John Winston Ono Lennon, MBEnote (born John Winston Lennon;note 9 October 1940 – 8 December 1980) was an English musician who gained worldwide fame as member of the revolutionary band The Beatles. His songwriting partnership with Paul McCartney remains the most successful in history.
Born in Liverpool, Lennon became involved in the skiffle craze as a teenager. In 1956, he formed his first band, the Quarrymen, which evolved into the Beatles in 1960. He was initially the group's de facto leader, a role gradually ceded to McCartney. Lennon was characterised for the rebellious nature and acerbic wit in his music on film and in interviews.
He left The Beatles in late 1969 to focus on his solo career with his wife Yoko Ono. Around this time he became notorious and controversial for his political and peace activism; his criticism of The Vietnam War resulted in a three-year attempt by the Nixon administration to deport him. In 1975, Lennon left the music business to raise his infant son Sean, before returning in 1980. At the end, on December 8, 1980, Lennon was shot dead outside the Dakota apartments in New York City shortly after completing a recording session by Loony Fan Mark David Chapman. He was 40 years old.
He ended up ranked #8 in 100 Greatest Britons. Lennon has been inducted twice into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, once each as a member of The Beatles in 1988 and as a solo artist in 1994. He is also a member of the Songwriters Hall Of Fame.
Studio and Live Discography (* = John and Yoko, ** = John Lennon):
- 1968 - Unfinished Music No. 1: Two Virgins*
- 1969 - Unfinished Music No. 2: Life with the Lions*
- 1969 - Wedding Album*
- 1969 - Live Peace In Toronto 1969*
- 1970 - John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band**
- 1971 - Imagine**
- 1972 - Some Time In New York City* note
- 1973 - Mind Games**
- 1974 - Walls And Bridges**
- 1975 - Rock 'n' Roll**
- 1980 - Double Fantasy*
- 1984 - Milk And Honey*
- 1986 - Live In New York City*
- Miscellaneous singles: "Give Peace a Chance", "Cold Turkey", "Instant Karma!", "Power to the People", "Happy Xmas (War Is Over)"
John Lennon is the Trope Namer for:
- Bigger Than Jesus, although he didn't actually say that (see below for details)
- Silly Love Songs, albeit indirectly; Paul McCartney wrote the titular song in response to a disparaging comment Lennon had made regarding the former's solo work
- Working-Class Hero
"Nobody told me there'd be tropes like these...":
- Answer Song:
- "How Do You Sleep?" from Imagine (see "The Reason You Suck" Speech below).
- "Serve Yourself", a scathing response to Bob Dylan's "Gotta Serve Somebody" from Slow Train Coming.
- Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: When Lennon returned his MBE to Buckingham Palace in 1969 (four years after receiving it with the other three Beatles), he enclosed a note giving his reasons: "I am returning this MBE in protest against Britain's involvement in the Nigeria-Biafra thing, against our support of America in Vietnam, and against 'Cold Turkey' slipping down the charts." "Cold Turkey," his most recent single, was turning in a relatively poor performance on the music charts, peaking at No. 14 in the UK and No. 30 in the U.S.
- Artistic Stimulation: Although all four Beatles used drugs of one sort or another throughout much of their group and/or solo careers, Lennon, from 1966 through 1969, indulged much more heavily than the other three put together, first becoming psychologically dependent on LSD and then, together with Yoko, becoming addicted to heroin. Although both dependencies caused him considerable suffering, they did serve (again, far more than for his bandmates) as inspiration for some of his greatest songs - most directly "Cold Turkey," essentially heroin withdrawal symptoms set to music.
- The Atoner: In the songs "Jealous Guy" and "Woman", Lennon expresses remorse for his previous treatment of the women in his life.
