John Winston Ono Lennon MBE (9 October 1940 – 8 December 1980) was an English singer, songwriter, and peace activist who co-founded the Beatles, the most commercially successful band in the history of popular music. He and fellow member Paul McCartney formed a much-celebrated songwriting partnership. Along with George Harrison and Ringo Starr, the group would ascend to worldwide fame during the 1960s.
He was born as John Winston Lennon in Liverpool, where he became involved in the skiffle craze as a teenager. In 1957, he formed his first band, the Quarrymen, which evolved into the Beatles in 1960. Lennon began to record as a solo artist before the band’s break-up in April 1970; two of those songs were “Give Peace a Chance” and “Instant Karma!” Lennon subsequently produced albums that included John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band and Imagine, and songs such as “Working Class Hero”, “Imagine” and “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)”. After he married Yoko Ono in 1969, he added “Ono” as one of his middle names. Lennon disengaged himself from the music business in 1975 to raise his infant son Sean, but re-emerged with Ono in 1980 with the album Double Fantasy. He was shot and killedin the archway of his Manhattan apartment building three weeks after the album was released.
Lennon revealed a rebellious nature and acerbic wit in his music, writing, drawings, on film and in interviews. Controversial through his political and peace activism, he moved from London to Manhattan in 1971, where his criticism of the Vietnam War resulted in a lengthy attempt by the Nixon administration to deport him. Some of his songs were adopted as anthems by the anti-war movement and the larger counterculture.
By 2012, Lennon’s solo album sales in the United States had exceeded 14 million units. He had 25 number-one singles on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart as a writer, co-writer, or performer. In 2002, Lennon was voted eighth in a BBC poll of the 100 Greatest Britonsand in 2008, Rolling Stone ranked him the fifth-greatest singer of all time. In 1987, he was posthumously inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame. Lennon was twice posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame: first in 1988 as a member of the Beatles and again in 1994 as a solo artist. At age 15, Lennon formed the skiffle group, the Quarrymen. Named after Quarry Bank High School, the group was established by Lennon in September 1956. By the summer of 1957, the Quarrymen played a “spirited set of songs” made up of half skiffle and half rock and roll.Lennon first met Paul McCartney at the Quarrymen’s second performance, which was held in Woolton on 6 July at the St. Peter’s Church garden fête. Lennon then asked McCartney to join the band.
McCartney said that Aunt Mimi “was very aware that John’s friends were lower class”, and would often patronise him when he arrived to visit Lennon. According to Paul’s brother Mike, McCartney’s father was also disapproving, declaring that Lennon would get his son “into trouble”, although he later allowed the fledgling band to rehearse in the McCartneys’ front room at 20 Forthlin Road. During this time, 18-year-old Lennon wrote his first song, “Hello Little Girl”, a UK top 10 hit for The Fourmost nearly five years later
After the Beatles’ final concert on 29 August 1966, Lennon was deprived of the routine of live performances; he felt lost and considered leaving the band. Since his involuntary introduction to LSD, he had increased his use of the drug and was almost constantly under its influence for much of 1967. According to biographer Ian MacDonald, Lennon’s continuous experimentation with LSD during the year brought him “close to erasing his identity”. The year 1967 saw the release of “Strawberry Fields Forever”, hailed by Timemagazine for its “astonishing inventiveness”, and the group’s landmark album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, which revealed lyrics by Lennon that contrasted strongly with the simple love songs of the ‘Lennon–McCartney’ early years.
After the Beatles were introduced to the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, the group attended an August weekend of personal instruction at his Transcendental Meditation seminar in Bangor, Wales. During the seminar, they were informed of Epstein’s death. “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”. Led primarily by Harrison and Lennon’s interest in Eastern religion, the Beatles later travelled to Maharishi’s ashram in India for further guidance. While there, they composed most of the songs for The Beatles and AbbeyRoad
In 1970, Lennon and Ono went through primal therapy with 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 debut solo album, John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band (1970), was received with praise by many music critics, but its highly personal lyrics and stark sound limited its commercial performance. Critic Greil Marcus remarked, “John’s singing in the last verse of ‘God’ may be the finest in all of rock.” The album featured the song “Mother”, in which Lennon confronted his feelings of childhood rejection, and the Dylanesque “Working Class Hero”, a bitter attack against the bourgeois social system which, due to the lyric “you’re still fucking peasants”, fell foul of broadcasters. The same year, Tariq Ali expressed his revolutionary political views when he interviewed Lennon. This inspired the singer to write “Power to the People”. Lennon also became involved with Ali during a protest against the prosecution of Oz magazine 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