Pop star, composer, songwriter, and recording artist. John Winston Lennon was born October 9, 1940, in Liverpool, Merseyside, NW England, UK, during a German air raid in World War II.
When he was four years old, Lennon’s parents separated and he ended up living with his Aunt Mimi. John’s father was a merchant seaman. He was not present at his son’s birth and did not see a lot of his son when he was small.
Lennon’s mother, Julia, remarried, but visited John and Mimi regularly. She taught John how to play the banjo and the piano and purchased his first guitar. John was devastated when Julia was fatally struck by a car driven by an off-duty police officer in July 1958. Her death was one of the most traumatic events in his life.
As a child, John was a prankster and he enjoyed getting in trouble. As a boy and young adult, John enjoyed drawing grotesque figures and cripples. John’s school master thought that he could go to an art school for college, since he did not get good grades in school, but had artistic talent.
At sixteen, Elvis Presley’s explosion onto the rock music scene inspired John to create the skiffle band called the “Quarry Men,” named after his school. Lennon met Paul McCartney at a church fete on July 6, 1957. John soon invited Paul to join the group and they eventually formed the most successful songwriting partnership in musical history.
McCartney introduced George Harrison to Lennon the following year and he and art college buddy Stuart Sutcliffe also joined Lennon’s band. Always in need of a drummer, the group finally settled on Pete Best in 1960.
The first recording they made was Buddy Holly’s That’ll be the Day in mid-1958. In fact, it was Holly’s group, the Crickets, that inspired the band to change its name. John would later joke that he had a vision when he was 12 years old—a man appeared on a flaming pie and said unto them “from this day on you are Beatles with an ‘A.'”
The Beatles were discovered by Brian Epstein in 1961 at the Cavern Club, where they were performing on a regular basis. As their new manager, Epstein secured a record contract with EMI. With a new drummer, Ringo Starr (Richard Starkey), and George Martin as producer, the group released their first single, Love Me Do in October 1962. It peaked on the British charts at number 17.
Lennon wrote the group’s follow-up single, Please Please Me, inspired primarily by Roy Orbison but also fed by John’s infatuation with the pun in Bing Crosby’s famous “Please, lend your little ears to my please.” The song topped the charts in Britain. The Beatles went on to become the most popular band in Britain with the release mega-hits like She Loves You and I Want To Hold Your Hand.