- Avant-Garde Music: Lennon has dabbled quite a lot in experimenting with sound, music and noises. He did this early on already, as you hear in "Rain" and "Strawberry Fields Forever," but his experiments became more prominent after he met Yoko Ono, notably on "Revolution # 9" from The White Album. His first three solo albums, Unfinished Music No. 1: Two Virgins (1968), Unfinished Music No. 2: Life with the Lions (1968) and Wedding Album (1969) are completely avant-garde sound experiments. From John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band his music actually became basic rock again, but he still dared to create tracks that had uncommercial sound experiments or very personal confessions about his relationship with Yoko."What are they doing?!?!? This Japanese witch has made him crazy, and he’s gone bananas." But all she did was take the bananas part of me out of the closet more, you know, that had been inhibited by other parts. - John, from his last interview.
- Big Applesauce: An album, a song, a famous photo.◊"There's UFOs over New York, and I ain't too surprised." — "Nobody Told Me"
- Bigger Than Jesus: The Trope Namer, although John didn't actually say it. His actual Blasphemous Boast in 1966 was a claim that the Beatles were "more popular than Jesus", which he said while being interviewed for a feature article by Maureen Cleave, an Evening Standard journalist who'd known the Beatles for several years. The resulting article passed without notice in Britain (where the decline in church attendance that he was referring to was a well-known phenomenon), and also drew no complaints when the interview was republished in the New York Times. It only landed him and his bandmates in big trouble when the quote was reprinted (out of context) in media in the more staunchly Christian and conservative American Deep South five months later.
- Book Ends: John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band opens with "Mother" and ends with "My Mummy's Dead".
- Bread, Eggs, Milk, Squick: "Nobody Told Me":"Everybody's talking and no one says a word
Everybody's making love and no one really cares
There's Nazis in the bathroom just below the stairs
Always something happening and nothing going on
There's always something cooking and nothing in the pot
They're starving back in China so finish what you got"
- Broken Record: From "John Sinclair"What else can Judge Colombo do?
Gotta, gotta, gotta, gotta,
gotta, gotta, gotta, gotta,
gotta, gotta, gotta, gotta,
gotta, gotta, gotta set him free
- The ending of "Well, Well, Well", too, well, apart from the Primal Screaming factor.
- Buffy Speak: "Mind Games"Some kind of Druid dude
Lifting the veil
- The first verse of "Power to the People" starts thusly: "Say you want a revolution/We better get it on right away!". This is a Call Back to his more skeptical take in his Beatles song "Revolution": "You say you want a revolution/Well you know/We all want to change the world."
- The "ting ting ting" of a little chiming bell that opens "(Just Like) Starting Over" on Double Fantasy is a Call Back to the heavy, doom-laden church bell that opens "Mother" on Plastic Ono Band. Lennon said in the last interview he ever gave that this was deliberate, meant to symbolise that he had come through all of his issues.
- "I was the Walrus, but now I'm John."
- "How Do You Sleep" references Sgt. Pepper, the Paul is dead theory, "Yesterday", & Paul's recent hit "Another Day".
- Christmas Songs: "Happy Xmas (War Is Over)"
- Continuity Nod: "I was the Walrus, but now, I'm John" from God.
- Cover Album: Rock 'n' Roll, which consisted of Lennon's versions of songs from the golden of early rock music.
- Crazy Jealous Guy: "Run for Your Life" (for The Beatles) and "Jealous Guy". He later regretted writing "Run for Your Life" due to the highly sexist lyrics (in which he threatens to kill a girlfriend if she's unfaithful).
- Dead Artists Are Better: He refers to the phenomenon of dead artists seeing heightened popularity in "Nobody Loves You When You're Down and Out" Everybody loves you when you're six feet in the ground
- The Dead Rise to Advertise: Encouraging us to donate to One Laptop Per Child. It's a good cause and all, but still unnerving. A "'portable' computer with built-in monitor" DID exist in John Lennon's lifetime. Two, if you count the Commodore PET. The screen size on the first one looks somewhat like the OLPC. They should have made a pun of that perhaps?
- Deadpan Snarker: The snarkiest of all the Beatles...and boy does that show a lot in interviews!
- Distinct Double Album: Some Time in New York City contains one album of new studio material and one album of live recordings.
- Falling Bass: "Mind Games"
- For Doom the Bell Tolls: An ominous tolling church bell opens "Mother", the Grief Song that opens Lennon's first solo album, Plastic Ono Band. Referenced ten years later on Double Fantasy (see Call-Back above).
