John Winston Lennon was born in Liverpool on October 9, 1940, during the
height of WWII, his father, Fred Lennon, off at sea. His father didn't
turn up again until five years later, and when he did he tried to take john
away from his mother, Julia, when she refused to restart her life with him.
Instead, he grew up in the Liverpool suburb of Woolton, with his Aunt Mimi
and Uncle George Smith, at 251 Menlove Ave, which became nicknamed Mendips.
Julia died in 1958, in an automobile accident practically in front of
Mendips, when John was seventeen.
Aunt Mimi ran a very strict household. John very quickly became bored
at school, preferring drawing and writing about his classmates and teachers
rather than his studies. Rebellious at an early age, he had a very rough
school history, sagging off from school (going AWOL from classes) and petty
stealing. His future looked bleak until Mimi got the headmaster of
the Quarrybank school to write a letter of recommendation for John to
the Liverpool Art College, because of his drawings.
It was at Liverpool Art College, in 1956, a friend played him Elvis'
Heartbreak Hotel, and John's musical interest was piqued. Then he
heard Lonnie Donegan's Rock Island Line on Radio Luxembourg, and
became part of the new Skiffle craze by begging his Aunt Mimi until she
broke down and bought him a guitar, although she forever told him he would
never get anywhere with it. He had already learned to play the harmonica
during his childhood, and he taught himself the guitar by applying banjo
chords that his mother had taught him.
In 1955 he started his own band, the Quarrymen, with
his long time pal and fellow troublemaker Pete Shotton, singing all the
popular songs, sometimes making up the words when he couldn't get them all
off the radio. Also in the Quarrymen were Nigel Walley and Ivan Vaughan,
the rest of John's gang. It was Ivan Vaughan who introduced John to his
friend, Paul McCartney, in 1957.
John married his girlfriend of four years, Cynthia Powell, in 1962.
She was pregnant with their son Julian at the time, who was born in
In His Own Words
About his time in art school, John said:
"My whole school life was a case of 'I couldn't care less'. It was just a
joke as far as I was concerned. Art was the only thing I could do, and my
headmaster told me that if I didn't go to art school I might as well give
up life. I wasn't really keen. I thought it would be a crowd of old men, but
I should make the effort and make something of myself. I stayed for five
years doing commercial art. Frankly, I found it all as bad as maths and science.
And I loathed those. The funny thing was I didn't even pass art in the GCE.
I spent the exam time doing daft cartoons. I got into art school by doing
some decent stuff and taking it along to show them."
On musical differences:
"From our earliest days in Liverpool, George and I on the one hand and Paul
on the other had different musical tastes. Paul preferred 'pop type' music and
we preferred what is now called 'underground'. This may have led to arguments,
particularly between Paul and George, but the contrast in tastes, I'm sure,
did more good than harm, musically speaking, and contributed to our success."
In this sound clip, John talks about writing with Paul in the early days.
Here, John talks about what it was like working with George Martin.
In this sound clip, John talks about being in the studio, and tells a funny story about the Sgt. Pepper's cover.
Biographical info from the book Shout! by Philip Norman,
The Love You Make by Peter Brown and Steven Gaines, and
The Beatles A To Z by Sue Weiner.