John Lennon

Referat, Hausaufgabe, John Lennon
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Nina Werlberger Spezialgebiet Englisch 2000/2001

John Lennon

his life

music and

political awareness

John Lennon was known best for his music, but in addition to that he was a philosopher, artist, visionary, social leader and most importantly a common man with a dream.

Childhood and Youth (1940 – 1957)

John Winston Lennon was born in Liverpool in October 1940. The middle name was given to him because of the english Prime Minister Winston Churchill. His mother Julia was married to a british seaman named Alfred Lennon in this time. They were hardly together in the three years of their marriage because he went to India and America a lot. Julia didn’t like her life as a housewife so she had an affair during one of her husbands travels to Africa. She became pregnant again. She got a little girl who she released for adoption one month after birth. She didn’t pay much attenention to her son John. Later, Julia met her second husband and had two girls. John, her first-born child felt exluded from the rest of the family. Consequently, John grew up with his aunt Mimi, who was a very distant and reserved woman. She did not encourage Johns talents when he was young. She wanted him to become something better. Mimi thought her nephew was too good for this profane world. She did not realize that John was very emotional, creative and not conventional. Feelings where almost always forbidden and he really never became her son. Mimi was not amused when she saw John playing in the streets with ordinary working-class children. She and John where middleclass and this social system was quite important in the 50’s. In the end, Mimis endeavours were not rewarded. John was a very patient and orderly child when he was at home, but in school, he was the worst of all the pupils. Not only did he begin prawles and talked back at the teachers without shame, his grades were also low. This bad behaviour depended partly on his eyesight. John was very shortsighted and refused to wear any form of glasses in his growing years.

When he went to Querry Bank High School, he was impressed by Rock’nRoll.

Particularly the songs from Buddy Holly, Little Richard and Elvis Presley. He formed “The Querrymen”, a Skiffle-band. Skiffle is a very popular combination of Blues, Jazz and american Folk. The songs are very easy to play because the instruments are hand-made tools like wooden harmonicas. In the late 50’s, more than 5000 Skiffle-Bands where known in England. Skiffle was the precursor of the Beat which combined the happy energy of the Skiffle with the floating power of Rock’n Roll. The members of the band often changed because John was too fanatic. In the end, he was never satisfied with the result of the songs. The Querrymen played gigs at marriages, birthdays, church-festivals and school-happenings. One day, John Lennen got to know Paul McCartney who was two years younger. First, John didn’t accept him because of their disparity in age but John was impessed by Paul who was an obsessive musician; Paul had already written songs. John who had obviously been the boss of the band before now had a competitor and rival who was, in regard to music, much better than he was.
This was the beginning of their famous friend- and working-relationship. One of their first songs, “Lennon/McCartney” wrote together was the hit “Love Me Do”. George Harrison who was even younger than Paul, played the guitar. Compared to the self-confident Paul, George was quite naïve and childish.
“The Querrymen” became “Johnny and the Moondogs”.

Art and Music – Liverpool (1957 – 1960)

John was such a poor student, he didn’t pass one exam, so obviously did not finish High School. John began his studies at The Art College. His former teacher had noticed his talents and wrote a recommendation to the Academys director.

John was quite an outsider there. Most of the others liked Jazz, John hated that style of music and dressed very conservatively. In 1958, Johns mother died from an accident. She was on her way home from visiting Mimi and was runover by a drunken off-duty policeman.
John couldn’t believe her death and really started drinking regularly. He became more aggressive and his overall behavior was very rude.

Stuart Sutcliffe:

Sutcliffe went, as John Lennon did, to The Art College and became very close friends with John. John admired him for his ability to paint and Stu admired John for his ability to create music and a special atmosphere. In 1960 Stu sold one of his paintings for £65.00 and under pressure

Sutcliffe went - as John Lennon did - to The Art College and became very close friends with John. John admired him for his ability to paint, and Stu admired John for his music and the ability to create an atmosphere around him. When Stu in 1960 sold one of his paintings for 65 he used the money, under pressure from John, on a Hofner President bass and joined The Quarry Men/Johnny And The Moondogs. (Sutcliffe couldn’t even play the guitar and he was visibly not interested in changing that) Following Buddy Hollys Band “The Crickets” (Die Heuschrecken) John contrived “The Beetles” (Die Käfer). It was Stu who invented the name The Beatles which evolved to The Silver Beetles, The Silver Beatles and finally to The Beatles.

