The Incredible Life Of The Music And Cultural Icon, John Lennon

Born on October 9, 1940, John Lennon grew up to become one of the most influential individuals of his time. Best-known as a founder and co-lead vocalist of the Beatles, he is renowned for his musical talent and prolific writing abilities, establishing the group as one of the greatest of all time. However, his life went far beyond Strawberry Fields and wanting to hold hands. He was an incredibly complex person that led a life of highs and lows just like any other person. Take a look to see what made John Lennon’s life so interesting and how he became the cultural icon that he is today.

He Was Raised By His Aunt, Who Didn’t Think Music Would Get Him Anywhere

Lennon's aunt by the water
Frank Loughlin/Mirrorpix/Getty Images
Frank Loughlin/Mirrorpix/Getty Images

John Lennon grew up in Liverpool, England under the guardianship of his aunt, Mary Elizabeth “Mimi” Smith. Ironically, Lennon’s aunt Mimi had no interest in music, so it’s unsurprising that she didn’t believe her nephew could make a career out of it either.

She even commented that “The guitar’s all right John, but you’ll never make a living out of it,” something she repeatedly told him. Although he and his aunt had a loving relationship, they were at odds about Lennon’s deep interest in music.

He Was An Avid Monopoly Player

Lennon playing the guitar with sunglasses
Harry Benson/Express/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Harry Benson/Express/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Those close to Lennon knew that he loved the game of Monopoly. He would bring his personal set with him when traveling and would often host games in his hotel room or play while on airplanes.

Supposedly, he was known for always standing up when he threw the dice and was obsessed with the Boardwalk and Park Place properties. So much, in fact, that he didn’t care if he lost the game, as long as he had the two properties in his possession.

He Was The Last Beatle To Get His License

Lennon driving
Daily Herald/Mirrorpix/Mirrorpix via Getty Images
Daily Herald/Mirrorpix/Mirrorpix via Getty Images

On February 15, 1965, at the age of 24, John Lennon finally got his driver’s license, making him the last of the Beatles to do so. Apparently, John was a horrendous driver according to those who ever drove in a car with him.

However, he eventually gave up driving after he totaled his Aston-Martin on a trip to Scotland with his wife Yoko Ono, his son, Julian, and Ono’s daughter, Kyoko. The accident resulted in Lennon needing 17 stitches, and mounting the wrecked car on a pillar at their home.

He Had A Troubled Past With Women

Lennon with Powell
Daily Mirror/Mirrorpix/Mirrorpix via Getty Images
Daily Mirror/Mirrorpix/Mirrorpix via Getty Images

In 1957, Lennon met his first wife, Cynthia Powell, as students at the Liverpool College of Art. The two would begin dating, even though she was engaged. However, Lennon was known to be jealous and possessive of women, often threatening Powell with violence.

He claimed that it wasn’t until he met Yoko Ono that he began to treat women correctly. According to Lennon, “I used to be cruel to my woman, and physically – any woman. I was a hitter. I couldn’t express myself and I hit. I fought men and I hit women. That is why I am always on about peace.”

He Returned A Medal From Queen Elizabeth II

Beatles with MBE medals
Fox Photos/Getty Images
Fox Photos/Getty Images

In 1965, Lennon, along with the other member of the Beatles were made members of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II. However, four years later, Lennon returned his medal as a form of protest.

In a letter to the queen, he wrote, “Your Majesty, I am returning my MBE as a protest against Britain’s involvement in the Nigeria-Biafra thing, against our support of America in Vietnam and against ‘Cold Turkey’ slipping down the charts. With love. John Lennon.”

He Was The Only Beatle That Wasn’t A Full Vegetarian

John Lennon being interviewed
Michael Putland/Getty Images
Michael Putland/Getty Images

George Harrison was the first of the Beatles to go vegetarian, completely cutting out meat in his diet in 1965. Paul McCartney was the next to follow suit just a few years later.

While Paul and George stopped eating meat for spiritual reasons, Ringo later did so out of necessity due to health concerns. Although Lennon tried to become a vegetarian on several occasions in the 1960s, he always managed to find meat on his plate.

