John Winston Lennon (1940-1980), is, with Paul McCartney, one of the two ringleaders and chief songwriters for The Beatles Lennon was also a solo musician, a political activist and an author. He was married first to Cynthia Lennon but left her for the Japanese artist Yoko Ono; he had always disliked his middle name and at his second marriage changed it to "Ono."
Of the four former Beatles, Lennon had perhaps the most varied recording career, often reflecting the vicissitudes of his personality. Whilst still a Beatle, Lennon and Ono recorded two albums of experimental and frequently unlistenable electronic music, "Unfinished Music volumes 1 & 2" and "Wedding Album". His first solo album of popular music was a live album recorded in 1969 (prior to the breakup of the Beatles) in Toronto. He also recorded three singles, the sing-along "Give Peace A Chance", "Cold Turkey" (about his struggles with heroin) and "Instant Karma".
Following the Beatles' split, in 1970 he released the "Plastic Ono Band" album, a raw honest record, heavily influenced by Arthur Yanoff's primal scream therapy, which Lennon had undergone previously. This was followed by "Imagine", his most successful solo album, which dealt with some of the same themes. The title track is a lovely song which has become an anthem for world harmony, but Lennon himself was later dismissive of it, claiming he had "sugar coated" his message. Certainly there is irony in Lennon, a prodigious shopper, urging his fans to imagine life with "no possessions."
Perhaps in reaction, his next album "Sometime In New York City" was loud, raucous and explicitly political, with songs about prison riots, racial and sexual relations, the British role in the sectarian troubles in Northern Ireland and his own problems in obtaining a United States Green Card. Two more albums of personal songs, and one of versions of rock and roll songs of his youth, came before 1975 when, following a brief split from Ono, he retired to concentrate on his family life.
The retirement lasted until 1980, when he and Ono produced "Double Fantasy", practically a concept album dealing with their relationship. Less than a month after its release however, Lennon was dead, shot on December 8th in front of his apartment block in New York City. In a vicious kind of irony, the two Beatles most committed to pacifism were both brutally attacked; George Harrison was stabbed by an intruder in his home two decades later.
Millions of Beatles fans had thought of John Lennon almost as a second father, an older brother, or a son. His murder touched off emotional outpourings of grief around the world, and ended the hopes of millions that the Beatles would someday reunite and stage one last world tour.