Even during the height
of Beatlemania, Lennon began exploring outside of the group.
In 1964, he published a collection of his writings called In
His Own Write, which was followed in 1965 by A Spaniard
in the Works, and in 1966, he appeared in Dick Lester's
comedy 'How I Won the War'.
He didn't pursue
a musical career outside of the group until 1968, when he recorded
the experimental noise collage Unfinished Music, No. 1: Two
Virgins with his new lover, avant-garde artist Yoko Ono.
'Two Virgins' caused considerable controversy, both because
of its content and its cover art, which featured a nude photograph
of Lennon and Ono. The couple married in Gibraltar in March
20, 1969. For their honeymoon, the pair staged the first of
many political demonstrations with their "Bed-In for Peace"
at the Amsterdam Hilton. Months later, the avant garde records
Unfinished Music, No. 2: Life with the Lions and The
Wedding Album were released, as was the single Give Peace
a Chance, which was recorded during the Bed-In.
of 1969, Lennon returned to live performances with a concert
at a Toronto rock & roll festival. He was supported by the Plastic
Ono Band, which featured Ono, guitarist Eric Clapton, bassist
Klaus Voormann and drummer Alan White.
The following month,
Lennon and the Plastic Ono Band released Cold Turkey,
which was about his battle with heroin addiction. When the single
failed to make the Top Ten in Britain and America, Lennon sent
his MBE back to the Queen, protesting Britain's involvement
in Biafra, America's involvement in Vietnam and the poor chart
performence of "Cold Turkey."
Before the release
of "Cold Turkey," Lennon had told the Beatles that he planned
to leave the group, but he agreed not to publicly announce his
intentions until after Allen Klein's negotiations with EMI on
behalf of the Beatles were resolved. He and Ono continued with
their campaign for peace, spreading billboards with the slogan
"War Is Over! (If You Want It)" in 12 separate cities. In February
of 1970, he wrote, recorded and released the single Instant
Karma within the span of the week. The single became a major
hit, reaching the Top Ten in both the U.K. and the U.S. Just
after "Instant Karma," Paul McCartney, without prior warning,
announced that the Beatles were splitting up, provoking the
anger of Lennon. Much of this anger was vented on his first
full-fledged solo album, John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band,
a scathingly honest confessional work inspired by his and Ono's
primal scream therapy. Lennon supported the album with an extensive
interview with Rolling Stone, where he debunked many of the
myths surrounding the Beatles.
Early in 1971, he
released another protest single, Power to the People,
before moving to New York. That fall, he released Imagine,
which featured the Top Ten title track.
By the time Imagine
became a hit album, Lennon and Ono had returned to political
activism, publically supporting American radicals like Abbie
Hoffman, Jerry Rubin and John Sinclair. Their increased political
involvement resulted in the double-album Sometime in New
York City, which was released in the summer of 1972. Recorded
with the New York hippie band Elephant's Memory, Sometime in
New York City consisted entirely of political songs, many of
which were criticized for their simplicity. Consequently, the
album sold poorly and tarnished Lennon's reputation. Sometime
in New York City was the beginning of a three-year downward
spiral for Lennon.
In 1972 John Lennon
began a protracted and involved battle with US Immigration,
who refused to give him a green card due to a conviction for
marijuna possession in 1968. In 1973, he was ordered to leave
America by Immigration, and he responded by launching a full-scale
battle against the department, frequently attacking them in
was released in late 1973 to mixed reviews; its title track
became a moderate hit. The following year, he and Ono separated,
and he moved out to Los Angeles, beginning his year-and-a-half
long "lost weekend."
During 1974 and 1975,
Lennon lived a life of debauchery in Los Angeles, partying hard
with such celebrities as Elton John, Harry Nilsson, Keith Moon,
David Bowie and Ringo Starr.
Walls and Bridges
appeared in November of 1974, and it became a hit due to the
inclusion of Whatever Gets You Through the Night, a song
he wrote with Elton John. At the end of the year, Elton John
helped reunite Lennon and Ono, convincing the Lennon to appear
during one of his concerts; it would be his last performance.
Rock & Roll,
a collection of rock oldies recorded during the lost weekend,
was released in the spring of 1975 but a few months before its
official release, a bootleg of the album called 'Roots' was
released by Morris Levy, who Lennon later sued successfully.
battle neared its completion on October 7, 1975, when the US
court of appeals overturned his deportation order; in the summer
of 1976, he was finally granted his green card.
After he appeared
on David Bowie's Young Americans, co-writing the hit song Fame,
Lennon quietly retired from music, choosing to become a house-husband
following the October birth of his son, Sean Lennon. During
the summer of 1980, Lennon returned to recording, signing a
new contract with Geffen Records. Comprised equally of material
by Lennon and Ono, Double Fantasy was released in November
to positive reviews. As the album and its accompanying single,
(Just Like) Starting Over, were climbing the charts,
Lennon was assassinated on December 8 by Mark David Chapman.
Lennon's death inspired
deep grief from the entire world; on December 14, millions of
fans around the world participated in a ten-minute silent vigil
for Lennon at 2 p.m. EST. Double Fantasy and "(Just Like) Starting
Over" both became number one hits in the wake of his death.
In the years after
his death, several albums of unreleased recordings appeared,
the first of which was 1984's Milk and Honey. Perhaps
the most substantial was the 1998 four-disc box set Anthology,
issued in conjunction with a single-disc sampler titled Wonsaponatime.
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