John Lennon: The Life

John Lennon: The Life

by Philip Norman

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Overview

For more than a quarter century, biographer Philip Norman's internationally bestselling Shout! has been unchallenged as the definitive biography of the Beatles. Now, at last, Norman turns his formidable talent to the Beatle for whom being a Beatle was never enough. Drawing on previously untapped sources, and with unprecedented access to all the major characters, Norman presents the comprehensive and most revealing portrait of John Lennon ever published.

This masterly biography takes a fresh and penetrating look at every aspect of Lennon's much-chronicled life, including the songs that have turned him, posthumously, into a near-secular saint. In three years of research, Norman has turned up an extraordinary amount of new information about even the best-known episodes of Lennon folklore—his upbringing by his strict Aunt Mimi; his allegedly wasted school and student days; the evolution of his peerless creative partnership with Paul McCartney; his Beatle-busting love affair with a Japanese performance artist; his forays into painting and literature; his experiments with Transcendental Meditation, primal scream therapy, and drugs. The book's numerous key informants and interviewees include Sir Paul McCartney, Sir George Martin, Sean Lennon—whose moving reminiscence reveals his father as never seen before—and Yoko Ono, who speaks with sometimes shocking candor about the inner workings of her marriage to John.

“[A] haunting, mammoth, terrific piece of work.” -New York Times

Honest and unflinching, as John himself would wish, Norman gives us the whole man in all his endless contradictions—tough and cynical, hilariously funny but also naive, vulnerable and insecure—and reveals how the mother who gave him away as a toddler haunted his mind and his music for the rest of his days.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780060754020
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 09/08/2009
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 864
Sales rank: 145,250
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.90(d)

About the Author

Philip Norman is a novelist, biographer, journalist, and playwright. He is the author of the bestselling biography John Lennon: The Life and the history of The Beatles Shout!: The Beatles in Their Generation. Norman has also published biographies of Buddy Holly, the Rolling Stones, and Elton John, as well as six works of fiction and two plays, The Man That Got Away and Words of Love. He lives in London.

Read an Excerpt

Before leaving London for the Sweet Toronto Peace Festival in September 1969, John had finally made up his mind to resign from the Beatles. But the whirl of departure had left no time to break it to the other three.

On September 20, Klein called a meeting in Apple’s boardroom for the formal signing of the Capitol contract. For the first time in months that John had all his fellow Beatles on hand to hear his news. But initially he held back, confining himself to a generalized complaint about Paul’s dominance of the band since the Magical Mystery Tour album. “I didn’t write any of that except Walrus . . . ” His tone was more hurt than accusatory. “So I didn’t bother, you know, and I thought I don’t really care whether I was on or not, I convinced myself it didn’t matter, and so for a period if you didn’t invite me to be on an album personally, if you three didn’t say, ‘Write some more songs ’cause we like your work,’ I wasn’t going to fight.”

The insecurity and fatalism revealed in this outburst were surprising enough. But John did not stop there. Warming to his theme – though still wounded rather than angry – he accused Paul of always having overshadowed him, not only by writing more songs but also by inveigling the lion’s share of studio time. It was not a row, more like the airing of mutual grievances before a marriage counselor. Surprised, and not a little hurt himself, Paul conceded that he might have “come out stronger” on recent albums, but pointed out that often when they went into the studio, John would have only a couple of songs ready to record. John agreed his inertia had been a factor: “There was no point in turning ’em out – I didn’t have the energy to turn ’em out and get ’em on as well.”

Paul was all for burying hatchets and pressing forward, convinced all would be well if they could free themselves from balance sheets and office politics. “When we get in a studio, even on the worst day, I’m still playing bass, Ringo’s still drumming, we're still there, you know. . . .”

It was the cue for John’s bombshell. “He hadn’t even told me he was going to do it,” Yoko remembers. “John said, ‘You don’t seem to understand, do you? The group is over. I’m leaving’ “

“I started the band, I disbanded it. It’s as simple as that,” John himself would recollect. “I must say I felt guilty at springing it on them at such short notice. After all, I had Yoko; they only had each other.”

