Born as John Winston Lennon on October 9th, 1940, in Liverpool, England, little did his parents know that their son would become one of the most famous musicians of the era. John spent his childhood in a suburb of Liverpool with his aunt, as his parents had separated when he was five years old. Showing an interest in music from his early years, his mother bought him his first guitar at the age of 16, and his aspiring musical ambitions only seemed to grow.
At the age of 15,Lennon formed his first band, called the Quarrymen. It was at one of this band’s performances that he met future bandmate, Paul McCartney, who John asked to join the band. The pair later recruited George Harrison and Stuart Sutcliffe, thus composing the first Beatle line up around 1960. In its beginnings, the newly formed band took up a two-year residency in Hamburg, West Germany at the time. In 1962, they met their manager, Brian Epstein, and later replaced their drummer with Ringo Starr. Stuart Sutcliffe decided to stay in Germany and therefore the line-up of four was consolidated and remained the same throughout their career.
Over the course of the band’s career, Lennon and McCartney were the main songwriters, especially in their earlier records. The Beatles’ debut album, Please Please Me, was released in February 1963, after two successful singles, “Love Me Do” and “Please Please Me” reached top chartings. After that, a phenomenon known as “Beatlemania” swept over the U.K. (and eventually the rest of the world, following the group’s U.S. tour,) as the band rose to instant stardom and their songs played on every radio across the globe. The Beatles disbanded in 1970, due to long drawn tensions and a series of disagreements amongst its members, particularly Lennon and McCartney. During its ten-year run, the band released fourteen albums —with most of the songs co-authored by Lennon—, several films (animated and live action) as well as documents and other media. They are regarded as one of the best selling and most popular bands in the world, even to this day.
Before The Beatles’ break up, John had begun a relationship with Japanese artist Yoko Ono. Together, between 1968 and 1969, they recorded three experimental albums and formed the Plastic Ono Band in 1969. Around that time, Lennon released the single “Give Peace a Chance,” becoming the anti-Vietnam War anthem. In 1979, Lennon debuted his solo album, John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band, which was well received by the critics, but wasn’t very commercial. However, his next album, Imagine (1971,) was released to critical and commercial acclaim. The titular song, “Imagine,” is now viewed as one of his most emblematic songs.
In 1971, John and Yoko moved to New York City, where they spent the remaining years of his life. The couple were openly expressive about their anti-violence and leftist views. John then recorded Some Time in New York City (1972) in collaboration with Yoko Ono, an album plagued with political themes and views, which became a commercial failure. During this decade, he contributed to former bandmates George Harrison and Ringo Starr’s own solo records. In 1975, John released his fifth studio album, Walls and Bridges, and further collaborated with popular musicians of that time such as David Bowie and Elton John. After a five year hiatus, Lennon released the song “(Just Like) Starting Over” and later the album Double Trouble with Yoko. At the time of his death in 1980, he had enough material recorded for a sixth album (released posthumously under the name Milk and Honey in 1984.) John Lennon was struck down on December 8th, 1980, by a fan he had encountered at the entrance of the building where he lived at the time. He, unfortunately, did not survive the incident, but his memory and music still live on in the collective memory of the world.