John Lennon: Will we ever know the truth?
John Lennon: The Life by Philip Norman
I'm wondering if we'll ever get to know the truth about Beatle John Lennon.
I've recently read books by his first wife and by his sister and although the basic facts gel, this book approaches the story from a very different angle so it's well worth reading.
Endorsed by Yoko Ono or not?
It seems to me that there were two Johns; pre-and post Yoko. This book was initially represented to me as endorsed by Yoko.
The reason I see two Johns is because of the story of his early life. In this book, those early years are represented in a very different way.
However, in the acknowledgements at the end of this book, the authors tells that although John's widow initially approved the project and introduced him to various people, she did not approve the final manuscript - her reason being that it was 'mean to John'.
Everyone has their own agenda I guess
Although I wouldn't accuse anyone of wanting to re-write history, different people have different priorities. In the case of the first Mrs Lennon, Cynthia, I imagine that she wanted to put the record straight about her marriage and John's early days. She also was concerned about their son, Julian.
Julia Baird was John's half sister and her book seems to be concerned with ensuring that their mother was remembered in the right way. Cynthia was 'tactful' about Yoko; Julia was far less so. This Philip Norman book has the effect of redressing the balance.
But where is the truth?
The truth is probably read between the lines and I think it's essential not to rely on just one (or two) accounts. The author admits that he met John only twice but that the book was created thanks to hundreds of interviews with those in the know who gave him access to private papers and letters.
The fact that Yoko Ono refused to give this book her seal of approval 'because it was mean to John' implies to me that it is, allowing for the fact that it relies on other people's memories, a good representation of Lennon, especially during his post-Beatle days.
So who do we believe?
This book differs from the other two described on this page.
The other two were written by people who knew him intimately - and knew him before he was famous - in fact, when he was just an ordinary Liverpool lad. (If ever he was 'ordinary'?)
Of course, we know that people change and develop over the years so maybe it's best to read all three books, as I have.
But what will happen in the future?
Yoko Ono is an elderly lady now.If she was going to write a real book about her life with John, wouldn't she have done so by now?
Has she in fact done so and written a manuscript that will be published after her death?
Their son Sean was just a little boy when John was shot and killed in New York so we are unlikely to get revelations from him.
What can we expect in the future?
I imagine that an ex-wife is careful to avoid being seen as 'a woman scorned'.
But there's no getting away from the fact that Cynthia was closer to John than anyone else during the early days of his career.
She met him when they were both at art school in Liverpool and remained with him for most of the craziness of Beatlemania.
The whole subject is huge.
Telling the story of a man's life - a man who lived such a public life in the media age - is unlikely to be encapsulated in one book.
This is yet another perspective and understanding his family and the background he came from helps us to begin to understand the man himself.
A film of John Lennon's early life
This isn't just about the early Liverpool days and John Lennon growing up, it also shows the birth of the Beatles.
I am totally in love with this film that covers Lennon's late teens. Originally, it was said to be based on Julia Baird's book but I believe that changed.
The writers consulted both Yoko Ono and Paul McCartney so, if this is an amalgam of these two and Julia Baird, is likely to be a balanced, if not 100% accurate view.
One thing I think would please John immensely is to see that his son turned out to be a great bloke.
I must put this down in a great part to his mother, Cynthia. Julian was just a little boy when his parents split up and he never had a proper father - son relationship with Lennon.