Born John Charles Julian Lennon on April 8, 1963 in Liverpool, England; son of ex-Beatles singer/songwriter John Lennon and Cynthia Powell, a television host. Addresses: Record company Music From Another Room;.
Being the son of a legend is hard. Living up to that legend is even harder. Continuing that legend's legacy is nearly impossible especially when the legend/father is infamous ex-Beatle John Lennon. According to VH-1's Behind the Music, the elder Lennon "preordained what Julian was gonna be [when he asked baby Julian] who's gonna be a little rocker like his daddy?" John Lennon would never see his son fulfill his destiny, when in 1984, Julian Lennon became a big rocker with the release of his hit debut album, Valotte. Three albums and seven years later, Julian had had enough of life in the public and of critic's who had seen him both as a replacement for his father and, as stated by Behind the Music, "a pretender to the throne." In 1991 Lennon, tired of the ceaseless scrutiny and comparisons to his father, disappeared. As he stated in the 1985 concert film Stand By Me, "It's great to get recognition [for the music], but fame doesn't do anything for me whatsoever."
John Charles Julian Lennon was born on April 8, 1963 in Liverpool, England. Being the first Beatle baby, "Jules" received instant media attention. Attention from his father, however, was limited. While John Lennon was busy changing the face of pop music, Julian's mother Cynthia was left to care for him. And although he resented his father's lack of participation in his life, Julian was able to identify with his father's music, stating at www.julianlennon.com "My dad's music was a great inspiration to me."
It was Julian, however, who inspired the Beatles song "Hey Jude." Behind the Music described the song as, "an anthem of hope and longing a song of comfort and concern. written by Paul McCartney to console a five year old boy devastated by his parents divorce." In 1999, Julian, as stated on his web site, still finds it, "hard to imagine this man [McCartney] was thinking about me and my life so much that he wrote a song about me. If I'm sitting in a bar and the song comes on the radio, I still get goose pimples." In 1968 John left Julian and Cynthia, moving from London to New York City with his new wife Yoko Ono, a Japanese performance artist. Julian would not see his father for the next four years.
Reconciliation Cut Short by Assassin's Bullet
Throughout the mid-Seventies, Julian and his father slowly began to repair their relationship. Julian even played drums on "Ya Ya," a song on his father's Walls and Bridges album. However, Julian recalled on Behind the Music that, "I didn't know how to react with him. He didn't know how to react with me." In 1975, with the birth of Sean Ono Lennon, John's second son, Julian continued to find it hard to connect with his father, especially when John took five years off from the music business to stay at home with Sean. Julian further recalled that he felt "frustrated a bit ... why couldn't he have recognized this and tried to make things better, try to change things in regards to his love or respect for me."
Yet, even with this frustration, Julian and John continued to try and rebuild their relationship. But Julian's deep seeded resentment for his father, to some degree, remained, as he told Elizabeth Grice of the Daily Telegraph, "He was a hypocrite. Dad could talk about peace and love out loud to the world, but he could never show it to the people who supposedly meant the most to him: his wife and son. How can you talk about peace and love and have a family in bits and pieces no communication, adultery, divorce? You can't do it, not if you're being true and honest with yourself." Perhaps Julian and John would have had eventually come to some sort of understanding, but on December 8, 1980, John Lennon was assassinated. Julian was only seventeen years old.
For the next four years, Julian partied through London. All the while, he thought about becoming a musician and even began sending out demo tapes anonymously. However, as Elizabeth Thomas wrote in Contemporary Musicians, Vol. 2, "Julian was daunted by grief and the shadow of his father's immense talent." Rolling Stone's Elizabeth Kaye noted an ironic twist: "when he [Julian] was small, he worried that he could never write songs or sing them the way his father did. When he was older, he worried that anything he wrote or sang would sound too much like his father."
Some record companies did not care if Julian sounded too much like John, but rather wanted to cash in on the eerie resemblance. In the mid-eighties, Thomas wrote, Julian "stumbled into a record deal designed to exploit John's memory by having the son sing an unreleased song stolen from his father's estate." Ironically, it was Lennon's stepmother Yoko Ono the woman who Julian would later sue who paid off the record company so Julian could get out of his contract.
In 1984, Atlantic Records signed Julian and released his debut album, Valotte. The album produced two hit singles, "Too Late For Goodbyes" and "Valotte." Lennon was embraced by fans and critics alike who may or may not have believed, as Julian told Rolling Stone in 1985, that he was not "trying to carry on a tradition except maybe in the simplicity of Dad's writing." Moreover, Producer Phil Ramone commented in Rolling Stone that Julian, "can hit your heart with a lyric and be clever with a melody. Music is the joy of his life, no doubt about it." Valotte earned Lennon a 1985 Grammy Award nomination for Best New Artist.
