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Lives Across The Pond: A Tribute To John Lennon

Each month we feature a person included in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography who was either born in the United States, and made their name in the UK, or came to the US from the British Isles. This month we highlight the musician John Lennon, who moved to New York City in the early 1970s and died there on 8 December 1980.

John Ono Lennon (1940–1980), musician, composer, and political activist, was born John Winston Lennon at Oxford Street Maternity Hospital, Liverpool, on 9 October 1940, the only child of Julia Stanley (1914–1958), a cinema usherette, and Alfred (Freddy) Lennon (1912–1976), a merchant seaman. Alfred’s family came from a working-class Irish background while Julia’s was more lower-middle class; both, however, were described by their acquaintances as ‘fun-loving’, and there was musical talent on both sides of John’s family …

… By 1965 Lennon was a leading media personality, constantly seen at exclusive London clubs, restaurants, and theatres. The Beatles were also a British success story to be boasted of by politicians (particularly by the prime minister Harold Wilson). Touring and performing were becoming increasingly wearing: at a concert in Shea Stadium, New York, in August, hardly a note of music could be heard above the screams of the 56,000 fans in the audience …

… By 1980 he was talking about creative work again, and in August he and Yoko recorded a new album, released in November. Some found this music overly sentimental, although some tracks—‘Beautiful boy’, ‘Woman’, and ‘(Just like) Starting over’—stood out. In any case, the records both shrank and mushroomed in significance when on 8 December 1980 John Lennon was shot at the entrance to the Dakota Building by Mark Chapman; he died shortly afterwards in Roosevelt Hospital, and was cremated at Hartsdale crematorium, New York, on 10 December.

Continue reading the Oxford DNB biography of John Lennon.

In addition to this biography, the Oxford DNB also offers a free ‘Life of the Day‘ sent daily to your in-box, plus a range of topical lives in our free monthly Reading Room.

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