A 19-year-old Lennon during the Beatles’ first stint performing in Hamburg, Germany, where they started to refine their sound and gained experience before a crowd. Pete Best was the group’s drummer at the time (Ringo Starr joined in 1962).
Lennon was raised by his Aunt Mimi and saw his mother only occasionally until he reconnected with her as a teen. "She just couldn’t deal with life," he said about Julia to Playboy. "I lost her twice. When I was five and I moved in with my auntie, and then when she physically died. That made me more bitter; the chip on my shoulder I had as a youth got really big then." (The new film Nowhere Boy chronicles this time in his life; for an interview with the director, click here.)
Lennon’s first band, formed with school friends, was The Quarrymen. "I used to think I must be a genius, but nobody’s noticed," he told Rolling Stone about his childhood. "I used to think, well, I can’t be mad, because nobody’s put me away, therefore, I’m a genius."
Beatlemania hit the U.S. when the Fab Four appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show for three Sundays in a row. The impact of the show-and the fact that parents just didn’t get the fuss over the group-could not be overestimated, writes Fred Kaplan on slate.com. Seventy million viewers watched the group on the venerable variety show.
Lennon and Yoko Ono married in March 1969 and staged an antiwar bed-in protest in Amsterdam. Lennon told Playboy later, "When we got married, we knew our honeymoon was going to be public, anyway, so we decided to use it to make a statement. We sat in bed and talked to reporters for seven days. It was hilarious. In effect, we were doing a commercial for peace on the front page of the papers instead of a commercial for war."
This photograph was taken in the White Room where the video for "Imagine" was shot. Responding to those who said Ono had broken up the Beatles, Lennon told Rolling Stone, "I presumed that I would just be able to carry on, and bring Yoko into our life, but it seemed that I had to either be married to them or Yoko, and I chose Yoko, and I was right."
For an 18-month period in the early ’70s-which Lennon later referred to as his "lost weekend"-he and Ono separated and he became involved with May Pang (right of Lennon in photo), who had been the couple’s assistant. Ono, who initiated the separation, reportedly suggested to Pang that she take up with-and take care of-Lennon. In early 1975, Lennon and Ono reconciled. "It was like being sent into the desert," Lennon told Playboy in 1980 of their split. "And the reason she wouldn’t let me back in was because I wasn’t ready to come back in. I had to settle things within myself."
After several miscarriages and trouble getting pregnant, Ono gave birth (on Lennon’s 35th birthday) to the only child they had together, Sean. Lennon put his career aside for several years to care for Sean and become a househusband.
Less than a year after this picture was taken, Lennon was shot and killed by a deranged fan in front of his apartment building, the Dakota on New York’s Upper West Side. The couple had just released a new album, Double Fantasy. But in the last interviews he gave, Lennon was still being asked about the possibility of a Beatles reunion. "My thing is, out of sight, out of mind," he told Playboy. "That’s my attitude toward life. . . . I don’t believe in yesterday, by the way. . . . I am only interested in what I am doing now."
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