"I suppose if I had said television was more popular than Jesus, I
would have gotten away with it, but I just happened to be talking to a
friend and I used the words "Beatles" as a remote thing, not as what I
think - as Beatles, as those other Beatles like other people see us. I
just said "they" are having more influence on kids and things than
anything else, including Jesus. But I said it in that way which is the
wrong way.""- John Lennon
John Lennon was the Beatles' most committed rock & roller, their social conscience, and their slyest verbal wit. He was was an English rock musician, singer, writer, songwriter, artist, actor and peace activist who gained worldwide fame as one of the founding members of The Beatles. John Lennon along with Paul McCartney formed one of the most influential and successful songwriting partnerships and wrote some of the most popular music in rock and roll history. John Lennon revealed his rebellious nature and wit on television, in films, in books, and in press conferences and interviews. He was controversial through his work as a peace activist, artist, and author.
John Lennon was born on October 9, 1940 in Liverpool, England, during the course of a German air raid in World War II, to parents Julia and Alfred Lennon. Julia's sister, Mimi Smith, ran through the blacked out back roads to reach the hospital. A two mile trek to the hospital, she used the explosions to see where she was going. When Lennon was four years old, his parents separated and John ended up living with his Aunt Mimi. Lennon attended Quarry Bank High School, which supplied the name for his first band, a skiffle group called the Quarrymen, which he started in 1955. In the summer of 1956 John Lennon met Paul McCartney, and they began writing songs together and Paul joined the group which would eventually be known as the Beatles. McCartney introduced George Harrison to John Lennon the following year and he and art college buddy Stuart Sutcliffe also joined Lennon's band. Always in need of a drummer, the group finally settled on Pete Best in 1960. The first recording they made was Buddy Holly's That'll be the Day in mid-1958. In fact, it was Holly's group, the Crickets, that inspired the band to change its name. John Lennon would later joke that he had a vision when he was 12 years old - a man appeared on a flaming pie and said unto them "from this day on you are Beatles with an 'A.'"
The Beatles were discovered by Brian Epstein in 1961 at the Cavern Club, where they were performing on a regular basis. As their new manager, Epstein secured a record contract with EMI. With a new drummer, Ringo Starr, and George Martin as producer, the group released their first single, Love Me Do in October 1962. It peaked on the British charts at number 17. Lennon married Cynthia Powell in August 1962 and they had a son together who they called Julian, named after John's mother. Cynthia had to keep a very low profile during Beatlemania. In 1964, The Beatles became the first band to break out big in the United States, beginning with their appearance on TV's The Ed Sullivan Show on February 9, 1964. Beatlemania launched a "British Invasion"' of rock bands into the U.S., which included The Rolling Stones and The Kinks. After 'Sullivan,' The Beatles returned to Britain to film their first movie, A Hard Day's Night and prepare for their first world tour.
While in the Beatles, John Lennon displayed an outspokenness that immersed the band in controversy and helped redefine the rules of acceptable behavior for rock stars. He famously remarked in 1965 that the Beatles were "more popular than Jesus", a statement that was more an observation than a boast, but that resulted in the band's records being burned and removed from radio station playlists in the U.S. He criticized America's involvement in Vietnam, and, as the Sixties progressed, John Lennon became an increasingly important symbol of the burgeoning counterculture. John Lennon married Japanese avant-garde artist Yoko Ono, whom he had met at the Indica Gallery, in November 1966. Mixed with artistic disagreements between the group, John and Yoko's artist partnership caused further tensions within the Beatles. Together John and Yoko invented a form of peace protest by staying in bed while being filmed and interviewed, and the single recorded under the name of The Plastic Ono Band, Give Peace a Chance (1969), became the national anthem for pacifists. John Lennon left The Beatles in September 1969, just after the group completed recording Abbey Road., and they officially disbanded in 1970.
After the breakup of the Beatles in 1970 that the figure the world now recognizes as "John Lennon" truly came into being. John Lennon went his way and he tried to send out his message out clearer. Plastic Ono Band, the first solo album he made after leaving the Beatles, alternates songs that are so emotionally raw that to this day they are difficult to listen to with songs of extraordinary beauty and simplicity. Gripped by his immersion in primal-scream therapy, which encouraged its practitioners to re-experience their most profound psychic injuries, Lennon sought in such songs as "Mother" and "God" to confront and strip away the traumas that had afflicted his life since childhood. He followed up with Imagine. in 1971. The album crystallized his dream for the world and his idealism. Imagine was the most commercially successful and critically acclaimed of all John Lennon's post-Beatles efforts. The title track was later listed as the third all-time best song by Rolling Stone magazine. Paul had written some songs after the Beatles broke up with hidden messages, which upset John. In response to this John wrote, "How do you sleep?" and released this also on the Imagine album. Later, the former songwriting duo buried the hatchet, but never formally worked together again.
John Lennon and Ono moved to the U.S. in September 1971, but were constantly threatened with deportation by the Nixon administration. John Lennon was told he was being kicked out of the country because of his 1968 marijuana conviction in Britain, but he believed the true reason was his activism against the unpopular Vietnam War. On October 9, 1975, Lennon's 35th birthday, Ono gave birth to Sean Ono Lennon. Lennon devoted his full attention to his new son and his marriage, which had recently survived an 18-month separation. For the next five years, he lived at home in nearly total seclusion, taking care of Sean while Ono ran the couple's financial affairs. In 1980, John Lennon returned to the music world with the album Double Fantasy, featuring the hit single (Just Like) Starting Over. On December 8, 1980, Lennon, returning with Ono to their Dakota apartment on New York City's Upper West Side, was shot seven times by Mark David Chapman, a 25-year-old drifter and Beatles fan to whom John Lennon had given an autograph a few hours earlier. John Lennon's death affected millions of people, record sales soared, and he continues to be admired by new generations of fans.