John Lennon

John Winston Lennon was born on October 9, 1940 in the port of Liverpool. In 1938, his mother, the fun-loving and attractive Julia, married Alfred Lennon, whom she had known for some 11 years. During the Second World War, Alf, as he was called, joined the navy, and Julia became pregnant by another man, but gave the child up for adoption. Although Alf and Julia never divorced, neither did they ever live together. Julia lived with and had children with several different men, and Alf lived a restless nomadic life with no real contact to John.

Julia's sister Mimi and her husband George took John in, and he grew up in a safe, middle-class environment in their home on Menlove Avenue. He visited his musical mother as often as he could, and it was she who gave him his first guitar and taught him his first chords.

Despite his near-sightedness, sharp intelligence and love of reading from an early age, John was a born rebel and troublemaker, whom other children's parents did not want their offspring to play with. Nevertheless, as a distinctly alpha male, he was popular with other boys, and when, in 1956 together with some schoolmates, he formed the skiffle group the Quarrymen, he was its leader, lead singer and dominating frontman.

The meeting with the two years younger Paul McCartney at a concert with the Quarrymen in the summer of 1957 changed the both boys lives for ever. Lennon instinctively understood that the younger boy was extremely musical and also a better musician than himself - even capable of tuning a guitar! McCartney joined the group and managed to sneak his good friend George Harrison in as well. McCartney had already written a few songs by then, which inspired Lennon to do the same.

Julia was killed in a road accident in the summer of 1958, a shock that John never recovered from, but it strengthened the relationship between him and McCartney, who had lost his own mother to cancer a couple of years before. They decided to become the songwriting duo "Lennon-McCartney", which would become one of the 20th century's best-known trademarks along with the name of their group, the Beatles. In the years 1963-1970, the Beatles were undisputedly the world's greatest and most popular rock group producing an unbroken string of hit singles and albums.

The success of the Beatles was largely down to Lennon and McCartney’s dynamic and vital songwriting, which in the beginning took place face-to-face with equal input from both. After a short time, however, they began to write individually, and it became increasingly clear who had composed what. Lennon's songs were often heavier and more rocky, but imbued with an evident expressive power. He wrote some of the group's more experimental tracks, and his lyrics had a depth McCartney's rarely did.

Some of the most important Lennon compositions are "Please Please Me", "A Hard Day's Night", "Ticket to Ride", "Help!", "Nowhere Man", "A Day in the Life", "Strawberry Fields Forever" , "I Am the Walrus", "Come Together" and "Across the Universe".

In 1969, the year before the break-up of the Beatles, he married Japanese avant-garde
artist Yoko Ono and had a successful solo career from 1970-1975. He returned after a five-year break in 1980 but was killed on December 8th of that year by a deranged fan.

Translated by Pete Westbrook