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John Lennon

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Just as pop music fans of the '60s could be divided into Beatles and Rolling Stones camps, Beatles fans often expressed their preference (though often slight) for either John Lennon or Paul McCartney. The two's post-Beatles work make the distinction even greater, with Lennon's songs becoming even less sentimental and more raw and (often) political than they had been before, and McCartney's less rocking and more mainstream.

Though Lennon's marriage with the avant-garde artist Yoko Ono - whom he met in 1966 and moved in with two years later -- certainly encouraged his urge to strip his music down to the basics, he'd already written two humorous books (In His Own Write and A Spaniard in the Works) and had become the first Beatle to star in a non-Beatles film, the dark comedy How I Won the War, directed by Richard Lester.

His first album collaboration with Ono, Unfinished Music No. 1: Two Virgins was released just after John and Cynthia Powell Lennon's divorce (Julian Lennon is their son), and before Lennon and Ono's March 20, 1969 marriage. The Ono-Lennon nuptials were celebrated with the release of Unfinished Music No 2: Life with the Lions and the hit single, Give Peace a Chance; the latter recorded in a suite at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel in Montreal during the pair's honeymoon. Later that year, Lennon and Ono performed at a rock festival in Toronto, backed by Eric Clapton, Klaus Voormann and drummer Alan White; and released an album from the event, Live Peace in Toronto. One of Lennon's starkest singles followed: Cold Turkey, an account of his addiction to heroin; the next, Instant Karma, reached No. 3 on Billboard's pop singles chart; his highest placement to date as a solo.

The rift that had been growing between Lennon and McCartney deepened when McCartney announced that the Beatles were splitting up. Lennon had privately expressed his desire to leave, but had felt that the announcement should be made by the group, and that McCartney was grandstanding in an attempt to draw the public's attention to him. In any event, Lennon (who had been attending "primal therapy" sessions with Dr. Arthur Janov) released a series of powerful, personal and often angry albums, and singles including the politically-minded Power to the People, Imagine and Happy Xmas (War is Over).

Following a series of disputes with the United States Immigration and Naturalization Service - who didn't want to admit a convicted marijuana user - Lennon moved to Los Angeles, where he drank heavily, conducted an affair with May Pang, and fell in with the "wrong element" - an ad hoc supergroup of carousers including Keith Moon, Harry Nilsson (with whom he recorded the Pussycats album) and Elton John. After returning to New York and Ono, Lennon collaborated with Elton John on the song Whatever Gets You Through the Night, and Lennon's 3-song guest appearance at a Madison Square Garden concert on November 28, 1974, turned out to be the Beatle's final public performance. Lennon and Ono reunited in January, 1975.

In 1976. Lennon collaborated with another of his former Los Angeles drinking buddies, David Bowie (and guitarist Carlos Alomar), to write the Bowie hit Fame. On Lennon's 35th birthday, October 9, 1975, John and Yoko's son, Sean Taro Ono Lennon, was born.

With his immigration problems finally settled in his favor, Lennon signed with Geffen Records in 1980, releasing (with Ono) the album Double Fantasy, and the optimistically-titled (Just Like) Starting Over. On December 8, 1980, Lennon was accosted outside his New York City apartment by "fan" Mark David Chapman, who, after requesting and receiving an autograph, shot Lennon point-blank, killing him.

Subsequent to his death, several compilations of Lennon outtakes have been issued, and of course Apple has continued to exhume the Beatles archives for various projects. The Liverpool airport was renamed in Lennon's honor in 1991. He was inducted as a soloist to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1992; followed a little over a month later by the Recording Academy's Lifetime Achievement Award.

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