According to music-industry wisdom in 1969, not even the Beatles could split up and expect to continue selling records in significant quantity. It was therefore vital that no word of John’s resignation should leak out until the Abbey Road album had realized its full market potential. “Paul and Klein convinced him to keep quiet,” Yoko remembers. “We went off in the car, and he turned to me and said, ‘That’s it with the Beatles. From now on, it’s just you – okay?’ I thought, ‘My God, those three guys were the ones entertaining him for so long. Now I have to be the one to take the load.’ ”

From the Hardcover edition.

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John Lennon 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 70 reviews.
Gary_Scott More than 1 year ago
It is a shame that this is the third full Lennon bio to have appeared, simply because it is superb and I fear some potential readers may pass this one over. Philip Norman does what few Lennon/Beatles biographers manage to, he digs into the interior of this complex and interesting soul and provides an exhaustive and multi-dimensional view of the man. I am walking away from this wonderful bio [a very easy read] feeling as if I finally "know" this man I've admired for so long.

Norman seems very sensitive and insightful, and he manages to thoughtfully connect-[some]-dots of Lennon's lifetime in a way I've not encountered before. Normally the childhood & early years of a bio are ones I simply skim over; here, these chapters lay an essential foundation for the life that is to be explored. The author does a fabulous job of fleshing out Lennon's early familial years and bringing that post-war era Liverpool to life ... he does the same with the Hamburg years. Both of these are relatively under-explored and one-dimensional periods of the usual Lennon bio. What I like most about this book is that, while the Beatle years are certainly well-explored, this isn't a bio of "Beatle John." Rather, the man takes center stage while the Beatles and their music are presented as simply a part of an overall life.

There are a few areas skimped over or under-explored, however. The leap from Cavern Club regulars to global stars seems to happen suddenly, without much explanation or exploration. Likewise, I missed any seed-planting related to John's massive leap from "semi-violent Beatle John" to "hippy peace activist." That transformation is just presented without motivation or explanation. I also feel that the Dakota years are relatively under-explored, which is a shame given Yoko & Sean's participation in the project.

All in all, I would highly recommend this title for anyone remotely interested in Lennon and/or the Beatles. I'm not sure John Lennon will ever be fully understood even by those closest to him during his lifetime, but this intimate portrait brings us as close to him as we're likely to get. It truly is a wonderful book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is basically a copy and paste effort, and there were a lot of grammatical errors, which I found distracting.

May Pang's influence on John should not have been underestimated (Elliot Mintz, Yoko's lackey, recalled that Pang never attained the status of being Lennon's old lady). She may not have, but she succeeded in getting Lennon and Julian together to "come together" in what could have been a very meaningful father/first born son relationship. I'm sure that she was glossed over since Yoko had input and I was very sure this would happen. A shame. According to May and very believably so, via dated pictures, she was a part of John's life for a long time.

For any avid Beatles fan, this was nothing that we did not already know.

