On October 9, 1940, Julia Lennon gave birth to John Winston Lennon. His toddler years spanned the time of war-ravaged England. Some of his earliest memories would be of war – both the World War and the war between his parents. At the age of five, his parents forced him to choose between them and although he chose his father, when his mother left crying, John followed her. He did not see his father again until he was in his twenties.
He grew up living with his aunt and uncle, Mary and George Smith, and not surprisingly, he was a restless youth. Mary would play Elvis Presley records for him, and John learned to play the banjo. He was a clown and a trouble maker in school, but a creative and likable character.
In 1957, his mother bought him a used guitar, and John decided that he would become famous. His mother ridiculed the idea, and she never saw John achieve success. She died in a car accident the following year.
John went to Liverpool College of Art, but he dropped out because he could not focus. He formed a band called The Quarrymen, and met Paul McCartney at their second show. Before too long, Paul was in the band as well – playing piano. George Harrison joined the band shortly thereafter, followed in quick succession by Stuart Sutcliffe on bass. When the rest of the band left to pursue other things, John, Paul and Stuart renamed their group “The Beatles.”
Peter Best joined them as their drummer, and in 1960, the band went to Germany to play wherever they could. Stuart left the band and Paul took up the bass (an instrument he had never played before), and the band played 10 hours a day for weeks on end, in every German dive and disco they could find. Two years later, Best left the band and was replaced by Richard Starky, known to the world as Ringo Starr.
In 1970, the Beatles broke up – the single most successful collaboration in the history of popular music. They had produced some of the greatest music of their generation. For ten years, John pursued a solo career with his second wife, Yoko Ono. He continued to write amazing songs.
Just before 11:00pm on December 8, 1980, a deranged fan followed John to the Dakota, his luxury apartment building, and shot him four times in the back. The murderer, Mark David Chapman, has been in prison since 1981, and has been denied parole six times.
When John died, he was just forty years old. He left behind his ex-wife Cynthia and their son Julian, and his his current wife Yoko Ono and their son Sean.
His private world had been chaotic, troubled and tortuous. He struggled with addiction, emotional trauma, and fatigue.
He was far from perfect.
But his musical was beautiful. And he would have been seventy years old today.