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Four Lads Who Shook The World
John Winston Ono Lennon, MBE (Member of the Order of the British Empire) was born 'John Winston Lennon' on 9th October 1940. On April 22nd, 1969 John Lennon officially changed his name to 'John Ono Lennon'. He was an English rock musician, singer, songwriter, artist, and peace activist who gained worldwide fame as one of the founding members of The Beatles. As a member of the group, John Lennon was one of the lead vocalists and co-wrote the majority of the band's songs with bassist Paul McCartney.
In the United Kingdom, The Beatles released more than 40 different singles, albums, and EPs that reached number one. This commercial success was repeated in many other countries: their record company, EMI, estimated that by 1985 they had sold over one billion discs and tapes worldwide. The Beatles are the best-selling musical act of all time in the United States, according to the Recording Industry Association of America.
In 2009, Rolling Stone magazine ranked The Beatles #1 on its list of 100 Greatest Artists of All Time. According to that same magazine, their innovative music and cultural impact helped define the 1960s, and their influence on pop culture is still evident today.
The Beatles led the mid-1960s musical 'British Invasion' into the United States. Although their initial musical style was rooted in 1950s rock and roll and homegrown skiffle, the group explored genres ranging from Tin Pan Alley, country music, classical music, to psychedelic rock. Their clothes, styles, and statements made them trend-setters, while their growing social awareness saw their influence extend into the social and cultural revolutions of the 1960s.
The Beatles' constant demands to create new sounds on every new recording, combined with George Martin's arranging abilities and the studio expertise of EMI staff engineers such as Norman Smith, Ken Townsend and Geoff Emerick, all played significant parts in the innovative sounds of the albums Rubber Soul (1965), Revolver (1966) and Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967).
The Beatles continued to absorb influences long after their initial success, often finding new musical and lyrical avenues by listening to their contemporaries. Among those influences were Bob Dylan, who influenced songs such as "You've Got to Hide Your Love Away" and "Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)". Other contemporary influences included the Byrds and the Beach Boys, whose album Pet Sounds was a favourite of McCartney's. Beatles producer George Martin stated that "Without Pet Sounds, Sgt. Pepper wouldn't have happened... Pepper was an attempt to equal Pet Sounds." After Sgt. Pepper was released, Wilson was so despondent that he went to bed for months.
Along with studio tricks such as sound effects, unconventional microphone placements, tape loops, double tracking and vari-speed recording, The Beatles began to augment their recordings with instruments that were unconventional for rock music at the time. These included string and brass ensembles as well as Indian instruments such as the sitar as in "Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)" and the swarmandel as in "Strawberry Fields Forever". They also used early electronic instruments such as the Mellotron, with which McCartney supplied the flute voices on the intro to "Strawberry Fields Forever", and the ondioline, an electronic keyboard that created the unusual oboe-like sound on "Baby You're a Rich Man".
Beginning with the use of a string quartet (arranged by George Martin with input from McCartney) on "Yesterday" in 1965, The Beatles pioneered a modern form of art song, exemplified by the double-quartet string arrangement on "Eleanor Rigby" (1966), "Here, There and Everywhere" (1966) and "She's Leaving Home" (1967). A televised performance of Bach's Brandenburg Concerto No. 2 directly inspired McCartney's use of a piccolo trumpet on the arrangement of "Penny Lane". The Beatles moved towards psychedelia with "Rain" and "Tomorrow Never Knows" from 1966, and "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds", "Strawberry Fields Forever" and "I Am the Walrus" from 1967.
Their first live American television appearance was on the The Ed Sullivan Show on 9 February 1964. The next morning practically every newspaper wrote that The Beatles were nothing more than a 'fad', and 'could not carry a tune across the Atlantic'. Their first American concert appearance was at Washington Coliseum in Washington, D.C. on 11 February 1964.
The Plastic Ono Band was a conceptual supergroup formed by John Lennon and Yoko Ono in 1969 before the dissolution of The Beatles. Amongst the various members of the band were Eric Clapton, two former Beatles (George Harrison and Ringo Starr), old friend Klaus Voorman, future Yes drummer Alan White, members of Delaney and Bonnie, The Who's drummer Keith Moon, New York band Elephant's Memory, Billy Preston, Nicky Hopkins, Phil Spector, and drummer Jim Keltner.
In 1968, John Lennon began his personal and artistic relationship with Yoko Ono by collaborating on the experimental album Unfinished Music No.1: Two Virgins. After a second album, Unfinished Music No.2: Life With The Lions appeared in the spring of 1969, Lennon and Ono decided that all of their future endeavors would be credited to the Plastic Ono Band. Its credo, "YOU are the Plastic Ono Band", implied that everyone was part of the group. In fact, the Plastic Ono Band was an identity to describe works by Lennon and Ono and whoever happened to be performing with them. Lennon and Ono would both use the name for years on their future solo albums. The single release of "Give Peace a Chance" in July 1969, recorded in a hotel room in Montreal, Quebec, was the first release to bear the credit the Plastic Ono Band.
The only album solely credited to the Plastic Ono Band, Live Peace in Toronto (1969), was recorded during the Toronto Rock and Roll Revival Festival in September that year and featured Eric Clapton on lead guitar, Klaus Voorman on bass (an old friend of Lennon's from Germany, who was famous for the cover art of the Beatles' Revolver album), and Alan White on drums. Fronting the group, naturally, were Lennon and Ono.
