At age 18, John's life underwent a drastic change, when, shortly after having reunited with his son, Julia Stanley Lennon, died. She was hit by a bus driven by an off -duty policeman in Liverpool. Lennon never fully recovered from the loss of his mother, and he continued to seek for her love in most of the women he met, finally finding comfort in the person of Yoko Ono, many years later. In the meantime, he met a fellow student, Cynthia Powell, and in spite of their many differences, they soon became romantically involved. In 1959, he left his natal Liverpool for Hamburg, Germany, along with Paul Mc Cartney, guitarist George Harrison, longtime friend Stuart Stucliffe and drummer Pete Best. Their objective was to have a shot at fame and fortune in Hamburg's music scene. It was during this trip that he and his fellow bandmates met Astrid Kilcher and Klaus Voorman; she, a visionary photographer who would document The Beatles' transition from Liverpool lads to full grown muscicians, and would suggest the now legendary "moptop" image. The later, was to become John's close friend, and later play bass on many of his solo projects. Their trip ended when George was deported back to England for being a minor, by which time they had already achived a certain amount of popularity. Lennon also lost Stucliffe, his best friend. At the time, Stuart had become a celebrated artist who died in Hamburg, after a short marriage to Astrid Kilcher.
Back in Liverpool, The Beatles were hired to play the "lunch shift" on a little club, "The Cavern". Brian Epstein, a local record store owner and business man, decided to heard them, after their records were requested several times. It didn't take him much to realize the potential of the group. For the rest of his life he would make it his mission to see the boys succeed, and his first step was to get them a recording contract with EMI records. In 1962, The Beatles released "Love me Do" Their first single, and started on the road of musical history.
In August 23, 1962, Shortly after the Beatles' Big break, John married longtime girlfriend Cynthia Powell, and she soon gave birth to their son Julian.(April 8th, 1963): Because of the group's increasing popularity in both Britain and the U.S, his marriage was kept secret for a relatively long time. It was Brian Epstein's (the Beatles manager) idea that a married "moptop" would surely be less appealing to their targeted audience: mostly screaming teenage girls. John would later admit to being a failure both as a husband to Powell and as a father to Julian, mostly due to the war that he was still waging with his inner demons, which continue to haunt him, in spite of his success.
John Lennon and Paul Mc Cartney close songwriting collaboration was clearly always the driving force of the Beatles' success. They also had very definite roles within the group. John always wrote songs or contributed with lyrics that highlighed his strong rock and roll roots and surfaced his feelings and raw emotions. He was the strong minded and outspoken genious. Paul was the directing part of the duo. He orchestrated the signature catchy tunes that placed the band in the charts. Although they differed vastly in their points of view, their songwriting efforts produced more hit singles (59) and innumerable masterpieces than any other musical partnership in recording history, left as an enduring legacy of their work.
For the next seven years, John got caught up on a ongoing cycle of bliss, fame, controversy, drugs and rock and roll that ultimately led him nowhere. In 1964 the Beatles were awarded the MBE (members of the British Empire) title by Queen Elizabeth, honor which infuriated some, but mostly amused both their fans and the group itself. Years later Lennon would return his MBE, citing Britain's involvement in the Vietnam war as reason. Unfortunatly, he also mentioned his first solo single "cold turkey" falling off from the charts, a comment that widely cheapened the gesture.
John's dissappointment with the music business can be witnessed by listening to some of the songs he contributed to the Beatles's albums released in the period. After a the first fecund years of boundary-pushing lyrics and melodies he stopped challenging his own songwriting capabilities and simply gave up. Shortly after Sgt. Pepper, his songs clearly reflect how much of his early enthusiam was gone, specially his contributions to the Yellow Submarine soundtrack and The White album, although it contains some of his best compositions ever.
In the mist of the sixties' phychdelia, and after a great desilusion with the spiritual world, John met the woman who was to become his life partner: Yoko Ono. She was an avant garde, japanese-american artist, six years his senior. Soon after they met, and in spite of public outrage they were inseparable. John decided to leave his wife and marry Yoko, who was being dubbed by the press as "the dragon lady", the woman who had cast a spell on "prince charming". They didn't seem to care.
John married Yoko in March 20th 1969. , in Gibraltar. In the years to come, she would be accused of creating tension between the Beatles, and ultimately forcing John away from the group, thus inciting to their 1970 break up. They became close collaborators, not only artistically or music, but also as peace promotors. They staged "bed-ins" during their honeymoon in Amsterdam; elaborate press conferences conducted from their honeymoon suite, that centered on their peace efforts. Their marked eccentricities quickly alienated them with the british public opinion, and in the end they were force to seek refuge in America. And they fled for New York City.
John and Yoko settled in New York City, and he remained there for the rest of his life. There were clearly a great number of qualities in NYC that reminded John of his native Liverpool. He was also very attracted to the city's communication capabilities. In his opinion, New York was capital of the world. He even went as far as saying "If I'd lived in Roman times, I'd have lived in Rome. Where else? Today, America is the Roman Empire, and New York is Rome itself".
But as fond as John and Yoko were of New York City, not all New Yorkers were particulary fond of the Lennons. Politicians and government organizations, specially, thought that they could only mean trouble. An exhaustive undercover prosecution campaign against John would later unveil the tight scrutiny they were under. The FBI went as far as tapping their telephone conversations, and having agents pose as groupies or fans, all in an effort to deport them. Between December 1971 and August 1972, John and Yoko collaborated with numerous protests and spoke out whenever they felt worthy a cause. Good examples of this are Benefit at Apollo, where they perfomed "Attica State", protesting in favor of the infamous upraising in the prision and the Geraldo Rivera One to one concert.
The pressures of their hectic lifestyles, combined with the ones of the outiside world, finally affected the couple. After only three years of marriage, John and Yoko decided to take a brake from each other. That two year period would later be known as John's infamous "lost weekend". John took off May Pang, his assistant andwith some of his old friends, feeling carefree for the first time since he was 20. He reunited with Ringo, and helped him work on his album, and also played with the likes of David Bowie and Elton John. He was a bachelor once again, but only enjoyed it for a short period, before he started to long for home.
Yoko Ono developed into her own person, after being criticized for so long, and being in the shadow of the genious of John. She became very active in the Avant-garde New York scene, regaining her place as an accomplished artist. She would often check in with May Pang, to catch up with his life without him finding out.
John's work during this 18 month period clearly reflect the pain that being away from his beloved Yoko caused him. "What you got" "Nobody loves you when you're down and out" and "Sweet bird of paradox" share the same theme: Fear of abandonment and isolation. Even "whatever gets you through the night, the peppy single that propelled him back to the top of the charts, was based on the assumption that getting by alone is not easy. Soon it became clear to everyone who knew him that Yoko was not only the woman under John's shadow; she was also indispensable to him.