The Lives of John Lennon Book Summary and Study Guide

Detailed plot synopsis reviews of The Lives of John Lennon

The controversial biography of John Lennon covers his unhappy upbringing, enormous fame with the Beatles, deep drug addiction, and personal struggles with identity and love. John Lennon is portrayed here as a deeply complex and convoluted individual. Born into poverty in 1940's Liverpool, John is abandoned by both of his wastrel parents. He is raised in part by his unloving aunt and also in an orphanage (Strawberry Fields). He is an aggressive teenager, prone to brawls and partying, but demonstrates artistic talent and goes to art school. He meets the other members of the band that will become the Beatles, last of all Paul McCartney. They get an important gig performing for hours each night at a club in Germany where they hone their craft. They are swept up in the largest music craze of the 20th century and have their first tour in America, their manager Brian Epstein joining them. Their successes are well known. The book follows Johns increasing involvement in drugs, especially LSD and heroin. As the band's fame increases, he becomes more and more withdrawn from the creative process and gives up live performance entirely. By the time he meets Yoko Ono his interest in the band is virtually nil. After the band breaks up in 1970, John's identity becomes confused. He has more money than he could ever use and nothing to do. In the following years he becomes obsessed with aliens, has numerous affairs and wild drug binges, joins cults and quack therapy groups, and makes a number of records. He also gives hundreds of hours of interviews, the longest of which is concluded only hours before his assassination in 1980. Albert Goldman's biography was highly controversial because of the critical light it portrays the often deified Lennon. Indeed, Lennon does come across as a selfish and chaotic man, but is not unsympathetic either. Those hoping to really get a sense of the man behind the music will do well to read this book.
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Best part of story, including ending: The book goes deeper than anything I've read about the Beatles. It gave me a new appreciation for John's songs especially.

Best scene in story: There is a chapter that covers John's production session of a Harry Nillsonn record. The session is a lengthy bender that winds up with Lennon in Nillsonn's label head's office drunkenly demanding a huge bonus for Harry, which he ultimately receives. The recording is total chaos.

Opinion about the main character: So often it seemed like John Lennon was on the cutting edge of anything he approached, even when it was something really foolish. His involvement with many fringe 60's and 70's characters is embarrassing to read, but no one knew better at the time.

The review of this Book prepared by Andrew Black a Level 5 American Goldfinch scholar

Chapter Analysis of The Lives of John Lennon

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Plot & Themes

job/profession:    -   musician Job/profession/poverty story    -   Yes Period of greatest activity?    -   1950+

Subject of Biography

Gender    -   Male Profession/status:    -   musician Ethnicity    -   White Nationality    -   British Unusual characteristics:    -   Genius


How much descriptions of surroundings?    -   3 () United States    -   Yes The US:    -   Northeast Europe    -   Yes European country:    -   England/UK Century:    -   1960's-1970's

Writing Style

Book makes you feel?    -   depressed Pictures/Illustrations?    -   A ton 16-20 B&W How much dialogue in bio?    -   significantly more descript than dialog How much of bio focuses on most famous period of life?    -   26-50% of book

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Albert Goldman Books Note: the views expressed here are only those of the reviewer(s).
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