His Final Moments With Paul McCartney

Lennon playing with McCartney
David Redfern/Redferns
David Redfern/Redferns

The last time John Lennon saw Paul McCartney was on April 14, 1976. The two were hanging out at Lennon’s New York apartment where they were watching Saturday Night Live. While watching the show, they saw Lorne Michaels jokingly offer $3,000 for the Beatles to appear on the show.

Because they were just sitting around watching TV, the two even considered taking a cab to the set. Little did they know this would be the last time they would ever see each other.

He Wasn’t Very Close With His Son

John Lennon and his son
Keystone-France/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images
Keystone-France/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images

Unfortunately, John Lennon never had a very close relationship with his first son, Julian. His birth wasn’t planned, and it resulted in Lennon being forced into an unwanted marriage with Cynthia Powell at a young age. Then, after Lennon left Cynthia for Yoko Ono, he rarely saw his son, and when he did, it wasn’t the best relationship.

When Lennon died, Julian commented, “There was some very negative stuff talked about me … like when he said I’d come out of a whiskey bottle on a Saturday night. Stuff like that. You think, where’s the love in that?”

He Believed The Best Beatles Music Was Never Recorded

John Lennon getting into a car
Vinnie Zuffante/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
Vinnie Zuffante/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Regardless of the fact the Beatles are considered to be one of the greatest and most influential bands of all time, John Lennon was rarely satisfied with their music. In a 1977 interview with Rolling Stone, Lennon admitted that the group sacrificed their creative potential to meet the demands that follow with so much popularity.

He noted, “That’s why we never improved as musicians; we killed ourselves to make it.” On another occasion, Lennon told his former producer, George Martin, over dinner that he would like to like to re-record every Beatles song, especially “Strawberry Fields.”

He Owned An Island

John Lennon at a rally
Rowland Scherman/Getty Images
Rowland Scherman/Getty Images

In 1967, John Lennon purchased Dorinish, an uninhabited island in Clew Bay, Ireland for just £1,700. Although previously used by sailing ships for its stones, the island became a sanctuary for Lennon and his family.

After Lennon divorced his wife Cynthia, the island went unused until Lennon invited Sid Rawle, the “King of the Hippies,” and Timi Walsh to establish a commune there. For two years, 25 hippies lived on the island until a fire burned down the island’s supply tent in 1972 and the commune disbanded. After Lennon’s death, Yoko Ono sold it for £30,000 and gave the money to an Irish orphanage.

He Took A Break From Music To Raise His Son Sean

Lennon, Ono, and Sean
Evening Standard/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Evening Standard/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Sean Lennon was born on October 9, 1975, Lennon’s 35th birthday, and was the only child he and Yoko Ono shared together. After his birth, Lennon took a five-year hiatus from the music industry in which he claims he “baked bread” and “looked after the baby.”

During that time, Lennon devoted his life to raising his son, announcing his retirement from music in 1977. He stated, “we have basically decided, without any great decision, to be with our baby as much as we can until we feel we can take time off to indulge ourselves in creating things outside of the family.”

He Sailed A Boat Through A Storm

The Beatles on a boat
Bettmann/Getty Images
Bettmann/Getty Images

In June 1980, Lennon took a six-day journey to Bermuda on a 43-foot sailing boat. However, what was initially supposed to be a relaxing boat ride turned into a life-threatening situation when they were hit by a huge storm. The captain ended up getting seasick because of the storm, leaving Lennon with the responsibility of successfully navigating the ship through 65 mile-an-hour winds and 20-foot waves.

Lennon later reminisced on the moment stating, “Once I accepted the reality of the situation, something greater than me took over and all of a sudden I lost my fear. I actually began to enjoy the experience.”

He Left The Beatles First

Lennon and McCartney announcing Apples Corps
Bettmann/Getty Images
Bettmann/Getty Images

Lennon was the first of the group to leave the Beatles in September 1969, eventually leading to the breaking up of the band. However, Lennon, as well as the other members, kept his leaving a secret for quite some time.

Nobody was aware that John had left for months until Paul McCartney announced his own solo album and that he had left the Beatles. When Lennon heard this, he was furious that McCartney was given the credit for breaking up the band.