I was disappointed.
AML1 More than 1 year ago
When I first started reading this book and saw that it is close to 900 pages, I thought I would never finish it. I am still reading it but it's going a lot faster than I thought it would. What an amazing man in such an amazing time.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Couldn't put this book down. Gripping to the end. Highly recommend!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I'm not the biggest Lennon fan, and certainly not the most knowledgable, but I feel like this very detailed and intense book really provided a glimpse of the man behind the celebrity! Very well-written and moves easily through the painful and bizarre periods of Lennon's life. The author gives a lot of attention to the tragic end and I was left feeling like I lost a loved one.
babsb More than 1 year ago
This book was absolutely filled with information about the great John Lennon. It told so much about his childhood and the road to the Beatles as we knew them. I would have liked a little more personal information about his life with Cynthia, and felt that his life with Yoko was a little glossed over. All in all it is THE book to read to know John Lennon as the genius and the flawed human being who didn't always do right by people. RECOMMENDED!
Julieronetta More than 1 year ago
No hold barred describing the characters involved. Very interesting comparisons of how the groups are viewed in England as compared to American idol status. A real education of how a groups can become a sensation or die on the vine. A real "can't put down" book.
weeksj10 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
It's big, but totally worth it for a Beatles/Lennon fan.
clark.hallman on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Philip Norman has produced a remarkably detailed and (I believe) accurate depiction of the life of John Lennon. He conducted in-depth research of the previously produced material about Lennon including books, newspaper and magazine articles, and widely distributed audio and video recordings, etc. However, he went beyond the public record of John Lennon through in-depth interviews and conversations with Lennon¿s family members, friends, business associates, and even those who had infrequent and casual encounters with him. The result provides a fascinating look at a man who had major impacts on not only popular music, but also on the wider culture of our world and billions of individuals who were either aware of The Beatles and John during the 60s and 70s or have listened to his music, read his books, or watched his movies since his death. Norman reveals a very complex person who struggled with much insecurity throughout his life. Although he reached a pinnacle of success that would be the envy of most people, he endured the pain of much tragedy from an unstable early childhood life due to unreliable relationships with his father and mother, the death of his mother during his teenage years, his difficulty and lack of success with formal education, and the death of his close friend and early member of the band, Stu Sutcliff. However, Norman also reveals an extremely talented song writer and musician who was determined to succeed and control his own life and who was socially conscious and willing to use his celebrity and influence to try to make a difference. John Lennon was an avid reader, which supplemented his previous lack of interest in education, and may have broadened his perspectives. However, to me it seems like he could not control his idealism and antiauthoritarian beliefs enough to develop a satisfying and productive lifestyle and problem solving approach that would have enabled him to really make a difference. To me, Norman¿s book reveals a John Lennon who could not control his excessive lifestyle including drug and alcohol abuse, sexual promiscuity, or social and business relationships. Nevertheless, the book shows that Lennon seemed to be beginning figure out his life and could have made many more significant contributions had he not been murdered. As a fan during the 60s and 70s I admired John Lennon as a songwriter, musician, and performer. However, I did not understand some of his behavior. After reading this book I realize that he had a troubled and messy life, which certainly precipitated much of his strange behavior. Most of us could say the same about our lives, and I still admire him. The book also made me realize that Yoko did not deserve much of the criticism she endured in the past. Norman¿s book is a very worthwhile although lengthy read (860 pages). It will undoubtedly change some opinions about the life of John Lennon for all readers.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is quite a challenge to read but well worth the effort. Several times I thought about giving it up, but am glad I stayed with it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have a new appreciation for John Lennon and Yoko. A very complicated man. Thank you John for all the great music. I am disappointed that the Nook version of the book did not have the photos.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Very interesting and I think an honest portrait of his life. Both the good a daily the bad.
Holdoc More than 1 year ago
I wish I could write a review on this book but I never received the book from B and N. I wrote to them but to no avail. Save your money and shop elsewhere.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Some say this is a cut and paste of things already written. Some say typographical errors are distracting. I don't care so much about such trivial matters. This is a well written narrative of John Lennon's life - all in one place. A very enjoyable read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Your review that was seven pages long could have been done in one page due to how you kept repeating yourself.And stupid me read all seven pages because at first I thought it was a mistake thinking you simply forgot you already mentioned that and then it kept happening.I was curious to read on to see if your review would continue on like this and it did.I could vision you smoking a joint and listening to Sargent Pepper's C.D.What an unusual person you are!!!
BeethovenRH More than 1 year ago
Nothing new in this book. It was copied from the MANY accounts of Lennon's life. What REALLY irks me is the Saint Yoko Ono BS. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a very long & detailed biography & I haven't finished reading it. I have put it aside for a while & go back to it now & then but what I have read so far is an incredible life story of a complicated & very talented individual. I will certainly finish it.
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