John Lennon, singer-songwriter and former Beatle, was born on this day in 1940 in Liverpool, England.
Lennon grew up with his aunt Mimi, due to his father often being away at sea, and his remarried mother often being away with her new husband. Lennon’s mother, Julia, was fatally killed in a car crash in 1958.
Lennon began his musical career when he met Paul McCartney in 1957, and they began writing songs and eventually grew their band (originally called the Quarrymen) into what would become known as The Beatles.
The Beatles were discovered by manager Brian Epstein in 1961, who got them their record contract with EMI. They replaced original drummer Pete Best with Ringo Starr, shortly before releasing their first single ‘Love Me Do’ in 1962, which hit number 17 on the British charts.
That same year, Lennon married his first wife Cynthia, with whom he had his son Julian in 1963.
In 1964, Beatlemania began in the United States, which began a wave of British rock bands hitting the charts across America. A massive string of successful albums and songs began with their first number-one single ‘I Wanna Hold Your Hand’, and they began producing their first film ‘A Hard Day’s Night’ that same year.
As the pop formula began to wear on Lennon and the rest of the group, they began to experiment with great mainstream and underground appeal. 1966’s ‘Revolver’ and 1967’s ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’ were among the first albums to hit the top of the charts, while also containing many experimental and psychedelic elements. The commercial and critical success of these albums proved to be massively influential on rock music, with ‘Sgt. Pepper’ being named the greatest album of all time by Rolling Stone Magazine.
In 1968, Lennon divorced his first wife Cynthia, and the following year, he married avant-garde artist Yoko Ono. That same year, Lennon left the group to pursue solo endeavors.
In 1970, Lennon released his first solo album ‘John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band’, which was an unexpectedly candid and acoustic direction for the previously electric and abstract songwriter. The following album ‘Imagine’ contained one of his best-known songs, the title track.
During this time, Lennon began his illustrious career of political and social protests, which caused his U.S. citizenship to be under constant scrutiny and surveillance. Lennon and Ono had their only child, Sean, in 1975.
In 1980, shortly after releasing his album ‘Double Fantasy’, Lennon was tragically shot dead outside his New York City home by Mark David Chapman. The assassination was a shock to the world, and Lennon was only 40 years old when he met his demise.
Lennon’s music, both with the Beatles and as a solo artist, still proves to be among the most popular and critically-acclaimed of all time.