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Paperback John Lennon: The Life Book

ISBN: 0060754028

ISBN13: 9780060754020

John Lennon: The Life

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Book 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...

Customer Reviews

6 ratings

John Lennon: The Life

I'm fifty pages in and hooked! John was a gifted and complex being. I love reading about his life and trying to understand his many motivations.

The Walrus

Finally I finish the ambitious John Lennon biography. Philip Norman has accomplished an amazing feat, and I recommend this book to anyone interested in John Lennon, Beatles history, or rock-n-roll history for that matter. Yoko Ono has accused Norman's biography of being "mean to John." Norman relays the facts of John's without judgment, and the facts just happen to show a flawed, complicated individual who could be apathetic to those closest to him while benevolent to complete strangers. John could be cruel. The eventual "man of peace" had a short, often violent temper, especially when drinking. He could be overtly callous toward the physically handicapped, homosexuals, and was in no doubt negligent of his first son, Julian, and his first wife, Cynthia. Cynthia knew she had been "replaced" when she came home from vacation and found Yoko Ono meditating in her living room, slippers placed neatly outside John and Cynthia's bedroom door. (The scene, I think, is strangely reminiscent of Simon and Garfunkel's "Cecilia.") John's early years are fascinating. Raised in Liverpool by his prickly Aunt Mimi, John was loved by all of his family, yet seemingly discarded by his own parents. His relationship with his mother was odd; she was a free-spirit who left his father for a man John never warmed up to. She never remarried, even after giving birth to two other children. This was a social taboo that horrified John's austere aunt Mimi, and she contrived to give him a proper, moral upbringing. Despite her efforts, the rebellious John candidly relayed his own sexual attraction for his mother to several different sources. Julia Lennon was unexpectedly killed when he was just seventeen. The Beatle years read fast. The beginning of the end for the band seems to come not when Yoko came into John's life, but when the band decided to stop touring after John's infamous statement "the Beatles are more popular than Jesus." As the Queen of England stated, the Beatles "got a little funny," venturing off to India to spend time with a famous Hindu guru and spending a lot of time tripping on acid. Soon after their stay abroad, Brian Epstein, the manager and great friend who helped catapult the Beatles to stardom, died of a drug overdose. After that, it was only a matter of time before the Beatles infrastructure would fall apart. Philip Norman is extremely generous in his portrayal of Yoko Ono. John comes across as the one who forced Yoko into the lives of the others, who were (for quite a while) extremely tolerant of her sudden presence in every aspect of the Beatles' lives together. Paul McCartney also comes off as incredibly patient with Yoko, even offering her the option to direct a forthcoming Beatles movie. She took offense to the offer and turned it down. John, however, had no patience whatsoever for Linda McCartney, and he and Paul began to feud... the rest is history. Afterwards, it was John and Yoko, with exception of "the Lost Weekend" where John was es

Warts and all, the best biography so far

It's pretty strange to think we've reached the point where one can point to changing historical perspectives on Aunt Mimi and Brian Epstein just as readily as those on any president or statesman. The Walrus himself would probably disapprove - certainly the man Philip Norman profiles here would. But let's face it, the Beatles really were that historically important, and John's story is the most dramatic for a number of reasons. All of which is a long way of saying, yes, it's worth reading yet another Lennon biography no matter how much you already know about the man. Norman's portrait of a deeply troubled genius is not radically different from past works, but there are a couple of major departures here. Besides the larger scope of Norman's study, two big differences stand out. The first of these is the sheer depths of Lennon's depravity at certain points in his life. While Norman's overall tone is far less caustic than it was in his earlier book, "Shout!", many of the stories he uncovers are salacious and unflattering even by the standards of what was already known about Lennon. His thoughtlessness and occasional cruelty towards those he loved are shown to be even worse than you have probably read elsewhere, and Norman is far less willing than most other biographers to excuse Lennon on the grounds of his difficult childhood (though he does acknowledge this). Even the sincerity of some of his greatest work is occasionally called into question: a particularly sad anecdote pops up late in the book in which Lennon griped about his extremely expensive lifestyle. When a friend responded with his own beloved lyrics - "Imagine no possessions" - Lennon snapped, "It's only a bloody song!" Even Lennon's sacred relationship with his mother is tainted by an extremely discomfiting incident shortly before her death, which apparently haunted John until his own death. To Norman's credit, he does what he can to debunk some less-than-substantiated rumors about Lennon's "lost weekend" in Los Angeles, about which the truth is already pretty unflattering. The second major difference is Norman's perspective on various friends and family whom you might think you know pretty well by now. For starters, Norman is deferential to a fault to John's famously stern Aunt Mimi, in stark contrast to Cynthia Lennon's portrayal in her 2005 book. Reading between the lines, it is clear enough that she did as least as much harm as good to her nephew in his formative years. But Norman doesn't seem willing to acknowledge that outright for some reason, making for perhaps the only major flaw in the book. (I, for one, am inclined to believe Cyn in any case; after all, she knew and lived with Mimi.) A bigger surprise is his remarkably sympathetic profile of Alfred "Freddie" Lennon. Where other works (including Norman's own) have invariably portrayed John's father as an irresponsible neer-do-well, he comes across here as irresponsible but well-intentioned, and something of a victim of

