was at the end of Wigan Pier." Turner described how one of Lennon's cartoons depicted a bus stop sign annotated with the question, "Why?". Above was a flying pancake, and below, "a blind man wearing glasses leading along a blind dog—also wearing glasses".
Lennon's love of wordplay and nonsense with a twist found a wider audience when he was 24. Harry writes that In His Own Write (1964) was published after "Some journalist who was hanging around the Beatles came to me and I ended up showing him the stuff. They said, 'Write a book' and that's how the first one came about". Like the Daily Howl it contained a mix of formats including short stories, poetry, plays and drawings. One story, "Good Dog Nigel", tells the tale of "a happy dog, urinating on a lamppost, barking, wagging his tail—until he suddenly hears a message that he will be killed at three o'clock." The Times Literary Supplement considered the poems and stories "remarkable ... also very funny ... the nonsense runs on, words and images prompting one another in a chain of pure fantasy". The review concluded, "It is worth the attention of anyone who fears for the impoverishment of the English language and British imagination ... humorists have done more to preserve and enrich these assets than most serious critics allow. Theirs is arguably our liveliest stream of 'experimental writing' ... Lennon shows himself well equipped to take it farther." Book Week reported, "This is nonsense writing, but one has only to review the literature of nonsense to see how well Lennon has brought it off. While some of his homonyms are gratuitous word play, many others have not only double meaning but a double edge." Lennon was surprised by the positive reception: "To my amazement the reviewers liked it ... I didn't think the book would even get reviewed ... I didn't think people would accept the book like they did. To tell you the truth they took the book more seriously than I did myself. It just began as a laugh for me."
In combination with A Spaniard in the Works (1965), In His Own Write formed the basis of the stage play The John Lennon Play: In His Own Write, co-adapted by Victor Spinetti and Adrienne Kennedy. After negotiations between Lennon, Spinetti and the artistic director of the National Theatre, Sir Laurence Olivier, the play opened at the Old Vic in 1968. Lennon attended the performance on the opening night, one of his earliest public appearances with Ono. After Lennon's death, further works were published, including Skywriting by Word of Mouth (1986); Ai: Japan Through John Lennon's Eyes: A Personal Sketchbook (1992), with Lennon's illustrations of the definitions of Japanese words; and Real Love: The Drawings for Sean (1999). The Beatles Anthology (2000) also presented examples of his writings and drawings.
Instruments playedLennon played a number of instruments, including percussion instruments and the flute. His first instrument as a child was the banjo. His mother taught him how to play, then bought him an acoustic guitar. His playing on the mouth organ during a bus journey to visit his cousin in Scotland caught the driver's ear. Impressed, the driver told Lennon of a harmonica he could have if he came to Edinburgh the following day, where one had been stored in the bus depot since a passenger left it on a bus. The professional instrument quickly replaced Lennon's toy. He would continue to play harmonica, often using the instrument during The Beatles' Hamburg years, and it became a signature sound in the group's early recordings.
At 16, he played acoustic guitar with The Quarrymen. As his career progressed through the 1960s and 1970s, he played a variety of electric guitars, predominantly the Rickenbacker 325, Epiphone Casino and Gibson J-160E, and, from the start of his solo career, the Gibson Les Paul Junior. His other instrument of choice was the piano, on which he composed many songs, including "Imagine", described as his best-known solo work. His jamming on a piano with McCartney in 1963 led to the creation of The Beatles' first US number one, "I Want to Hold Your Hand". Occasionally he played a six-string bass guitar, the Fender Bass VI, providing bass during Beatles numbers that occupied McCartney with another instrument.
Vocal styleFrom his earliest days with The Beatles, Lennon's singing voice was recognized as distinctive, versatile, and variable. Recording "Twist and Shout", the final track during the mammoth one-day session that captured the band's 1963 debut album Please Please Me, his voice, already compromised by a cold, came close to giving out. Lennon said, "I couldn't sing the damn thing, I was just screaming." In the words of biographer Barry Miles, "Lennon simply shredded his vocal cords in the interests of rock 'n' roll." The Beatles' producer, George Martin, tells how Lennon "had an inborn dislike of his own voice which I could never understand. He was always saying to me: 'DO something with my voice! ... put something on it ... Make it different.'" Martin obliged, often using double-tracking and other techniques. Music critic Robert Christgau says that Lennon's "greatest vocal perfomance ... from scream to whine, is modulated electronically ... echoed, filtered, and double tracked."
As his Beatles era segued into his solo career, his singing voice found a widening range of expression. Biographer Chris Gregory writes that Lennon was "tentatively beginning to expose his insecurities in a number of acoustic-led 'confessional' ballads, so beginning the process of 'public therapy' that will eventually culminate in the primal screams of 'Cold Turkey' and the cathartic John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band."  David Stuart Ryan notes Lennon's ability to range from "extreme vulnerability, sensitivity and even naivety" in his vocal delivery to a hard, "rasping" style. Wiener too describes contrasts, saying the singer's voice can be "at first subdued; soon it almost cracks with despair" In all the singing styles he employed, Lennon communicated emotion. Music historian Ben Urish recalls hearing The Beatles' Ed Sullivan Show performance of "This Boy" played on the radio a few days after Lennon's murder: "As Lennon's vocals reached their peak ... it hurt too much to hear him scream with such anguish and emotion. But it was my emotions I heard in his voice. Just like I always had."
LegacyLennon's impact on popular music culture was far-reaching. Music historians Schinder and Schwartz, writing of the transformation in popular music styles that took place between the 1950s and the 1960s, say that The Beatles' influence cannot be overstated: having "revolutionized the sound, style, and attitude of popular music and opened rock and roll's doors to a tidal wave of British rock acts", the group then "spent the rest of the 1960s expanding rock's stylistic frontiers".  Liam Gallagher, his group Oasis among the many who acknowledge the band's influence, identifies Lennon as a hero; in 1999 he named his first child Lennon Gallagher in tribute. Lennon's iconic songs came to inspire and symbolize the ideals of the masses. On National Poetry Day in 1999, after conducting an extensive poll to identify the UK's favourite song lyric, the BBC announced "Imagine" the winner.
Lennon's life was one of searching, confronted with the paradoxical juxtaposition of his ideals and his own human temperament. According to music historians Urish and Bielen, "What remains the most intriguing and ultimately significant effort are the self-portraits Lennon left in his songs. In holding the mirror up to himself and detailing what he saw for the public, Lennon went beyond himself, both inwardly and outwardly. That was the gift given to him as an artist, and that is the gift he gave to the public." Expressing both his experiences and his ideals through his lyrics, they write that Lennon was able to "transform the intensely personal into the deeply universal (as well as the reverse), often with humor and pointed insight. His songs spoke to, for, and about, the human condition."