Early Life | The Beatles | Solo Career | After The Beatles
John Winston Ono Lennon (born John Winston Lennon) was born on October 9, 1940 in the Oxford Street Maternity Hospital, during a German air raid during World War II. His parents, Julia and Alfred “Freddie” Lennon, both encouraged music and sang as a hobby. His father was a merchant during the war and was not present at John’s birth. Because her husband was away, Julia Lennon had an affair with a Welsh soldier with whom she had an illegitimate child in 1944. Freddie offered to take care of the child, but the couple gave the baby, Victoria, up for adoption after birth and John never met or even knew of his half-sister.
Julia Lennon moved out and lived with John “Bobby” Dykins, with whom she had two more children. Custody of John was given to Julia’s sister Mimi after she contacted social services because Julia had John sleeping in the same bed as her and her lover. Freddie later visited John and attempted to bring him out of the country when John was five, but Julia found out and John’s parents made him decide whom he wanted to live with. John chose his mother and did not hear from his father again until the height of Beatlemania.
Although custody was officially granted to Julia, John lived with Mimi and her husband George Smith in a middle class area of Liverpool. George and Mimi had no kids of their own (they said they never wanted any) but they showered John with affection, buying him short stories and musical instruments at a young age. John learned how to play the banjo and piano from his mother, and he said that his inspiration came from the records of Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry, Little Richard, and Buddy Holly that his mother would play for him.
John was characterized as “happy-go-lucky with a good sense of humor” by his classmates. He received his first guitar from his mother, but Mimi tried to discourage his seeking music as a profession saying that he would not make enough money.
Julia was killed on July 15, 1958 by a drunk driver. This event was one of the most traumatic in his life and served as a way that he would later connect with Paul McCartney, who had lost his mother as well to breast cancer two years earlier. Lennon failed at grammar school but was accepted into the Liverpool College of Art after his aunt Mimi decided that he should have some formal education. He dropped out before his final year, but it was here that he met his first wife, Cynthia Powell.Lennon started the band The Quarrymen in March of 1957. On July 6 of the same year, the band met Paul McCartney and Lennon persuaded Paul’s father to let him join the band. The two became best friends, and Lennon convinced McCartney to do things that McCartney’s father disapproved of, such as shoplifting, smoking, and playing pranks on teachers. In March 1958, McCartney convinced Lennon to let the young but talented George Harrison to join the band as lead guitarist. The band recruited Lennon’s art school friend Stuart Sutcliffe to play bass. The band changed names several times, eventually settling on “The Beatles.”