- Going Cold Turkey: "Cold Turkey". Heroin withdrawal set to music.
- Greatest Hits Album:
- Shaved Fish in his lifetime. The John Lennon Collection, Lennon Legend, Power to the People: The Hits and others after his death.
- Most recently, Gimme Some Truth. Setting this one apart is being compiled and produced by Sean Lennon as his portrait of his late father, subverting "greatest hits" somewhat. Also the first Lennon compilation on vinyl since 1982.
- Grief Song:
- "Mother" and "My Mummy's Dead," which respectively open and close his album John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band. Later, his death inspired several, including his old Beatles bandmate George Harrison's "All Those Years Ago," released five months after Lennon was killed. Ringo Starr also played drums and Paul McCartney, along with Linda McCartney and Denny Laine, sing backing vocals on the single, which reached No. 2 on the U.S. Billboard chart.
- Several other artists released mourning songs for John, including Paul McCartney's "Here Today", Elton John's "Empty Garden", Joan Baez's "Sgt. Pepper's Band", Queen's "Life Is Real", and Bob Dylan's "Roll On John". Stevie Nicks says that "Edge of Seventeen" is for both Lennon and her Uncle Jonathan who had died suddenly of cancer the same week.
- Grow Old with Me: Title to one of the last songs he ever wrote. He wrote it five weeks before his assassination.
- I Am the Band:
- Lennon's Plastic Ono Band.
- Within the Beatles Lennon is also sometimes seen as the most creative, intelligent, original and innovative member. Despite the fact that Paul McCartney is an equally strong candidate for that title, save for the part that he hadn't the same badass "cool" rebel image Lennon had.
- Iconic Outfit: The green army jacket and granny glasses (whether dark or regular).
- Jesus Was Way Cool: What he really tried to talk about during his "more popular than Jesus" statement was the good Christ/bad Christian dichotomy that other famous dead people have commented on.John: Jesus was all right, but his disciples were thick and ordinary. It's them twisting it that ruins it for me.
- Lighter and Softer:
- While Imagine does have "Gimme Some Truth," "I Don't Want to Be a Soldier" and "How Do You Sleep?", that Lennon could go in a year from singing "The dream is over the dream is over" in "God" to singing "You may say I'm a dreamer but I'm not the only one" in "Imagine" suggests that he got something out of his system.
- Several years later, as mentioned above under Call-Back, the gentle bells opening his final album (released in his lifetime) Double Fantasy is a Lighter and Softer response to the ominous bells opening his first (mainstream) album. The rest of the album is generally pretty soft, though it does have a few harder songs like "I'm Losing You".
- Likes Older Women: In a rare interview with Cynthia Lennon, she stated that the reason why John ended up with Yoko (and was attracted to Alma Cogan) was because of her age. Yoko's age made her a mother figure to John, which he never had since the passing of his own mother note .
- List Song: "God" is mainly a list of things Lennon doesn't believe in.
- Live Album: Live Peace in Toronto 1969, and after his death, Live in New York City, a recording of the famous 1972 Madison Square Garden concert.
- Malicious Misnaming: Famously he refers to Bob Dylan with his birth surname Zimmerman in "God". The song also has a variation when Lennon purposely mispronounces "I Ching" ("eye ching" rather than the actual "ee ching") and "tarot" ("tarret" rather than "tarrow").
- Male Frontal Nudity: Unfinished Music No. 1: Two Virgins, which featured John and Yoko completely nude.
- Meadow Run: At the end of the "Oh Yoko!" music video. Though, they did it on a shore of the beach and referencing the famous scene from Wuthering Heights for they shout each other's names in the same fashion as the film.
- N-Word Privileges: In 1969, in the U.K., in the course of being interviewed by a Nova magazine reporter, Yoko said, "... woman is the nigger of the world"; three years later, John published the song "Woman is the Nigger of the World" (1972) - about the virtually universal exploitation of woman - proved socially and politically controversial to U.S. sensibilities. It's worth noting, though, that many prominent black entertainers of the day were among the most ardent defenders of the song.