Just after its recording, "Cold Turkey", Lennon's tale of breaking his brief heroin addiction, was released as a single under the banner of the Plastic Ono Band again, featuring the Live Peace In Toronto 1969 line-up. By early 1970, Lennon and Ono had begun adding their names to their releases ("Instant Karma!" coming out as "John Lennon with the Plastic Ono Band", and their two proper solo debut albums: John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band and Yoko Ono/Plastic Ono Band). By 1971 the name was being used as a secondary credit, with Lennon's and Ono's names the most prominent on their solo ventures, and with occasional variances (e.g., "the Plastic Ono Nuclear Band", "the Plastic U.F.Ono Band," or, when they performed with Frank Zappa, "the Plastic Ono Mothers"). The last use of the Plastic Ono Band credit appeared on Lennon's 1975 greatest hits album Shaved Fish.
John Lennon. (Induction Year: 1994)
"John Lennon didn't invent rock and roll, nor did he embody it as toweringly as figures like Elvis Presley and Little Richard, but he did more than anyone else to shake it up, move it forward and instill it with a conscience. As the most daring and outspoken of the four Beatles, he helped shape the agenda of the Sixties - socially and politically, no less than musically. As a solo artist, he made music that alternately disturbed and soothed, provoked and sought community. As a human being, he served as an exemplar of honesty in his art and life. As Jann Wenner wrote in the foreword to a collection of writings entitled The Ballad of John and Yoko, 'Of the many things that will be long remembered about John Lennon - his genius as a musician and singer, his wit and literary swiftness, his social intuition and leadership - among the most haunting was the stark, unembarrassed commitment of his life, his work and his undernourished frame to truth, to peace and to humanity.'
Lennon was born in 1940 during the Nazi bombing of Britain and given the middle name Winston, after prime minister Churchill (he would later change his middle name to Ono). At age five, Lennon was sent to live with his 'Aunt Mimi' after his parents separated. In 1956, Aunt Mimi bought Lennon a guitar. His incessant playing prompted her to remark, 'The guitar's all very well as a hobby, John, but you'll never make a living out of it.' That same year, Lennon formed his first group, the Quarrymen, which evolved into the Beatles.
Having experienced the horror of a world at war as a child and then living through the Vietnam era as a young man, Lennon came to embrace and embody pacifism. His was the voice and vision that powered such Beatles classics as 'All You Need Is Love' and 'Strawberry Fields Forever.' Yet Lennon also had a dark side that found expression in pained outcries dating as far back as 'Help,' and his was the most naturally adventuresome musical spirit in the band, as evidenced by such outre tracks as 'I Am the Walrus' and 'Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite.' The uncensored, self-lacerating aspect of the Lennon persona reached a fevered pitch with the drug-withdrawal blues of 'Cold Turkey,' a 1969 single released under the name Plastic Ono Band.
Although Lennon was a complicated man, he chose after the Beatles to simplify his art in order to figure out his life, erasing the boundaries between the two. As he explained it, he started trying 'to shave off all imagery, pretensions of poetry, illusions of grandeur... Just say what it is, simple English, make it rhyme and put a backbeat on it, and express yourself as simply [and] straightforwardly as possible.' His most fully realized statement as a solo artist was 1970's John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band. It followed several collaborative sound collages recorded toward the end of the Beatles era with Yoko Ono, his wife and collaborator. The raw, confessional nature of Plastic Ono Band reflected the primal-scream therapy that Lennon and Ono had been undergoing with psychologist Arthur Janov. He dealt with such fundamental issues as 'God' and 'Mother' and the class system ('Working Class Hero') on an album as full of naked candor as any in rock has ever been.
Many of Lennon's post-Beatles compositions, 'Imagine,' 'Mind Games,' 'Instant Karma,' and 'Give Peace a Chance', have rightfully become anthems, flaunting tough-minded realism, cosmic epiphany, hard-won idealism and visionary utopianism in equal measure. For all of the unvarnished genius of Lennon's recordings, however, much of what lingers in the public memory goes beyond musical legacy. Rather, it has to do with leading by example. The relationship between John and Yoko endured challenges to became one of the most touching and celebrated of 20th-century romances. They were gallantly foolish in undertaking performance art pieces - bed-ins, happenings, full-page ads declaring 'War Is Over!' - that spread their message of peace.
During the early Seventies Lennon fought the U.S. government to avoid deportation a campaign of harassment by Nixon-era conservatives that was overturned by the courts in 1976, and came to love his adopted city of New York. That same year, Lennon had his first #1 single, somewhat ironically, he was the last Beatle to top the charts as a solo artist with 'Whatever Gets You Thru the Night,' from the album Walls and Bridges. He was joined on vocals by Elton John, who cajoled Lennon into joining him onstage at Madison Square Garden on November 28, 1974. It would turn out to be Lennon's last public performance.
Beginning with the birth of his second son, Sean Ono Lennon, in 1975, John Lennon dropped out of sight for five years. During this spell, he chose to lay low and raise Sean as a proud househusband. Simply by stepping back and 'watching the wheels,' John Lennon made a statement about priorities that said more than words and music. His eventual return to the recording scene in 1980 was one of the more eagerly anticipated musical events of the year. The album Double Fantasy, jointly credited to John Lennon and Yoko Ono and named for a flower he'd seen at a botanical garden, was released on November 17, 1980. On December 8, a brilliant life came to an untimely end when Lennon was shot to death outside his New York City apartment. He was returning from a recording session for an album that was posthumously released as Milk and Honey. Three weeks after his death, with the entire rock world still in disbelief and mourning, '(Just Like) Starting Over' (from Double Fantasy) hit #1."