As the founding member, co-composer, co-lead vocalist, and rhythm guitarist of the Beatles, John Lennon—an English singer, songwriter, musician, and peace activist—attained international recognition. Lennon’s music, writing, and artwork, as well as his appearances on film and in interviews, were all distinguished by his rebellious attitude and biting humor. His songwriting collaboration with Paul McCartney continues to be the most popular in history.
Lennon, a Liverpool native, was embroiled in the skiffle craze when he was a youngster. He founded the Quarrymen in 1956, and in 1960, they became the Beatles. He was originally the group’s de facto leader, often referred to as “the wise Beatle,” a position that was ultimately transferred to McCartney. Lennon published two volumes of gibberish writings and line drawings in the middle of the 1960s called In His Own Write and A Spaniard in the Works. His musical contributions, beginning with “All You Need Is Love,” were anthems for the anti-war movement and the broader counterculture. With his second wife, the multimedia artist Yoko Ono, he formed the Plastic Ono Band in 1969. He also set up the two-week Bed-Ins for Peace protest against the war, and he left the Beatles to start a solo career.
Lennon and Ono worked together on several tracks between 1968 and 1972, including a trio of avant-garde albums, his solo debut John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band, and the top 10 singles “Give Peace a Chance,” “Instant Karma!”, “Imagine,” and “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)” in various countries. After relocating to New York City in 1971 and criticizing the Vietnam War, the Richard Nixon government tried to deport him for three years. Between September 1973 to January 1975, Lennon and Ono were apart. During that time, they worked with Elton John on the number-one hit “Whatever Gets You Through the Night” and David Bowie on “Fame” when they got back together. Lennon made his musical comeback in 1980 with the Ono-collaborated album Double Fantasy, after a five-year absence. Three weeks after the album’s release, a Beatles fan named Mark David Chapman shot and murdered him.
Lennon has 25 number-one hits in the Billboard Hot 100 list as a singer, songwriter, or co-writer. His best-selling record Double Fantasy earned the 1981 Grammy Award for Album of the Year. The Brit Award for Outstanding Contribution to Music was given to Lennon in 1982. In a 2002 BBC history poll of the 100 Greatest Britons, Lennon came in ninth place. He was recognized as the 38th best artist overall and the fifth greatest vocalist by Rolling Stone. Both the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and the Songwriters Hall of Fame inducted him.
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