- Posthumous Collaboration: Milk and Honey with Yoko Ono
- Precision F-Strike: Twice in "Working Class Hero".
- Protest Song: Many. Some Time in New York City, in fact, was basically an entire protest album. Lennon's strident advocacy during this period helped make Some Time in New York City a critical and commercial failure. He learned the lesson and later protest songs like "Bring on the Lucie (Freeda People)" from Mind Games work better in pop song terms.
- Pungeon Master: He was very fond of playing around with words. His books and other non-music writing practically overdose on puns.
- Real Life Writes the Plot: Lennon liked to write in the first person. As his career went on and especially after he met Yoko Ono his music became more personal and even exhibitionistic, with a lot of songs dealing with his relationship with her and his own search for truth, love and wisdom in life.
- Round Hippie Shades: One of the most noted wearers of the style, which has led to the nickname of "Lennon Specs" for them.
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech:
- "How Do You Sleep?", from 1971's Imagine, directed toward Paul McCartney at the depth of their mutual hatred. A response to Paul's "Too Many People" from Ram, released earlier the same year. (The two buried the hatchet a few years later.)
- Plastic Ono Band, to the fans, the Beatles, everyone and everything who ever crossed him, pissed him off or that he had ever believed in over the course of his life to that point.
- "Steel And Glass" from the Walls And Bridges album. Reputedly a Take That! against Allen Klein, the latter-period Beatles/Apple manager.
- Signature Instrument: From 1966 onwards, his iconic blonde Epiphone Casino, which he also played on the early John & Yoko and Plastic Ono Band albums. Sales of the Casino went up so much in the wake of the The Beatles: Get Back series that Epiphone started making Casinos in the USA for the first time in years.
- Silly Love Songs:
- The inspiration behind the Trope Namer. John criticised Paul McCartney for writing "silly love songs"... and so Paul wrote a song with that exact title.
- Not that Lennon himself was entirely immune to these. "Woman", anyone? "Dear Yoko"?
- Solo Side Project: Released four solo albums while still being a part of the Beatles.
- Special Guest: Lennon performed guitar and backing vocals on David Bowie's cover of the Beatles' "Across the Universe" and the original collaboration "Fame", both off of Young Americans. This fostered a friendship between the two artists that eventually led to Bowie covering "Imagine" at a memorial concert for Lennon following the former Beatle's 1980 murder.
- Studio Chatter: "This is it boys. Over the hill." from "Bring on the Lucie (Freda Peeple)" from Mind Games.
- Three Chords and the Truth: Plastic Ono Band.
- Title-Only Chorus: "Well Well Well"
- Word Salad Lyrics: "I Am the Walrus," "What's the New Mary Jane," "Dig a Pony", "Come Together," "Sun King," "Give Peace a Chance," the chorus to "#9 Dream." Amusingly, "I Am The Walrus" became an example of this trope solely to spite people who he felt were over-analyzing Beatles lyrics. To an extent, "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" as well.
- Working-Class Hero: Trope Namer. Ironically, "Working Class Hero" is a subversion in which the working class are duped into feeling like heroes by those with power:Keep you doped with religion and sex and TV
And you think you're so clever and classless and free
But you're still fucking peasants as far as I can see
- Wham Episode: "God":"I don't believe in Elvis
I don't believe in Zimmerman
I don't believe in Beatles
I just believe in me
Yoko and me
And that's reality"
- Young Future Famous People:
- Nowhere Boy is a film starring Aaron Johnson released in 2009 (in the U.K.; 2010 everywhere else) based on John Lennon's early life. Co-starring Thomas Sangster as Paul McCartney.
- Also Backbeat, starring Ian Hart as Hamburg-era Lennon and Stephen Dorff as his friend/bandmate Stu Sutcliffe.
- Prior to Backbeat, Hart had also played Lennon in The Hours and Times, a short film about a holiday in Spain Lennon took with Beatles manager Brian Epstein.
- The Blake and Mortimer book The Voronov Plot features a cameo of teenagers John Lennon and Paul McCartney in a scene set in 1957 Liverpool during the event they historically met in real life.