His music and his life delighted and inspired generations
Solo album sales of over 15 million
"Strawberry Fields Forever," "Let It Be" and "All You Need Is Love," - all of them bespeak the spirit of the late John Lennon, the man of peace, the man of music. And all of them too, are the result of one of the greatest collaborations in the history of modern popular music.
Winston Lennon was born October 9, 1940. He formed his first group, The Quarrymen, when he was barely 17. At almost the same time, he invited a friend, Paul McCartney, to join the group and subsequently to form a songwriting partnership with him.
In 1960, two name changes later (the first, in 1959, was to Johnny and the Moondogs) the group had become The Silver Beatles and finally, The Beatles. The band's first recordings, as a backing group of Tony Sheridan, came in 1961.
The following two years produced the beginnings of a virtually uninterrupted string of hit songs by Lennon and McCartney and records by The Beatles, including the three trailblazers, "Love Me Do," “Please Please Me" and "She Loves You."
The Beatles were perhaps the single most influential new pop entity in a generation. What came to be known as the British invasion of America was spearheaded by The Beatles, who arrived for their first triumphant visit on February 1964. They appeared during that frenetic week at Carnegie Hall in New York, in Washington, Miami and the West Coast. Later the same year, Lennon and his colleagues appeared in a Royal Command Performance before Her Majesty the Queen of London, and later still, they watched with joy as their record, "I Want to Hold Your Hand," became the biggest-selling British single in history - 15 million copies worldwide.
Even then, at the peak of The Beatles' international popularity, Lennon began broadening his own activity base by authoring a book of poetry, short stories and drawings, under the title, In His Own Write, which immediately became a best-seller.
A year later, as the parade of great Lennon and McCartney penned songs continued their assault on the international charts, The Beatles were singled out for the prized MBE (Most Excellent Order of the British Empire) award, bestowed on them, again, by the Queen.
At almost the same time the diverging Lennon skills were busy creating the score for The Beatles' first motion picture, A Hard Days Night and the songs for the "Rubber Soul" album. In addition, his second book, A Spaniard in the Works, was released almost simultaneously with the announcement of the sale of 100,000 copies of "In His Own Write." The new volume also quickly hit the best-seller lists.
While some of Lennon's biggest songs were still to come, songs like "Eleanor Rigby," and "Paperback Writer," their release in 1966 along with that of the album, Revolver, virtually coincided with the bands' last public performance in San Francisco. While other historic albums including SGT Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, and the singles, "Penny Lane," "Strawberry Fields Forever," and "All You Need Is Love" were on the way, Lennon continued his branching out to nurture the multi-faceted talent that had been there all the time.
The final time that the four members of The Beatles recorded together collectively was the session for Abbey Road's closing track "The End" on 18 August 1969. Lennon privately informed his bandmates that he was leaving the Beatles on 20 September, although it was unclear to the other members whether his departure was permanent. On 10 April 1970, McCartney issued a press release that stated he was no longer working with the group.
Lennon founded the Plastic Ono Band with wife Yoko Ono and continued producing powerful songs. Taking part in the notable event, Bed-In, in Montreal, Lennon wrote and recorded "Give Peace a Chance," an important effort that became a living symbol for the peace movement.
In the years to follow, John Lennon's impact was felt in many different levels of human endeavor, including a charity concert for the UNICEF Children's Fund. This concert inspired others to make similar efforts for UNICEF (as the Bangladesh Concert would a few years later). Special benefit concerts performed by Lennon and the Plastic Ono Band to free John Sinclair and for the widows of the Attica State Prisoners focused attention on various social issues. Lennon also once attended, as the only male present, an International Feminists meeting in Cambridge, Massachusetts. During the decade of the 1970’s too, Lennon's writing continued to be particularly fruitful, with such long-lasting works as "Imagine," making their appearance on the hit parade ("Imagine," is still considered one of the great hymns of peace).
Even after Lennon's tragic death in 1980, his spirit and his music live on. In 1985, a portion of New York City’s Central Park was christened as "Strawberry Fields," a memorial garden where fans hold vigil every year on Lennon’s birthday.