Later, Sutcliffe was known as the “5th Beatle”.

Cynthia Powell:

She was John’s girlfriend and later they got married. They met in 1958 at the Liverpool College of Art.

It seems as though the Lennons' romance was an unbalanced one. Right from the beginning, it was Cynthia who was in love with John. She seems to have been aroused by his rebellious quality which was in contrast to her middle class snobiness. She pursued him and eventually won him, but it always appeared that he would cast her aside for things that were more important to him. Her love seems to have blinded her from much of his behavior. Until the very end, she tried to find out “what made him tick”.

“The Cavern”:

This Jazz-Club became famous because it was the first location the Beatles played in regularly.

Hamburg (1960 – 1963)

In August 1960, Drummer Pete Best joins the group, now known as simply the Beatles. He accompanies the band to Hamburg where, over five visits between now and December 1962, the group hones its sound at the Indra, Kaiserkeller, Top Ten and Star clubs.

Astrid Kirchherr:
In 1960, Astrid Kirchherr met the Beatles for the first time on their visit to Hamburg. After becoming close friends with this unknown band, she began to do photographic studies of the members she eventually grew to love them.
Included were impressive group photographs and individual pictures of The Beatles in their early days The band still included Pete Best and Stuart Sutcliffe.

After falling in love with Astrid, Stuart left the group to follow his dream of becoming an artist.

She and her friends are also said to have inspired the famous Beatle mop-top.
The time in Hamburg was important for the Beatles’ personal development. All became adults except George who was shipped back to Liverpool for being underage.

While the boys where in Germany, Cynthia waited everyday for letters from John. She would sit home in Liverpool, still faithful to John, while John was in Hamburg a different girl almost every week. It was often that one of the boys would get in trouble with a prostitue. They got Horst Fasher, a former German boxer, to take care of these problems and he later became their bodyguard. In Germany they met a performer named Tony Sheridan and together they made a rock and roll version of My Bonnie Lies Over The Sea, which was their first real recording single.

The Mersey Beat:

Mersey is a river in Liverpool and Beat is Rock-Music of the 60’s. Liverpools fast growing music scene needet to have a platform to present the ideas and musical products that had been developed by a lot of bands from Liverpool.

The journal “Mersey Beat” was founded by a british journalist who was a close friend of John Lennon. “Mersey Beat” later was a generic term for a lot of bands from Liverpool. One being “The Swinging Blue Jeans” and they became almost as well-known as The Beatles).

More than 350 bands had existed in the Mersey-Area in 1961. John’s short-stories, texts and paintings, which where very original and quite funny, had often been printed. His work was surreal and not just an ordinary copy of the texts of american “Beat-Poets”.

First Steps (1961 – 1963)

The triumph of The Beatles, which finally solidified its lineup of John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr was emblematic of the cultural change that was the '60s. They started off as clean-cut pop stars Though the truth was something a bit more complicated, they grew into increasingly complex artists with far ranging interests in music, art, fashion and helped shape the tastes of a generation.

Brian Epstein:

Brian Epstein is the man who discovered the Beatles. He guided them to mega-stardom and made them the most successful popular artists of this century. Without Brian, the Beatles as we've come to know them today, simply wouldn't have happened. But the man who did so much for the Beatles, dying tragically in 1967, has become in recent years a comparatively forgotten man.

Brian changed the Beatles' appearance to more professional suits and urged them not to smoke or swear on stage.

Ringo Starr joins the Band

Ringo Starr, originally Rings Starkey, was a drummer that sometimes sat in for Pete when he didn't show up for a gig. His love of wearing rings evolved into his new stagename. Ringo was not the first choice, but when it came down to it, he was just a better drummer than the others.