The Government Tried To Deport Him

Lennon going into a press conference
Bettmann/Getty Images
Bettmann/Getty Images

After the impact that “Give Peace a Chance” and “Happy Xmas (War is Over)” had on the anti-war movement, it caught the attention of the government. At that time, the Republican Party heard rumors that Lennon was going to be involved in a concert held in San Diego at the same time as the Republication National Convention.

So, they had plans to deport Lennon, fearing that his anti-war messages would hurt the party. This led to Republican Senator Strom Thurmond sending a memo that “deportation would be a strategic counter-measure” against Lennon.” However, after a lengthy legal battle, Lennon received his green card.

He Was Investigated By The FBI

John Lennon and Yoko Ono
Susan Wood/Getty Images
Susan Wood/Getty Images

After his death, historian John Wiener filed a Freedom of Information Act for FBI files about their involvement in the deportation attempt. At that point, the FBI had admitted to having 281 pages on Lennon, because of his anti-war involvement, but refused to release them, claiming that they held national security information.

In 1983, Wiener sued the FBI, and it still took 14 years for the documents to be released. Eventually, all but 10 pages were released, which Wiener published in his book Gimme Some Truth: The John Lennon FBI Files in 2000. The papers showed that Lennon was never considered a real threat.

He Grew Tired Of Hysterical Fans

Screaming Fans
WATFORD/Mirrorpix/Mirrorpix via Getty Images
WATFORD/Mirrorpix/Mirrorpix via Getty Images

Around the time of Beatlemania, and after the band had made a breakthrough in the United States, Lennon started to become concerned about the people attending Beatles’ concerts. He was afraid that legitimate fans of the music wouldn’t even be able to hear them perform over all of the noise and screaming from crazed fans.

He also thought that the chaos of the concerts were beginning to affect the band’s musicianship. According to Lennon, “Beatles concerts are nothing to do with music any more. They’re just bloody tribal rites.”

He Claimed To Have Seen A UFO

John Lennon, Keith Richards, and Eric Clapton
Mark and Colleen Hayward/Redferns
Mark and Colleen Hayward/Redferns

On August 23, 1974, John Lennon claimed that he saw a UFO. Talking to Andy Warhol’s Interview magazine, he said that he was lying naked on his bed when he felt a sudden urge.

He went on to state that, “There, as I turned my head, hovering over the next building, no more than 100 feet away was this thing with ordinary electric light bulbs flashing on and off around the bottom, one non-blinking red light on top.” He called over his then-girlfriend May Pang, who claims to have seen the unidentified flying object as well.

His Death Was Announced During Monday Night Football

Lennon performing on TV
Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

On December 8, 1980, the night of Lennon’s death, an ABC television producer was being treated in the hospital for a motorcycle injury when Lennon was brought in. The producer caught wind of what was going on, including that Lennon was dead.

So, he contacted his boss, Roone Arledge, who at the time was busy working as the executive producer for Monday Night Football. Yet, upon hearing the news, Arledge told sportscaster Howard Cosell and Frank Gifford to deliver the news immediately while on air.

Where His Iconic Glasses Came From

John Lennon in How I Won the War
United Artists
United Artists

In preparation for his role in Richard Lester’s 1967 film, How I Won the War, Lennon was given an army-style haircut and a new pair of what were considered “granny” glasses. After receiving his haircut in the breakfast room at the bar of The Inn Heath Hotel in West Germany, his hair was even burned to prevent people from selling it.

While the haircut was only for the movie, Lennon adopted his new look with the “granny” glasses which went on to become one of his trademark accessories.

He Has A Picture With The Man That Killed Him

Lennon with Chapman
Pinterest/William Coyne
Pinterest/William Coyne

On December 8, 1980, amateur photographer Paul Goresh snapped a picture of John Lennon signing a copy of his album Double Fantasy for Mark David Chapman, the man who would later assassinate him.

Later that day, returning to his home at the Dakota in New York City after a recording session, Chapman gunned down Lennon. Yet, apparently that wasn’t the last photo taken of Lennon. Supposedly, a photographer sneaked into the morgue before he was cremated and got a photograph of his body.