Born on October 9, 1975, in New York, NY; son of John Lennon and Yoko Ono. Education: Attended Columbia University. Addresses: Record company--Capitol Records, 1750 North Vine St., Hollywood, CA 90028-6274, website: http://www.hollywoodandvine.com.
A select few musicians, like Sean Lennon, are celebrities before they write their first song or enter a recording studio for the first time. Born to famous popular musicians John Lennon and Yoko Ono in 1975, it seemed less a question of whether he would become a musician than when he would begin his career in music. By his fifth birthday, the youngest Lennon even had a song---"Beautiful Boy"---written about him. However, unlike his half-brother, Julian Lennon, he often seemed satisfied to play subsidiary roles in other people's bands and appeared to be in no hurry to take center stage. Even when Sean Lennon recorded his first album, he chose to release it on a small label, refusing to cash in on the family legacy. "I've always been kind of scared of playing music," he told Jeff Giles in Newsweek. "It's impossible for anyone to listen to me objectively."
Lennon was born in New York City and was only five years old when Mark David Chapman murdered his father, John Lennon, outside their Dakota apartment off Central Park. Although the young boy generally avoided the press, he proved, at the age of eight, to have the same knack his father had, of fending off reporters. In one exchange a reporter asked him if there was any question that he would enjoy being asked. The eight-year-old, quoted in People, replied, "I like it best when reporters ask, 'Do you think it's time to be going?'" He loved music from an early age, first listening to Chuck Berry, Elvis Presley, and Little Richard on his father's jukebox, and later delving into jazz, hip-hop, classic rock, and fusion. Lennon attended boarding school in Switzerland and then enrolled in Columbia University, though he dropped out after three semesters. "I kind of just didn't want to waste my time there," he told Entertainment Weekly. "I wanted to be hanging out with my friends and starting rock bands."
Lennon made his public debut in 1988, agreeing to be interviewed for Imagine, a film documentary about his father. At the age of 16 he initiated an ambitious project with Lenny Kravitz and Yoko Ono. Together, the three gathered a who's-who list of musicians to participate in a new recording of John Lennon's "Give Peace a Chance," in response to the first Gulf War. All the performers, including Tom Petty, Bonnie Raitt, and L.L. Cool J, donated their services to the project, with the proceeds going to the John Lennon Greening of the World Scholarship Fund. Although this version of the song didn't chart as high as the original, it nonetheless reached Billboard's Hot 100 in March of 1991. "The difference," wrote JT Griffith in All Music Guide, "has less to do with the quality of the song and more about one-sided media coverage of the Gulf War and lack of attention given to protesters." After the release of the recording, Lennon also made a guest appearance on Lenny Kravitz's Mama Said.
In 1995, after dropping out of Columbia University, Lennon made his musical debut playing guitar and keyboard in IMA, a band that subsequently recorded and toured with Ono when she returned to music. During the tour he was introduced to Cibo Matto, a Japanese duo who mixed alternative rock and hip-hop, and he worked with them to re-mix one of Ono's songs. Lennon then toured as a Cibo Matto's bassist, and subsequently started dating the keyboardist, Yuko Honda. Entertainment Weekly, referring to their relationship as "The Ballad of John and Yoko: The Next Generation," noted the similarities between the couple's relationship and that of John Lennon and Yoko Ono: Honda, like Ono, was Japanese, an artist, and older that Sean Lennon. When he was ready to record his first album, Honda would be by his side as a musician and producer.
When Lennon decided to concentrate on his own muse, he took an unconventional path. With his name recognition it would have been easy to get an audition with any major record label. Instead, Lennon sent demos to his friend, Adam Yauch of the Beastie Boys, who liked what he heard and asked young Lennon to record for his Grand Royal label. "The things that make a great musician are skills and lack of inhibition," Yauch told Entertainment Weekly. "Sean possesses both of these in abundance." Into the Sun became the first album from John Lennon's second son.
The album was released in the late spring of 1998, and although reviewers were quick to compare Lennon to his father, they also praised his willingness to go his own way. Stephen Thomas Erlewine recalled in All Music Guide that Lennon's debut album "had unexpectedly eclectic roots and a laid-back vibe, earning him positive critical reviews and securing a modest place in the post-alternative hierarchy." Critics also embraced Lennon's song craft. Tom Moon noted on National Public Radio's All Things Considered, "The melodies seem to pour from Sean Lennon, and even when he's not entirely original, he's thoroughly interesting." Although Into the Sun sold only moderately, it rose to number 154 on the Billboard chart and to number four on the Heatseekers' chart.
Following the release of Into the Sun, Lennon toured to support the album, including an appearance at the prestigious South by Southwest Festival in 1998, and then returned to a lower profile. He signed a contract with Columbia in 2001 but made no immediate plans to record his sophomore effort. Both Lennon and Cibo Matto performed at a benefit for the injured violinist Petra Haden in January of 2001, and Lennon likewise took part in Come Together: A Night for John Lennon's Words and Music that same year. In 2003 Lennon made a guest appearance on Dopo Yume's True Romance, and joined the band for a short tour in the East. Although Lennon seemed to turn up more often in gossip columns than in music magazines in the new millennium, he is reportedly working on a follow-up album.
by Ronnie D. Lankford Jr
Sean Lennon's Career
Spearheaded high profile re-recording of "Give Peace a Chance," 1991; joined rock trio, IMA, which backed Yoko Ono's Rising, 1995; joined Cibo Matto, mid-1990s; recorded debut, Into the Sun, 1998; performed on Dopo Yume's True Romance, 2003.
- Entertainment Weekly, May 8, 1998, p. 34.
- Newsweek, March 18, 1996, p. 64.
- People, February 20, 1984, p. 73.
- "Sean Lennon," All Music Guide, http://www.allmusic.com/ (March 26, 2004).
- Additional information was obtained from an interview with Sean Lennon on National Public Radio's All Things Considered, June 12, 1998.