Scorning Adulthood: A Post-Modern View of John Lennon

As a child I revered the Beatles and their music. As an adult I revere the Beatles and their music while also being astonished by their ability to mine childhood's fantasies, quirks, and intuitive genius. In Philip Norman's biography of John Lennon, a rather messy genius of a child is depicted in all his rages, heartaches, and glooms. John Lennon comes across less as a man conflicted by adulthood than as an angry but gifted adolescent who is conflicted by a dreamy sense of childhood that haunts him, amuses him, but ultimately won't leave him alone. This is an important work. It reveals much about the post-modern view of adolescence while simultaneously exploring the appeal of Lennon's music in a world becoming saturated with peans to the self. In many ways, John Lennon's life was a kind of tribute to the sensibility that scorns society while loudly insisting that society pay careful attention to the nuances of that scorn. A rare treat for Beatles fans. A rarer treat for anyone interested in a life that produced such memorable music. Donald Gallinger is the author of The Master Planets

Life of a Beatle

Most beloved public figures have many facets -- some of them nasty, some of them pleasant and admirable. Most biographies either focus on the good, or the bad. But fortunately, Philip Norman is making a valiant effort to show, if not all of John Lennon's facets, then as many of them as possible. Having explored the Beatles and their impact on a generation, Norman narrows his focus down to "John Lennon: The Life" -- and he does a superb job unearthing the many details, relationships and differing faces of this much-lamented rock star. We'll never get a John Lennon autobiography, but Norman does a pretty good job of getting inside his shaggy head. John Lennon was born into an incredibly stormy marriage (which broke up soon after) and raised by his loving, strict Aunt Mimi, though he was something of a hellraising trickster as a child. The one blot: the tragic, shocking death of his mother Julia. Of course, everyone knows what happened later -- after a brief stint at art school, Lennon became part of a band with an ever-shifting name, and started working on pop songs alongside Paul McCartney. Though briefly devastated by the death of a bandmate, Lennon quickly rose to fame and fortune when the renamed Beatles became not just a hit band, but a new way of life for the youth of Britain, and then the entire world. Hit album after hit album poured from the Beatles, along with the usual rock-star intake of drugs, sex and occasional PR disasters. But Lennon's interests began to stray in more spiritual directions, and as his marriage to the sweet-natured Cynthia fell apart, he met and fell in love with eccentric Japanese artist Yoko Ono. Suddenly he was devoting himself not to pop hits, but to experimental numbers, "bed-ins" and sitting in bags, and using his world-wide celebrity for the furtherance of peace. While this lifestyle didn't quite tame Lennon's wild side, it led to new focuses in his life -- until it was tragically cut short. You have to hand it to Philip Norman. While most biographers tend to portray Lennon as a hippie saint or a hopeless jerk, he tries very hard to find a happy medium that encompasses all of Lennon's personality: a flawed man who had a boatload of issues and could be both cruel and kind. While he gets a bit worshipy in the latter parts of Lennon's life, Norman does a pretty good portraying both the musician and those around him in a realistic, compelling light. Additionally, Norman gives as much careful attention to Lennon's youth as he does to the Beatlemania and John/Yoko years -- in particular, his relationships to his mother, Aunt Mimi, Paul McCartney and the delicate artist Stu, as well as the months and years as a struggling young musician. There's lots of pop psychology, but it works. In he meantime, Lennon's life is carefully framed in the political and social climes of the time -- the post-war fifties, colourful psychedelic chaos of the 1960s, and the later, grimmer times of the Vietnam War. Politicians, pop a

Less about the myth, more about the man

Forever romanticized by his tragic and puzzling murder, John Lennon has ascended to almost god-like status in pop culture. Remembered as the visionary and dreamer who soundtracked a generation, Lennon's legacy has largely been sculpted by those who loved and admired him, as his strengths, accomplishments and inspirations shine for all to see, while his flaws and failures have been forgotten. Philip Norman believes twenty-eight years of mourning-inspired deification seems about right, and with this book, he attempts to paint a more accurate picture of the man. The artist Norman depicts has a lot in common with the popular description of a rockstar. The poet who sang about love never missed a chance to cheat on his women, and the man who championed brotherhood and neighborly living often strong-armed and bullied his friends. Norman shows us that he never let people forget that he was John Lennon and they weren't. His book, however, is not a hatchet-job. Intertwined with his attempts to revise the pedestalized legacy of Lennon is a thorough, faithful account of the intimate and defining moments of a life that led to a canon of music unequaled in artistic merit and inspiration. Norman's intent was to show his readers both the sour and the sweet. He achieves his goal in part with impressive, exclusive interaction with Yoko One, Paul McCartney, Producer George Martin and others. To those interviews, Norman adds research and his own conjecture and formulates theories about Lennon's mother's death and (what is sure to be the focus of much of this book's publicity) questions about whether Lennon harbored any homosexual tendencies/curiosities. Norman's success is creating an account of an irresistible human being who has less in common with an Olympian figure than he does with the people who will be flipping through the book's pages. With that achievement, he has probably created the first genuine biography of the man who history has transformed into a mythic figure lacking authenticity and humanity.

John Lennon: The Life Mentions in Our Blog

John Lennon: The Life in 7 Little Known Facts About John Lennon
7 Little Known Facts About John Lennon
Published by Ashly Moore Sheldon • October 09, 2020

John Lennon was born eighty years ago today! Tragically, the brilliant artist was murdered when he was only forty. At the time of his death, he was working on rekindling his music career after a five-year hiatus to care for his young son. Here are seven little known facts about him.

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