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John Ono Lennon, born John Winston Lennon (1940–1980), was an English musician, abusive husband, and peace activist (go figure), best known for being member of the Beatles. He is considered the pessimist Beatle, with optimistic Sgt. Pepper, spiritual George Harrison, and Ringo. John was the most publicly political member of the Beatles, opposing the Vietnam War and promoting peace in general. For this he was hounded by the FBI, who even put music reviews of his solo work in his dossier, "Lacking Lennon's usual standards" and "Yoko can't even remain on key."
He attracted fierce criticism from conservatives and the media for, among other things, his many LSD-influenced songs, his comment that the Beatles were more popular than Jesus, appearing naked with his wife Yoko Ono on the cover of an album of bizarre sound experimentation titled Two Virgins, and the chorus of "Ballad of John and Yoko", with its shocking (at the time) reference to Christ and crucifixion .
Opinions are divided over whether he was a political/social revolutionary or just a dick, but as with most things the truth probably lies somewhere in the middle, which is to say, he was both.
Lennon spoke out against the Vietnam War in particular and war in general. This is pretty apparent by songs such as Give Peace a Chance and Imagine. He also starred in a movie (
shamelessly plugged featured in the song A Day in the Life[note 1].) How I Won The War based on an earlier novel by Patrick Ryan about the pointlessness of armed conflict.
More popular than Jesus
“”Christianity will go. It will vanish and shrink. I needn't argue with that; I'm right and I will be proved right. We're more popular than Jesus now; I don't know which will go first -- rock'n'roll or Christianity. Jesus was alright, but his disciples were thick and ordinary. It's them twisting it that ruins it for me.
Lennon said in 1966 that The Beatles were "more popular than Jesus." The remark went unnoticed in UK, but sparked gigantic controversy in Jesusland, resulting in public burnings of Beatles' records, ban of Beatles' songs on the radio and public demonstrations. It remains in history as a monument to how ... eccentric America is.
Notable compositions and/or recordings
With the Beatles
- In My Life
- Norwegian Wood
- Tomorrow Never Knows
- Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds
- A Day in the Life
- Strawberry Fields Forever
- I Am the Walrus
- All You Need Is Love
- Happiness Is a Warm Gun
- Everybody's Got Something to Hide Except For Me and My Monkey
- Revolution #9 (unfortunately)
- Come Together
John repeatedly cheated on his first wife Cynthia, starting up with Yoko Ono who became his second wife while he was still with Cynthia; when married to Ono he had a 18-month affair with their assistant May Pang. He admitted to hitting women including Cynthia in a 1980 interview, saying, "I used to be cruel to my woman, and physically – any woman. I was a hitter. I couldn't express myself and I hit." He also hit his son Julian when he was a boy for trivial reasons such as bad table manners, according to their housekeeper.
"Imagine no possessions"
He wrote the above words in "Imagine", but Elton John penned an alternative version about John and Yoko's acquisitiveness: "Imagine six apartments, it isn’t hard to do, one is full of fur coats, another’s full of shoes." They owned five apartments in the Dakota building, one of New York's most exclusive addresses, used for various purposes including one for Ono's studio and for storage.
- "I saw a film today, oh boy/The English Army had just won the war/A crowd of people turned away/But I just had to look/Having read the book.
- Jann S. Wenner: The Rolling Stone Interview: John Lennon, Part II 4 February 1971
- While Nixon Campaigned, the F.B.I. Watched John Lennon New York Times, 21 September 2006
- The Ballad Of John And Yoko, LyricWiki
- You Don't Have to 'Imagine' John Lennon Beat Women and Children—It's Just a Fact, Vice, Sep 10, 2015
- Quoted in Eagles' Chris Long stirs moral debate after calling John Lennon 'a bad guy', Philly Voice, May 7, 2018
- Quoted in "More a Voyeur", Colm Tóibín, London Review of Books, Vol. 41 No. 24 · 19 December 2019, pages 3-6
- Imagine No Possessions, The Economist, 9 Dec 2010