Atlantic Records also realized that Lennon could not only continue his father's legacy, but also stuff their pockets with large amounts of money and he was powerless to stop them. As Lennon told San Francisco Chronicle reporter Aidin Vaziri in 1999, "I was young and naive, so I signed my life away. Unfortunately, the first album will quite possibly never be mine, which sickens me to death. But when you're vying for your first album deal, you'd just about give up your mother." Following a massive 18 month tour, Lennon wanted time off to write; however, Atlantic reminded him that he was "contractually obligated" to release another album. Thus, in the spring of 1986 Atlantic released Lennon's second album, The Secret Value of Daydreaming. It was a disappointment, both critically and financially.
Three years later, though, he seemed to somewhat redeem himself with his third album, Mr. Jordan, which People called, "an unexpectedly striking and vigorous piece of work." With his fourth album, 1991's Help Yourself, Lennon continued on his path of public and critical redemption. That album produced the minor hit, "Saltwater," yet, Lennon felt that he was no longer receiving the support of his record company. He told Behind the Music, "they realized ... I couldn't be pressured to trying to write what they wanted to hear." Thus, after seven years and five and a half million albums sold, Julian decided that he had had enough of the music industry.
Discovered Not Just the "Son of"
For the next seven years Lennon traveled throughout Europe, did some acting, shopped for antiques anything that did not involve the music business. He resurfaced in 1996 co-writing the score for the hit movie, Mr. Holland's Opus and purchasing $80,000 worth of Beatles memorabilia including a handwritten first draft of "Hey Jude." Julian had always felt that the Beatles were more than just his father, as he explained to Jae-Ha Kim of the Chicago Sun-Times, "There are some people who say that Dad was the Beatles, but I disagree with that. Without Paul, there wouldn't have been the Beatles."
Julian had always wanted something to pass down to his children, as well to continue the Lennon legacy. But as he told Kim, "I was never given anything from Dad or the estate.... The thing is she's [Yoko Ono] got everything. She owns his name, his likeness, all his money. You name it. She's got it." Eventually Ono and Lennon agreed on a financial settlement in 1996 that guaranteed Julian and step brother, Sean, a fifty-fifty split in copyrights of John's songs.
In the midst of these financial settlements, Lennon was also fighting to get out of his record contract with Atlantic. He told Kim, "I didn't write (any songs) for years because I didn't want (the record company) to own them." It took five years for Lennon to dissolve his contract. After forming his own record label, Music From Another Room, he began writing again. This time, however, Lennon was writing "not for an album. It was for writing's sake. And for the sake of challenging myself. To prove my own self worth as a writer," as he told Behind the Music.
Lennon recorded those songs at his own expense, released them on his label, and established his own web site. The end result, Photograph Smile won rave critical reviews. Rolling Stone's David Wild wrote, "the homespun, intimate feeling Photograph Smile sounds like the work of a man who has come to peace with ghosts of the past and gotten on with the business of writing some good new tunes."
Lennon was clearly pleased with such press, telling Daniel Durchholz of Rolling Stone, "the gratifying thing about this record is the reviews which have been the best I've ever had in my life." Lennon, it seemed, had finally found a sort of inner peace. As he told Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reporter Steve Morse, "I've felt that I would [always] find a level of peace in life ... I think what keeps you going is that love inside you and the hope, the faith that things are going to bloody work out in the end."
by Ann M. Schwalboski
Julian Lennon's Career
At eleven years old played drums on "Ya Ya" on father's Walls and Bridges album; taught himself to play piano; continued to rebuild his relationship with his father until 1980 when John Lennon was assassinated; signed with Atlantic Records, 1983; released debut album Valotte, (include hits "Too Late For Goodbyes" and "Valotte"), 1984; released The Secret Value of Daydreaming, 1986; released Mr. Jordon, 1989; released Help Yourself (included "Saltwater"), 1996; formed Music From Another Room label; released Photograph Smile, 1999.
- Selected discography
- Valotte , Atlantic, 1984.
- The Secret Value of Daydreaming , Atlantic, 1986.
- Mr. Jordan , Atlantic, 1989.
- Help Yourself , Atlantic, 1991.
- (contributor) Mr. Holland's Opus , (soundtrack) 1996.
- Photograph Smile , Music From Another Room, 1999.
- Contemporary Musicians Vol. 2.
- Chicago Sun-Times, March 9, 1999.
- Denver Post, February 24, 1999.
- The Guardian, May 23, 1998.
- Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, February 27, 1999.
- People, January 7, 1985; April 17, 1989.
- Rolling Stone, June 6, 1985; February 25, 1999.
- San Francisco Chronicle, February 21, 1999.
- "Julian Lennon,"www.julianlennon.com (May 9, 1999).
- "The Other Son." Rolling Stone Network: Random Notes, www.rollingstone.com (May 4, 1999).
- Additional information provided by: World Press Review; the 1985 concert film/documentary, Stand By Me: A Portrait of Julian Lennon, produced and directed by Martin Lewis, and VH-1's Behind the Music, produced by Gay Rosenthal, originally broadcast, April 25, 1999.