1st marriage

John married his pregnant girlfriend Cynthia.


The Beatles first number one single, recorded at Abbey Road Studios, London was Please Please Me.

Recorded in between a cup of tea and a cigarette, this album is raw yet dazzling. Here were four lads, highly experienced on stage, but with little or no idea of what a recording studio was like. They were subtley marshalled by the much respected George Martin to deliver an entire album that was exactly what the fans wanted, but was still a surprise. Things were never as simple as this again, yet the genius is there - for example, John Lennon's unmatchable rasping on 'Twist And Shout' or Paul McCartney's graceful ease in singing 'I Saw Her Standing There'.

Everything went uphill from then on. They continued to make music that almost always hit the top of the charts.

Yeah Yeah Yeah (1963 – 1965)

They also made movies to promote their music. Their first movie was A Hard Day's Night in 1964. (The title was taken from something Ringo had said after a particularly long recording session.

Following A Hard Day's Night was another hit movie in 1965, starring the Beatles, called Help!

Magic Mystery Tour in 1967, The Beatles next movie, was their directial debut. This movie was considered by the critics considered by the critics Beatles one failure. In thier 1968 animated cartoon called Yellow Submarine, the Bealtes didn't really have much to do except to record about half a dozen songs.


The Beatles were a mystical happening that many people still don't understand.

Phenomenoligists had a ball in 1964 with Beatlemania, a generally harmless form of madness which came from Britain in 1963. They became the target of such adoration by their fans that they had to cancel all one-night bookings because of riots in early 1964. Beatlemania had reached unbelievable proportions in England.

Someone wrote and stating “The Beatles couldn’t hear themselves singing because of all the screaming fans”. The Beatles wanted everyone to enjoy their music so they stopped performing at concerts, and spent more Time at recordings. Increasingly, the band wanted to spend more time living their lives. When they toured, they performed the concert, fled from screaming fans, then spent hours secluded in their hotel room until another performance. The next three years they spent composing hit songs in the studio and living the normal lives they wanted to.


John later said that he had written his best songs together with Paul. Sometimes they had a lot of fun writing songs, but when they had to work on an album they wrote songs for just that and for them, it was quite ordinary work.


The Beatles received their MBE (Members of the British Empire) medals from the Queen. It is alleged that they were smoking a joint in the bathroom of Buckingham Palace.

Turning Point (1966 – 1967)


The birth of psychedelic music is difficult to pinpoint. Some suggest it was the logical result of an increasing appreciation for and ingestion of psychoactive substances and a desire to emulate their effects in sound. Others regard it as a musical rebellion in keeping with the cultural upheaval of the 60’s. Still others might limit its origin to a growing interest in studio experimentation, led by such artists as the Beatles and the Beach Boys.

Inspired by his experiences with LSD, John Lennon’s compositions display this move in particular, especially "I’m Only Sleeping" (featuring backward guitar parts), "She Said She Said" (inspired by a conversation with Henry Fonda while he was tripping), and the enlightening "Tomorrow Never Knows". The psychedelic vision evident on Revolver was given full reign on 1967’s Sgt. Pepper’s.

Among the people on the cover of "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" are Stuart Sutcliffe, Laurel and Hardy, Marilyn Monroe, Karl Marx, boxer Sonny Liston, Bob Dylan, Lenny Bruce and Shirley Temple. Shirley had visited the Beatles in their dressing room backstage at a San Francisco concert in 1964.

It is said when the Beatles requested her permission to use her image on the cover of the album, she was the only celebrity who insisted upon hearing the disc before granting permission.

John also wanted to add pictures of Hitler and Jesus to the cover but in the end, the Beatles’ label was against that idea – John’s “idols” – well, in a quite ironic way – had been banned.

John’s Jesus-Christ-Comparison:

John’s famous expression: "We are more famous than Jesus Christ" said in the interview of the "Evening Standard"on March 4, 1966 caused a scandal.

How I won the war:

is a ridiculous and absurd anti-war epic.

John plays Admiral Gripwead, a guy who should built um a cricket court in the middle of the desert.

