Despite growing up in the considerable shadow of a Beatle, Sean Lennon managed to overcome tragedy and forge an identity as a successful and respected singer-musician in his own right. The son of beloved music icon John Lennon and avant-garde pioneer Yoko Ono, Lennon lived life under a microscope roughly from birth, culminating with an even more intense magnification in the wake of his father's assassination by a crazed fan in December 1980. Gifted with his parents' creative genius, Lennon launched his career by appearing on his mother's avant-garde musical albums throughout the 1980s and making his feature film debut in "Moonwalker" (1988), starring close friend Michael Jackson. As he grew into a serious-minded young man who, like half-brother Julian Lennon, eerily began resembling his slain father, Lennon collaborated with a diverse roster of artists, from Cibo Matto to Lenny Kravitz before releasing his critically acclaimed solo debut Into the Sun (1998), followed by his sophomore effort Friendly Fire (2006). Though his solo work established Lennon as a viable performer, it was his work behind-the-scenes, whether as songwriter, session musician or producer that punctuated his career as a versatile entertainer and a rightful heir to his father's musical legacy.
Sean Taro Ono Lennon entered the world on Oct. 9, 1975 - his father's 35th birthday - in New York City. The only child of The Beatles' John Lennon and artist-musician Yoko Ono, he was destined for a life surrounded by music and the arts, all wrapped in an unavoidable blanket of intense fame. His older half-brother was British musician and actor Julian Lennon, the son of John and first wife Cynthia Powell and his godfather was Elton John, who had been instrumental in reconciling his estranged parents shortly before Sean was conceived. While John had revolutionized music with The Beatles and as a solo artist, he seemingly dropped everything to become a stay-at-home dad once his second child was born. Unfortunately, tragedy struck when the rock icon was murdered by deranged fan Mark David Chapman on Dec. 8, 1980 in front of the family's famous residence, the Dakota. While the world mourned, the four-year-old grew up closely guarded by his grieving mother out of the public eye, for the most part. It took another year for Lennon to follow in his late father's footsteps by making his recording debut at the age of five, reciting a story on his mother's 1981 album Season of Glass. Lennon had also been the inspiration behind one of his father's most poignant songs, "Beautiful Boy (Darling Boy)," which was included on Double Fantasy (1980), his father's final record.
At age 11, Lennon was sent to Switzerland to study at the Institut Le Rosey, a private boarding school, before returning to New York four years later to attend the exclusive academic institutions Dalton School and Ethical Culture Fieldston School. Although his mother had not pushed her only son into a recording career, he nonetheless found a passion in the music that had so sustained his father. As a way to get a foot in the door, Lennon often collaborated with his mother as a guest artist, songwriter or producer on her albums including Starpeace (1985) and Onobox (1992). He also found a friend in pop superstar Michael Jackson, a product of another musical dynasty, who cast the young man who idolized him in his 1988 film musical, "Moonwalker." Lennon's early work consisted of working with other artists, from co-writing the song "All I Ever Wanted" at 16 for Lenny Kravitz's album Mama Said (1991), to joining the Japanese alt-rock group Cibo Matto and their musical side project Butter 08. Working with Cibo Matto also introduced Lennon to Beastie Boys' Adam Yauch, a.k.a. MCA, who signed him to his hip-hop group's label, Grand Royal Records.
In 1998, 18-year-old Lennon released his solo debut Into the Sun under the Grand Royal label, fully prepared for the onslaught of critics and fans who would ultimately compare him to his genius father. The album featured the single "Home" and was inspired by the singer's then-girlfriend Yuka Honda. Lennon's debut, although critically well-received, failed to crack the Billboard Top 100, peaking at No. 153, although "Home" received heavy airplay on alternative radio and music television for its Spike Jonze-directed video. Although he wanted to be judged by on his own merits, he wisely chose to acknowledge his lineage with the song "Sean's Theme," his tribute to his father which included the lyrics "Goodnight, Sean" - a nod to the closing lyrics of John's "Beautiful Boy (Darling Boy)." It was around this time that Lennon began dating Bijou Phillips, scion of another musical dynasty, John Phillips of the 1960s folk band Mamas and the Papas. The couple's tempestuous relationship lasted from 2000-04.
Despite establishing his solo music career, Lennon continued recording and touring with Cibo Matto, and branched out into hip-hop collaborations with both the Northern California rapper Del the Funky Homosapien and the Los Angeles-based collective Jurassic 5. Lennon's sophomore release Friendly Fire (2006), fared better on the French charts (No. 59) than the U.S. charts (No. 152). Many of the songs on the album were rumored to be about his breakup with Phillips. During the promotional tour for the album, big brother Julian lent a hand and a shoulder to lean on by playing on some dates with the band and just being there for his brother on the European leg. By 2008, Lennon and new girlfriend, model-turned-singer Charlotte Kemp Muhl, premiered their band The Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger - or GOASTT - during a live performance at Radio City Music Hall.
In 2009, Lennon expanded his repertoire by composing the score for the independent film "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Undead," directed by longtime friend Jordan Galland. Along with Kemp Muhl, Lennon started a record label, Chimera Music, where he produced a second album for his mother, Between My Head and the Sky. Meanwhile, Lennon and Kemp Muhl began performing under the aliases of Amatla and Zargifon and released the single "Jardin Du Luxembourg" off their debut album, Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger (Acoustic Sessions) in 2010. At the height of the Occupy Wall Street movement in 2011, Lennon proved the apple did not fall far from the tree by being a visible figure amongst protesters that also included Roseanne Barr, Susan Sarandon and Kanye West. The following year, the extremely prolific artist again collaborated with Galland on the score to his friend's film "Alter Egos."