This Day in Music History: 1940 – John Lennon is Born

John Winston Ono Lennon MBE (born John Winston Lennon; 9 October 1940 – 8 December 1980) was an English singer and songwriter who rose to worldwide fame as a co-founder of the band the Beatles, the most commercially successful band in the history of popular music. With fellow member Paul McCartney, he formed a celebrated songwriting partnership.

Lennon’s solo album sales in the United States exceeded 14 million and, as writer, co-writer, or performer, he is responsible for 25 number-one singles on the US Hot 100 chart. In 2002, a BBC poll on the 100 Greatest Britons voted him eighth and, in 2008, Rolling Stone ranked him the fifth-greatest singer of all time. He was posthumously inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1987 and into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame twice, as a member of the Beatles in 1988 and as a solo artist in 1994.

When John was 11 years old he often visited his aunt, where she played him Elvis Presley records, taught him the banjo, and showed him how to play “Ain’t That a Shame” by Fats Domino. He regularly visited his cousin, Stanley Parkes, who lived in Fleetwood. Seven years Lennon’s senior, Parkes took him on trips and to local cinemas. During the school holidays, Parkes often visited Lennon with Leila Harvey, another cousin, often travelling to Blackpool two or three times a week to watch shows. They would visit the Blackpool Tower Circus and see artists such as Dickie Valentine, Arthur Askey, Max Bygraves and Joe Loss, with Parkes recalling that Lennon particularly liked George Formby. His mother bought him his first guitar in 1956, an inexpensive Gallotone Champion. His Aunt was not supportive of his musical aspirations. She hoped he would grow bored with music, often telling him, “The guitar’s all very well, John, but you’ll never make a living out of it”.

At age 15, Lennon formed the skiffle group, the Quarrymen. Named after Quarry Bank High School, the group was established by him in September 1956. By the summer of 1957, the Quarrymen played a “spirited set of songs” made up of half skiffle and half rock and roll. Lennon first met Paul McCartney at the Quarrymen’s second performance, held in Woolton on 6 July at the St. Peter’s Church garden fête, after which he asked McCartney to join the band. In the 1960s the Quarrymen, evolved into the Beatles. When the group disbanded in 1970, Lennon embarked on a solo career that produced the critically acclaimed albums John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band and Imagine, and iconic songs such as “Give Peace a Chance”, “Working Class Hero”, and “Imagine”. After his marriage to Yoko Ono in 1969, he changed his name to John Ono Lennon. Lennon disengaged himself from the music business in 1975 to raise his infant son Sean, but re-emerged with Ono in 1980 with the new album Double Fantasy. He was murdered three weeks after its release.

Lennon revealed a rebellious nature and acerbic wit in his music, writing and drawings, on film and in interviews. Controversial through his political and peace activism, he moved to Manhattan in 1971, where his criticism of the Vietnam War resulted in a lengthy attempt by Richard Nixon’s administration to deport him, while some of his songs were adopted as anthems by the anti-war movement and the larger counterculture.

 

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