1966 – last live concerts

Yoko Ono was an avantgarde artist and John’s second wife.

Two Virgins: was recorded in 1968 at John's home in Kenwood, England.

John Lennon: "It was midnight when we started 'Two Virgins,' it was dawn when we finished, and then we made love at dawn. It was very beautiful”. (The single was released with a notorious nude cover shot of the couple).

Hare Krishna

In September 1969 Srila Prabhupada, the founder of the Hare Krishna movement, arrived as a house guest at Tittenhurst Park, John Lennon's estate in England. 1969 was for John Lennon a year of intense search for social and personal liberation. He had already been to the Maharishi (to India) and later would enter primal therapy and left-wing politics. He was in a major transitional period; he had married Yoko in March.

Dissociation from the Beatles:

For John Lennon, being a Beatle simply wasn't enough. Prior to his rise to fame with the Fab Four (and that of his contemporaries, such as Bob Dylan), the role of pop star still fell within the confines of straight society. (Elvis was a rebel, perhaps, but he still served his hitch in the U.S. Army.) Lennon, Dylan, and other like-minded musicians of the '60s spun that notion on its head, using their fame as a platform for social and political change — to promote world peace and to question generally accepted mores. Lennon did this through his work as a sharp-tongued but pop-savvy songwriter, visual artist, and absurdist poet, as well as through his life, particularly after he met avant-garde artist Yoko Ono, with whom he would spend the rest of his tragically shortened life. John and Paul – former best friends - became rivals and an in a way enenies.

Brian Epstein’s death:

In August 1967, Beatle’s manager Brian Epstein committed suicide.

The Beatles where totally shocked. Brian ran their hole business, they had no idea about organizing their money.

Lennon: "After Brian died, we collapsed; We broke up and that was the disintegration."

Break Up (1967 – 1968)


After Brian Epstein died, the Beatle’s Firm “Apple” started to expand into music publishing, signing new artists, sponsoring inventors, and generally putting into practice the principal of making business fun.
John’s comment on Apple in an interview with J.R. Flippo, an international journalist who focused very much on the Beatle’s music:

(...) John Lennon later told me that Apple was in reality a product of management. "See", John said, "one thing people never knew was that Apple was not our idea and was certainly never Paul's idea, as he has gone on about. Apple was presented to us as a reality by the Epsteins in '67 before Brian died. Brian and his furniture salesman brother Clive. And they hadn't the slightest fucking idea what they were doing. It was really just a loony tax scheme in the end. They said we had all this cash about to come in and the only way around paying the taxes was to invest in businesses. But we never would have come up with the notion of running a clothes store. The Beatles pushing rags? Right. Right. No, it was pure and simple a tax kite. Our incomes would be hidden inside Apple. Then the money would be moved around" (...).

With Apple, John and the other Beatles lost a lot of money because of wrong management.


Lennon split with his wife. Cynthia afterwards was almost inseparable from Ono. On March 20, 1969, the couple was married in Gibraltar and for their honeymoon, they staged a "Bed-In for Peace" at the Amsterdam, Netherlands, Hilton. They continued the event in Montreal, during which they recorded the chant-heavy "Give Peace a Chance" with help from Timothy Leary, Tommy Smothers, and a group of Hare Krishnas. (Lennon told the story of his marriage and the bed-ins on The Beatles tune "The Ballad of John and Yoko.") Lennon recorded other albums with Ono, including Unfinished Music No. 2: Life With the Lions, and Live Peace in Toronto 1969, a live jam session featuring Eric Clapton on guitar. Yoko's influence on John, and his love for her, was enough to lead him to change his middle name to Ono (John Ono Lennon).

Break Up

In 1970, Paul McCartney announced that The Beatles had broken up. In fact, John had announced his intentions to the group some months earlier, but a moratorium had been placed on leaking the news until various legal matters could be resolved. John saw Paul's announcement as opportunism (since it coincided with the release of the "cute" Beatle's debut solo album), and the breakup left deeper scars than it otherwise might have.

