A merchant seaman, Alfred was rarely present in John’s life, even absent at his birth. His frequent and lengthy time away from home eventually led Julia to separate from him when John was four, and he ultimately ended up living with his Aunt Mimi and her husband, George Smith, throughout his youth. It was John’s mother, though, who gave him a life-changing gift while he was in his teens – his first guitar.
July 6, 1957 marked a turning point in John’s life when he met Paul McCartney at a church outing and soon after joined a band with him called The Quarrymen. Soon after, Paul introduced George Harrison to Lennon, followed by several college friends. Other musicians came and went over a few short years, and in 1962 Ringo Starr joined as drummer, replacing the original drummer, Pete Best. The band’s name changed as well. Inspired by Buddy Holly’s band, The Crickets, The Quarrymen became The Beatles.
Several early singles became big hits in Britain, including Love Me Do, Please Please Me, I Want To Hold Your Hand, and She Loves You, but on February 9, 1964, Beatlemania was launched on The Ed Sullivan Show, and the “British Invasion” began.
Lennon’s life wasn’t without its quieter side. In 1962, he married Cynthia Powell and had a son, Julian. The couple eventually divorced and he met Japanese artist Yoko Ono, in 1966. John and Yoko’s artistic endeavors caused friction for The Beatles with their political activism and peaceful protests. These even resulted in threats of deportation by the Nixon administration, which masked its real reason—Lennon’s protest against the Vietnam War—with a 1968 marijuana conviction in Britain.
Lennon departed from The Beatles in 1969 shortly after recording Abbey Road and continued his musical life. Solo albums included Wedding Album, Live Peace in Toronto 1969, and Imagine. In 1973, he and Ono separated, during which time Lennon continued to record in what he called his “lost weekend”. He and Ono rekindled in 1975, having a son, Sean, in October of that year. At that point, Lennon took a break from the music industry to concentrate on his family. He and Yoko returned to the music scene in 1980 with what would be John’s comeback album, Double Fantasy. An extensive extravaganza was planned: interviews, tours, follow-ups, and more.
All of this came to a grinding halt on December 8, 1980. Crazed fan, Mark David Chapman, who’d had memorabilia signed by Lennon earlier that day, shot Lennon in the back multiple times as he and Ono were entering their New York apartment. Lennon was pronounced dead at Roosevelt Hospital later that night.
With all of the controversy and hysteria he stirred up over the years—with The Beatles and solo—Lennon led a legendary life of music, activism, family, friends, and followers. Even with all of the personal heartbreak and creative tension among those closest to him, his adoring fans will remember him as an icon and humanitarian, reminding the world that despite all of our hardships, in the end, all you need is love.