Kept firmly out of the spotlight from birth, Julian Lennon emerged not only as the firstborn child of music legend John Lennon, but a talented singer who made his own mark in music and the art world. Born to one of the most beloved and musically gifted men in music, Lennon inspired the classic Beatles tunes "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" (1965) and "Hey Jude" (1968), as well as the song "Ya Ya," Lennon's only collaboration with his father. Yet his early years were also marked by his parents' divorce and a bittersweet reconciliation shortly before his father's assassination in 1980. As if to put together pieces of a puzzle his father left behind, Lennon became an avid collector of Beatles memorabilia while laying the foundation for his own musical career. He released his first and most successful album Valotte in 1984, eerily reminiscent of his late father's introspective songwriting sensibilities and his singing style. Lennon continued to make music, expanded his artistic repertoire to include photography, while his storied life endeared him to millions all over the world.
The son of Beatles singer-songwriter John Lennon and his hastily married wife Cynthia Powell, John Charles Julian Lennon was born in Liverpool, England on April 8, 1963 at the height of Beatlemania in Europe. Lennon and his mother were kept away from the spotlight after the band's manager Brian Epstein encouraged the Fab Four to maintain their international heartthrob status by appearing single and available - especially after the band invaded America, making them the biggest act on the planet. Epstein reportedly requested that Lennon deny the existence of his wife and child when reporters visited the singer's home. As a child, the young Lennon inspired one of his father's most famous songs "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" after showing him a watercolor painting that he had created in school. The track was later rumored to symbolize LSD use, although Paul McCartney spoke out years later and said it was indeed inspired by his partner's son's drawing. In addition, the Beatles' track "Good Night" (1968), performed by Ringo Starr, was a lullaby Lennon's father had written for him.
Lennon was five when his parents divorced in November 1968, following his father's affair with Japanese-American artist and musician Yoko Ono. With a father seemingly absent from his childhood, Lennon formed a closer bond with McCartney, who reportedly wrote the Beatles classic "Hey Jude" - originally titled "Hey Jules" - to cheer the child up through his parents' divorce. His father's union with Ono would also produce another child, his half-brother Sean in 1976. While Sean was widely known as John's favored son, raised in a lavish New York City apartment while his firstborn and Cynthia were scraping by, the singer eventually reconnected with Julian in the early 1970s and gifted him with guitars and other instruments to encourage his own budding musical aspiration. Lennon even played drums on the track "Ya Ya" for John's album Walls and Bridges (1974), which the latter credited as "starring Julian Lennon on drums and Dad on piano and vocals." Father and son continued to build a relationship slowly but surely, but it was sadly cut short after John was assassinated outside his New York apartment on Dec. 8, 1980. Lennon was left with very little from his father's will. The tragic loss, however, also brought together the late Beatle's two sons, with Lennon turning into a father figure for his younger brother.
Four years after his father's untimely death, Lennon released his debut album Valotte, which featured the hit single "Too Late for Goodbyes" and the Top 10-charting title track. Valotte was Lennon's first and only album to reach platinum status. His sophomore effort The Secret Value of Daydreaming (1986) peaked at No. 32 on the U.S. albums chart, but was still certified gold. Lennon's subsequent albums released in the late '80s to early '90s performed much better in the U.K. and Australia. Having received barely anything from his father's estate, Lennon began collecting Beatles memorabilia. Prized items from his collection included the Afghan coat his father wore on the cover of the Magical Mystery Tour album and McCartney's scribble notes while writing "Hey Jude." Lennon remained in contact with the remaining Fab Four members, including Harrison, who reportedly played on Lennon's album Help Yourself (1991). Rumors swirled that he was joining the three remaining Beatles for several performance, but during the release of The Beatles Anthology (1995-96), they revealed no plans of ever reforming the group to include John's son. An ongoing legal case involving Lennon's financial issues that stemmed from his parents' divorce settlement and trust fund caused a rift between him, his stepmother, and brother. Both Lennon and Sean released albums in 1998, which had many wondering if it was a deliberate attempt to outdo eachother's chart success. Lennon revealed it was purely coincidental, and that he loved and respected his brother.
In 2007, Lennon sold his share of his father's songwriting royalties to the U.S. music publishing company Primary Wave. The sum was not disclosed, but the deal included rights to Beatles hits such as "All You Need is Love" (1967), "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" (1967), and "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds," the song he inspired. Lennon also turned up during Sean's European tour to lend his support. He ended up documenting their life on the road, which sparked a passion for photography. Some of the photographs from that tour ended up in the 2010 exhibit "Timeless: The Photography of Julian Lennon" held at New York's Morrison Hotel Gallery. In 2011, Lennon spoke out about a series of snubs he endured from Ono and his late father's band mates, most notably not being invited to McCartney's wedding to Nancy Shevell, nor the film premiere of Martin Scorsese's "George Harrison: Living in the Material World" (2011). That same year, he released his first album since 1998, titled Everything Changes.
By Candy Cuenco