The End (1969-1970)

Let It Be

On January 30th, 1969, the Beatles gathered on the rooftop of Apple headquarters in London to record music for the film, “Let It Be”. It was to be the last time the Beatles performed in concert together. Although recorded before Abbey Road, Let It Be was the last release from the Beatles to include new material. Perhaps it is the great sadness of the performance being their last that clouds the music of Let It Be. While the album contains certified hits like "The Long and Winding Road," "Let It Be" and "Get Back," the album is sealed with melancholy and disillusionment. The Beatles were separating, going in different directions, and no longer behaved like the super-group they once were. This point is even illustrated on the cover of Let It Be: four separate photos grouped together, with each member looking in a different direction. Long thought of as one of the less accomplished Beatles albums, Let it Be deserves a second spin. After all, it is still a Beatles album, and an under-rated one at that.

Peace Campaigns:

Bed In:

John Lennon and Yoko Ono were married on Gibraltar on 20 March 1969. For their honeymoon, they held their first "Bed-in for Peace" in the presidential suite of the Amsterdam Hilton. In May they attempted to continue their bed-in in the US, but when the authorities banned them from entering because of their arrest on drug charges the year before, their "bed-in" resumed in Montreal. That May, in their suite at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel, they recorded Give Peace A Chance.

Give Peace A Chance

The song was developed during the famous BED-IN. The BED-IN was John’s and Yoko’s honeymoon. They stayed in bed for more than a week and talked about peace to everybody who came along!

Give Peace a Chance is the first single of the so-called Plastic Ono Band. This band was founded by John Lennon after his break-up with the Beatles.

The Band was not something you would normally call a band, it was an idea or a concept designed by Lennon. Give Peace a chance was a project by a rabbi , a drug-pope, Joko Ono, an entertainer and some members of an indian group of religion. The names of the participating artists are written down in the last part of the Song.

The song title became a slogan for the followers of the peace-movement in the 60’s.

Ev'rybody's talkin' 'bout Bagism, Shagism, Dragism, Madism,
Ragism, Tagism This-ism, that-ism, ism ism ism
All we are saying is give peace a chance
All we are saying is give peace a chance

(C'mon) Ev'rybody's talkin' 'bout Minister, Sinister, Banisters and Canisters,
Bishops, Fishops, Rabbis, and Pop Eyes, Bye bye, Bye byes
All we are saying is give peace a chance
All we are saying is give peace a chance

(Let me tell you now) Ev'rybody's talkin' 'bout Revolution, Evolution, Masturbation,
Flagellation, Regulation, Integrations, mediations, United Nations, congratulations
All we are saying is give peace a chance
All we are saying is give peace a chance

Ev'rybody's talkin' 'bout John and Yoko, Timmy Leary, Rosemary, Tommy Smothers,
Bobby Dylan, Tommy Cooper, Derek Taylor, Norman Mailer, Alan Ginsberg,
Hare Krishna Hare Hare Krishna
All we are saying is give peace a chance
All we are saying is give peace a chance

The song was quite revolutionary at that time because topics like masturbation were still tabu and making fun of the government/church etc. was quite unusual – John Lennon’s play with language was the most important factor for the success of this song.

Over 30 years have come and gone and while some people say John and Yoko were foolish and childish and their “bed-in for peace and love” in 1969 in Montreal was a cliché for all that was goofy about the "sixties".

Abbey Road – The Beatles’ last album

Songs like Come Together (1st song) and The End (ironically and definitely the last song!) and George Harrisons’ song “Something” (with the participation of Frank Sinatra) became world-famous.

New Beginning (1970 – 1971)

John's first true solo album was 1970's John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band, which was made while he and Yoko were undergoing primal scream therapy under the direction of Dr. Arthur Janov. The effects of Janov's let-it-out theories were audible on songs like "Mother," a dark and disturbing paean to John’s lost parents. Very much in another direction was Imagine, featuring the hymn-like title track and other songs that were more in line with Lennon's Beatles recordings. That record went to No. 1.


The video of the making of Imagine is called GIMME SOME TRUTH - THE MAKING OF JOHN LENNON's IMAGINE ALBUM.

