Every Friday night we smooth our way into the weekend with music, the universal language. These selections demonstrate that despite what is being passed off as art today, there is plenty of really good music available. Come along and enjoy!
Tomorrow (Saturday) would have been John Lennon’s 81st birthday.
This week, remembering…
Pop star, composer, songwriter, and recording artist. John Winston Lennon was born October 9, 1940, in Liverpool, Merseyside, NW England, UK, during a German air raid in World War II.
When he was four years old, Lennon’s parents separated and he ended up living with his Aunt Mimi. John’s father was a merchant seaman. He was not present at his son’s birth and did not see a lot of his son when he was small.
Lennon’s mother, Julia, remarried, but visited John and Mimi regularly. She taught John how to play the banjo and the piano and purchased his first guitar. John was devastated when Julia was fatally struck by a car driven by an off-duty police officer in July 1958. Her death was one of the most traumatic events in his life.
As a child, John was a prankster and he enjoyed getting in trouble. As a boy and young adult, John enjoyed drawing grotesque figures and cripples. John’s school master thought that he could go to an art school for college, since he did not get good grades in school, but had artistic talent.
At sixteen, Elvis Presley’s explosion onto the rock music scene inspired John to create the skiffle band called the ‘Quarry Men’ named after his school. Lennon met Paul McCartney at a church fete on July 6, 1957. John soon invited Paul to join the group and they eventually formed the most successful songwriting partnership in musical history.
McCartney introduced George Harrison to 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 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 (Richard Starkey), 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 wrote the group’s follow-up single, Please Please Me, inspired primarily by Roy Orbison but also fed by John’s infatuation with the pun in Bing Crosby’s famous ‘Please, lend your little ears to my please.’ The song topped the charts in Britain. The Beatles went on to become the most popular band in Britain with the release mega-hits like She Loves You and I Want To Hold Your Hand.
In 1964, The Beatles became the first band to break out big in the United States.
More from biography.com:
The magic of Beatlemania had started to lose its appeal by 1966. The group’s lives were put in danger when they were accused of snubbing the presidential family in the Philippines. Then, Lennon’s remark that ‘we’re more popular than Jesus now’ incited denunciations and Beatles record bonfires in the U.S. bible belt. The Beatles gave up touring after an August 29, 1966, concert at San Francisco’s Candlestick Park.
Then in June 1967…
The first live, satellite-enabled global television link occurred when the BBC in London featured the Beatles and others in a June 25th studio performance of the song ‘All You Need Is Love.’ The BBC’s production, which included a longer two-hour show linking 26 nations entitled Our World, had the largest television audience ever up to that point – some 350 to 400 million people. The most famous segment, however, starred the Beatles plus a 13-piece orchestra performing ‘All You Need Is Love,’ a song written by John Lennon. During the live telecast from the Beatles’ Abbey Road studios, other notable U.K. musicians, including the Rolling Stones’ Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, Eric Clapton, Marianne Faithfull, Keith Moon, Graham Nash, and others joined the Beatles, some singing along. ‘All You Need is Love’ was so well-received that the Beatles released it as a single in the U.K. in early July, rising to No. 1 on the U.K. charts and remaining there for three weeks. In the U.S., the song hit No.1 on the Billboard charts August 19th.
After the Beatles broke up, Lennon released Plastic Ono Band, with a raw, minimalist sound that followed ‘primal-scream’ therapy. In 1971, he followed up with Imagine, 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.
Peace and love, however, was not always on Lennon’s agenda. Imagine also included the track How Do You Sleep?, a nasty response to veiled messages at Lennon in some of McCartney’s solo recordings. Later, the former songwriting duo buried the hatchet, but never formally worked together again.
Lennon and Yoko Ono moved to the U.S. in September 1971, but were constantly threatened with deportation by the Nixon administration. Lennon was told he was being kicked out of the country because of his 1968 marijuana conviction in Britain. But Lennon believed the true reason was his activism against the unpopular Vietnam War. Documents later proved him correct. Two years after Nixon resigned, Lennon was granted permanent U.S. residency in 1976.
In 1972, Lennon performed at Madison Square Garden to benefit mentally handicapped children and continued to promote peace while battling to stay in the U.S.
That immigration battle took a toll on the Lennon’s marriage and in the fall of 1973, they separated. John went to Los Angeles, where he partied and took a mistress, May Pang. He still managed to release hit albums, such as Mind Games, Walls and Bridges and Rock and Roll and collaborate with David Bowie and Elton John.
In the end, Lennon realized he really loved Yoko and he could not live without her. They reconciled and she gave birth to their only child, Sean, on Lennon’s 35th birthday. John decided to leave the music business to raise his son and become a house husband.
In 1980, Lennon returned to the music world with the album Double Fantasy, featuring the hit single (Just Like) Starting Over.
Unfortunately, just a few weeks after its release…
As John Lennon was leaving The Dakota Building early on the day of December 8th, he was approached by what he thought was a fan. As usual John obliged with an autograph. Mark (Chapman) had asked him, ‘John, will you sign this?’ and John said ‘Sure, no problem.” And he signed it with Mark’s pen. After he had signed it, He asked Mark “Is that all you want?” and then he asked it again, “Is that all you want?” and Mark replied with a yes, “Yes, thank you John.”
Lennon signs autograph for Chapman.
John and Yoko then left to go to a recording session and returned later.
The scene outside New York’s spooky old Dakota apartment building on the evening of December 8, 1980, was as surreal as it was horrifying. John Lennon, probably the world’s most famous rock star, lay semiconscious, hemorrhaging from four flat-tipped bullets blasted into his back. His wife Yoko Ono held his head in her arms and screamed (just like on her early albums).
A few yards away a pudgy young man stood eerily still, peering down into a paperback book. Moments earlier he had dropped into a military firing stance – legs spread for maximum balance, two hands gripping his .38 revolver to steady his aim – and blown away the very best Beatle. Now he leafed lazily through the pages of the one novel even the most chronically stoned and voided-out ninth grader will actually read, J. D. Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye.
The Dakota doorman shouted at the shooter, Mark David Chapman, “Do you know what you’ve done?”
“I just shot John Lennon,” Chapman replied.
Chapman was denied parole for the 11th time during a hearing in August 2020.
That’s it for this week.
Have a great weekend.