One of the founding members of the historically influential rock band the Beatles, John Lennon was a singer, songwriter, writer, artist, and peace activist who, in his forty years on earth, became a legend. John Winston Lennon was born on October 9, 1940, in Liverpool, England, during a World War II German air raid. His father, Alfred Lennon, was a merchant seaman in the war and was rarely at home with his wife, Julia, and their infant son. Complicated dissension between his parents resulted in John’s living with his mother’s sister, Mimi Smith, and her husband, George, for the majority of his childhood, although his mother visited almost every day and remained an integral part of his life. (Alfred left when John was five and didn’t reappear in his life for another twenty years.) It was Julia who bought John his first guitar in 1957, taught him to play the banjo, and introduced him to American rock-and-roll records. Her death on July 15, 1958, after being hit by a car, devastated John, who was then seventeen.
John was a brilliant and witty, but undisciplined student at the Liverpool College of Art after graduating from Quarry Bank High School, and he dropped out before his senior year. He and his future wife, Cynthia Powell, met at Liverpool College in
1957 and were married August 23, 1962, shortly after she discovered that she was pregnant with their son, Julian, who was born on April 8, 1963.
In March 1957 John started a band called the Quarrymen. At their second concert, July 6, 1957, John met a young singer and musician named Paul McCartney and invited him to join the group. John and Paul began writing songs together, and Paul convinced John to let fourteen-year-old George Harrison play lead guitar for the band; Stuart Sutcliffe, a friend of John’s from art school, joined in as the Quarrymen’s bassist. A series of band name changes followed, finally resulting in unanimous agreement on “The Beatles.” The band achieved some popularity at a variety of clubs in Liverpool and in Hamburg, Germany. But not until they performed at the Cavern Club in Liverpool on November 9, 1961, after Stuart Sutcliffe had left the group and subsequently died and drummer Pete Best had been replaced by Ringo Starr, did the historic lightning-in-a-bottle phenomenon of the Beatles take shape. Record-store owner Brian Epstein saw the performance and convinced them to let him manage them, and his instincts effectively overcame his lack of experience. On May 9, 1962, Epstein successfully convinced producer George Martin to sign the Beatles to EMI, and their first album Please Please Me promptly became the number-one album in England.
By January 1964 the Beatles’ second album, Introducing . . . the Beatles, reached number one in America, and John, Paul, George, and Ringo “crossed the pond” for their legendary appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show, which catapulted them to international superstardom and triggered what came to be known as the “British Invasion”: the arrival of the Beatles and such other English rock bands as the Rolling Stones, the Animals, the Kinks, the Dave Clark Five, Herman’s Hermits, and many more.
The Beatles shot their first film, Hard Day’s Night, in 1964, and John’s two books, In His Own Write and A Spaniard in the Works, were published that same year. The Beatles’ second film, Help!, was released in 1965, and their insane whirlwind of touring finally ended with their August 29, 1966, concert in San Francisco’s Candlestick Park.
Drug experimentation was as popular with the Beatles as it was with the youth in general in the 1960s, and its influence became apparent in their subsequent albums, particularly Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, which is widely regarded as the greatest rock album in history. Brian Epstein’s death of an accidental drug overdose on August 27, 1967, was a shocking blow to the Beatles, and after filming the critically unpopular Magical Mystery Tour and recording the soundtrack album, the Beatles traveled to India to lose themselves in the transcendental meditation craze under the instruction of the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. They returned to England to film Yellow Submarine and record The Beatles, more popularly known as The White Album.
By now there was little if anything left of John’s marriage to Cynthia, and they were divorced in 1968. In November of that year John attended an art opening at London’s Indica Gallery and met Japanese artist Yoko Ono. They became virtually inseparable from that fateful meeting on and were married in Gibraltar on March 20, 1969.
John and Yoko’s instantaneous partnership exacerbated the tension that was already plaguing the Beatles. John and Yoko created their own version of peace protests, spending days at a time in bed giving filmed interviews and forming the Plastic Ono Band to record the ultimate pacifist anthem “Give Peace a Chance.” In September 1969 John officially announced that he was leaving the Beatles, just as their last album Abbey Road was released.
In 1971, after recording his critically acclaimed Imagine album, John moved to the United States with Yoko, where they were greeted almost immediately with efforts by the Nixon administration to have them deported. The excuse was John’s conviction in England in 1968 for marijuana possession. The reality, revealed in subsequent papers as a result of the Freedom of Information Act, was that the administration wanted to punish John and Yoko for their activism against the Vietnam War. Nixon resigned in 1974, and in 1976 John was granted permanent residency in America.
John and Yoko separated in 1973, sending John on a drug-and-alcohol-hazed trip to Los Angeles, an eighteen-month “lost weekend” that ultimately resulted in their reconciliation. On John’s thirty-fifth birthday, October 9, 1975, Yoko gave birth to their son, Sean, and John made the choice to stay home in New York to be a full-time father and househusband. But in 1980 he returned to the recording studio for his hit album Double Fantasy, which included the haunting single Starting Over.
On the night of December 8, 1980, less than a month after the release of Double Fantasy, John Lennon was shot to death by deranged fan Mark Chapman in front of the Dakota in New York, where he was happily living with Yoko and Sean. The impact on the world he left behind extends far beyond his music, as everyone who was touched by his life continues to Imagine.
John is a well-loved, highly regarded force of nature here, and while we were surprised by his sudden arrival, we were euphoric to welcome him. He, on the other hand, was angry and disconsolate from the circumstances of his death when he emerged from the tunnel, and not even the embrace of his cherished mother could comfort him. He was immediately taken to the cocooning chamber by his Spirit Guide, named Gregory, where he was spiritually and emotionally healed for approximately five years in your time. By then he was thriving and excited to return to his life on the Other Side after his time at the Scanning Machine, about which he expressed his profound regret at his neglect of his first wife and particularly his son Julian. “I can offer a million reasons but no excuses,” he says. “It wasn’t for lack of love for him, that’s for sure. It had more to do with my being a self-involved, out-of-control pain in the ass for many, many years. I adore both my sons, and I’m so proud of them. And to Paul, Elton, and the other men who stepped up to be better fathers to Julian than I was, I’m deeply and eternally grateful.”
John now reflects that he had many premonitions of an early death and never believed he would live to be an old man, which might explain why he tried to “squeeze several lifetimes into one,” until Yoko, he says, “gave me the boundaries that kept me from completely self-destructing, and Sean came along to finally put my priorities in their proper place.”
His life here is, in many ways, a continuation of his last incarnation. He’s deeply spiritual and a great student of both Buddhism and Hinduism. (He and George Harrison are often seen meditating and taking long, pensive walks together, now that George is Home as well.) He’s brilliantly witty and continues writing books for his own amusement. He continues performing and writing music, often collaborating with his friend Harry Nilsson. He prefers living simply, his “house” consisting of nothing but a modest bedroom with what I’m told is an extraordinary video and audio system. He’s invariably barefoot and dressed in robes. And his passionate pursuit of peace on earth, which existed long before his most recent incarnation and will continue until it’s accomplished, is expressed through his very popular lecture series and valued participation in an ongoing peace congress of former world leaders. “We infuse our solutions constantly,” John says, “but they can’t be received by small, closed minds.”