This documentary promises to take us behind-the-scenes of the creative process that took place at John's home recording studio in Ascot, England during the recording sessions.


Imagine is John’s most important and well-known album. He recorded it within 7 days!

Later, a book with the same title had been written

( New York)

New York (1971-1973)

John and Yoko had recorded anthems like "Power to the People" and commiserated with leftist figures such as Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin. He had also (with Yoko) recorded Sometime in New York City (1972), a largely political album that included songs like "Woman Is the Nigger of the World." (this song attracted attention!).

Much of Lennon's time in the mid-'70s was diverted by the U.S. Immigration Department's prolonged effort to deport him for a past drug arrest and for supposed subversive activities. Ultimately, he won permanent resident status.

Left wing sympathies dtv Portrait, 126 (german)

Lost Weekend (1973 –1975) and Clean Up Time (1975 – 1980)

In 1974 Lennon separated from Yoko Ono, relocating to Los Angeles. For the next two years Lennon became heavily involved in drugs, and became a frequent attendee of celebrity parties and wild night clubs. Through the party circuit Lennon developed a friendship with Elton John, with whom he co-wrote the song "Whatever Gets You Through the Night," Lennon's 1974 No. 1 comeback. The single was featured on the album, Walls and Bridges (which also reached No. 1). On Thanksgiving night, Lennon joined John onstage at Madison Square Garden, a legendary performance which turned out to be Lennon's last public concert.

Lennon's marriage to Ono had its phases and stages, and for a time the couple separated, leading to Lennon's notorious "lost weekend," which was spent in an alcoholic haze. They reunited, though, and on Oct. 9, 1975, Lennon's 35th birthday, Yoko gave birth to Sean Ono Lennon.

Thus began the "house-husband" phase of John's life, during which he doted on Sean and turned his business affairs over to Yoko.

Real Love - The Drawings for Sean:

The book's description is just what the title implies. John's drawings for his then-very young son, Sean Lennon. Yoko writes in her introduction to this book that John proudly framed all of Sean's drawings. Eventually, John and Sean spent time drawing together. Yoko said the time that John and Sean spent together drawing is "how Sean learned the fun of drawing, the fun of doing things with his dad, and the fun of life”.

He didn't record and spent almost the entire period secluded from his fans and the world. Not until 1980, when he and Ono signed a contract with record mogul David Geffen's new eponymous label did Lennon return to the studio for the sessions that would become Double Fantasy (1980).

The album was released in November and rocketed to No. 1, thanks in part to the single "(Just Like) Starting Over." On Dec. 8, John and Yoko were returning home from a recording session when Mark David Chapman, a disturbed fan to whom Lennon had given an autograph only hours earlier, shot and killed the ex-Beatle. He was pronounced dead on arrival at New York's Roosevelt Hospital.

Some see Lennon's solo work as slight and ineffectual compared with his years as a Beatle. Surely it was for the most part wildly different, daring, and frighteningly honest. In that regard, his solo years were ultimately a success. John Lennon was interested in being an artist, not just a pop star, and at his best ("Imagine," "Jealous Guy," "Mother," "(Just Like) Starting Over") he was both.

Death and Grief

John’s death was a considerable loss to humanity when you consider how many people he touched with his message of peace and love and the importance of following your dreams.

The murderer, mentally ill Mark David Chapman, thought that he was a character from J. D. Salinger's famous/infamous book 'The Catcher in the Rye'. Leading up to the murder Chapman went through a series of scene re-enactments, and he also performed a satanic rite to give him 'strength' after his first murder attempt failed.

In the years following Lennon's death, his cult only grew. During the mid-'80s Capitol released several albums of unreleased songs, including 1985's Milk and Honey and a recording of Lennon's performance at a 1972 benefit concert, among others. In the ultimate exploitation of Lennon rarities, in 1995 and '96 the remaining Beatles recorded music over two "new" Lennon home demos from the late '70s; "Real Love" and "Free As a Bird." These tracks appeared on the 1996 Beatles Anthology albums as "new Beatles songs."