March 20, 1969 — John Lennon and Yoko Ono marry

One of the most controversial relationships in modern cultural history, John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s love began inauspiciously, as an affair (Lennon was already married at the time) characterised by the usual deception and unthinking cruelty of such things, and notable for Ono’s miscarriage in 1968 (a few weeks after Lennon’s divorce). With Ono, Lennon became more activist, protesting the Vietnam War in particular.

The two were married in Gibraltar, and their honeymoon was spent in the Hilton Hotel of Amsterdam, conducting their now-legendary Bed In for Peace. How much influence Ono had over Lennon in the ongoing dissolution of the Beatles in this era remains a matter of dispute. There seems little doubt that she may have exacerbated existing strains, but it is unlikely that she was solely responsible (as some have claimed). Lennon and Ono would remain married until Lennon’s death in 1980.

John Lennon en echtgenote Yoko Ono vertrekken van Schiphol naar Wenen in de vert, Bestanddeelnr 922-2496 (cropped).jpg
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As mentioned in:

The Ballad of John and Yoko — The Beatles

March 25, 1969 — John and Yoko stage their first Bed-In

After getting married on March 20, 1969, John Lennon and Yoko Ono proceeded to have possibly the strangest honeymoon ever.

From their room in the Amsterdam Hilton (room 902, the Presidential Suite), they held a series of press conferences each day from March 25 to March 31. Between 9am and 9pm each day, they invited the press into their room, where the couple discussed peace (especially in regards to Vietnam) while sitting in their bed. The wall above them was decorated with signs reading “Hair Peace” and “Bed Peace”.

It’s unclear exactly what effect, if any, this all had on the outcome of the Vietnam War. If nothing else, Lennon’s astute use of his celebrity to get his message out certainly helped to raise the issue’s profile, although it’s arguable he was preaching almost entirely to the converted – by 1969, pretty much everyone already had an opinion about Vietnam…

John Lennon en zijn echtgenote Yoko Ono op huwelijksreis in Amsterdam. John Lenn, Bestanddeelnr 922-2302.jpg
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As mentioned in:

The Ballad of John and Yoko — The Beatles

February 20, 1970 — John Lennon’s “Instant Karma!” is released in the US

“Instant Karma” (also known as “We All Shine On”) was Lennon’s third solo single (that is, single as a non-Beatle – although George Harrison contributed electric guitar, piano and backing vocals), and the first to be a great success. It sold over a million copies in the US alone, and was a top ten hit in eleven different countries. It was also one of the quickest produced songs of all time, taking literally only ten days from recording to release (February 6 was its debut in the UK).

Like much of Lennon’s work, it is a vague hippie anthem, raising philosophical questions and radiating optimism – although not without its sly touches, such as the lines “Get yourself together / Pretty soon you’re gonna be dead”. Two months later, Paul McCartney would announce the official end of the Beatles, but until them, “Instant Karma” would compete with “Let It Be” (the second last Beatles single) on the charts.

Karma UK.jpg
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As mentioned in:

God Pt II — U2

October 9, 1970 — John Lennon turns 30

John Lennon’s 30th birthday fell in one of the most tumultuous years of his life. Although he had actually left the Beatles the previous year, he had agreed not to publicise it while the band re-negotiated its contract. So he’d been surprised when Paul released his first solo album in April of 1970, and the media attention surrounding it largely credited Paul with breaking up the band.

His own first solo album would not be released for another two months, and while Lennon’s relationships with his former bandmates (Paul most of all) were strained, he was apparently both pleased and touched when Harrison presented him with a recording of “It’s Johnny’s Birthday” on his birthday.

December 8, 1980 — John Lennon is shot and killed

Mark David Chapman is, by any standard, an idiot. On this day in 1980, he shot John Lennon five times, in the back, while Lennon’s wife Yoko Ono looked on helplessly.

Whatever his actual motive for shooting John Lennon – and Chapman has contradicted himself on several occasions regarding it – the fact remains that he achieved only two things: depriving the world of a truly great musical talent, and giving the rest of the world one more reason to loathe American culture.

The fact that he has not been shanked in the yard at Attica State Prison only serves to underscore the massive injustice of Lennon’s death.

August 31, 1988 — Albert Goldman’s “The Lives of John Lennon” is published

One of the most controversial celebrity biographies of its era, Albert Goldman’s “The Lives of John Lennon” was almost universally denounced as a hatchet job. Goldman alleged, among other things, that Lennon was manipulative, anti-Semitic, dyslexic and schizophrenic. Lennon was also, apparently, involved – in a highly negaitve way – in several suspicious deaths, including those of Stuart Suttcliffe and an unborn child of Yoko Ono (who he apparently caused the miscarry by kicking her in the stomach during an argument).

Lennon’s associates, friends and family were near unanimous in their condemnation of the book. Cynthia Lennon (his ex-wife) and Yoko Ono both denounced it – Ono even threatened a libel suit at one point. Paul McCartney advised people not to buy it when asked about it in interviews (and he was one of the few people treated well in its pages). Other Lennon biographers have largely dismissed the book, and many of those Goldman interviewed in researching it later claimed that their words were misquoted or otherwise misrepresented.

This date is approximate – I have been able to narrow it down no more precisely than “late August”, and have thus chosen the latest possible date in August.

The Lives of John Lennon.jpg
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As mentioned in:

God Pt II — U2