Lennon was also a solo musician, political activist, and author. He was married first to Cynthia Lennon but left her for the Japanese artist Yoko Ono; he had always disliked his middle name and at his second marriage changed it to "Ono." (His mother had named him after Winston Churchill.)
John Lennon lived with his mother, Julia until his father, Fred Lennon, walked out on the family. Julia Lennon decided that she was unable to care for John as well as she should and gave him to her sister Mimi, who lived nearby at 251 Menlove Avenue. Julia Lennon was killed when she was struck by a car driven by an off duty police officer when John was just 16 years old. Lennon's aunt Mimi was able to get John accepted into the Liverpool College of Art by showing them some of his drawings. John grew to hate art school and became increasingly interested in music and singers like Elvis Presley and Buddy Holly. Eventually, in the late 1950s, Lennon formed his own skiffle group called The Quarry Men, which later became The Beatles.
Of the four former Beatles, Lennon had perhaps the most varied recording career, often reflecting the vicissitudes of his personality. Whilst still a Beatle, Lennon and Ono recorded two albums of experimental and frequently unlistenable electronic music, Unfinished Music volumes 1 & 2 and Wedding Album. His first 'solo' album of popular music was Live Peace In Toronto, recorded in 1969 (prior to the breakup of the Beatles) at the Rock 'n' Roll Festival in Toronto with a Plastic Ono Band including Eric Clapton and Klaus Voormann. He also recorded three singles in his initial solo phase, the sing-along "Give Peace A Chance", "Cold Turkey" (about his struggles with heroin) and "Instant Karma".
Following the Beatles' split in 1970, he released the Plastic Ono Band album, a raw, honest record, heavily influenced by Arthur Yanoff[?]'s primal scream therapy, which Lennon had undergone previously. This was followed by Imagine , his most successful solo album, which dealt with some of the same themes. The title track is a lovely song which has become an anthem for world harmony, but Lennon himself was later dismissive of it, claiming he had "sugar coated" his message. Certainly there is irony in Lennon, a prodigious shopper, urging his fans to imagine life with "no possessions."
Perhaps in reaction, his next album Sometime In New York City was loud, raucous and explicitly political, with songs about prison riots, racial and sexual relations, the British role in the sectarian troubles in Northern Ireland and his own problems in obtaining a United States Green Card[?]. Two more albums of personal songs, Mind Games and Walls And Bridges[?], and one of versions of rock and roll songs of his youth, came before 1975 when, following a fourteen month split from Ono, he retired to concentrate on his family life.
The retirement lasted until 1980, when he and Ono produced Double Fantasy[?], practically a concept album dealing with their relationship. Less than a month after its release, however, Lennon was shot dead on the night of December the 8th, 1980, by Mark David Chapman[?], in front of his apartment block in New York City. In a vicious kind of irony, the two Beatles most committed to pacifism were both brutally attacked; George Harrison was stabbed by an intruder in his home two decades later.
Millions of Beatles fans had thought of John Lennon almost as a second father, an older brother, or a son. His murder touched off emotional outpourings of grief around the world - some fans reportedly commited suicide upon hearing the news and it ended the hopes of millions that the Beatles would someday reunite and stage one last world tour.
In March, 2002, his native city, Liverpool, honoured him by naming their airport "Liverpool John Lennon Airport (http://www.liverpooljohnlennonairport.com/)", and adopting as their motto a line from his song "Imagine", "above us only sky".
The statement was part of a two page interview that went virtually unnoticed in Britain. In July of that year, Lennon's words were reprinted in the United States fan magazine Datebook[?], leading to a backlash by conservative religious groups mainly in the rural South and Midwest states. Radio stations banned the group's recordings, and their albums and other products were burned and destroyed. Spain and the Vatican denounced Lennon's words and South Africa banned Beatles music from the radio. On August 11, 1966 Lennon held a press conference in Chicago in order to address the growing furore. He told reporters "I suppose if I had said television was more popular than Jesus, I would have gotten away with it. I'm sorry I opened my mouth. I'm not anti-God, anti-Christ, or anti-religion. I was not knocking it. I was not saying we are greater or better."