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Lennon: The Man, the Myth, the Music - The Definitive Life Hardcover – September 20, 2011

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 784 pages
  • Publisher: Hyperion; First Edition edition (September 20, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1401324525
  • ISBN-13: 978-1401324520
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 2 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (38 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #589,229 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"This exhaustively researched life of the Beatles' chief cynic, John Lennon, aims to get beneath the surface gloss ... a compelling account" -- Mark Edmonds The Sunday Times --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

About the Author

Tim Riley has made a career as a media and music critic. Rock critic for NPR, Tim is the author of Tell Me Why: A Beatles Commentary (Knopf/Vintage 1988), Hard Rain: A Dylan Commentary (Knopf/Vintage1992, Da Capo 1999), Madonna: Illustrated (Hyperion 1992), Fever: How Rock'N'Roll Transformed Gender In America (St. Martin's/Picador 2005); and has contributed to Newsweek and The Washington Post, among other publications. He was Brown University's Critic-in-Residence in 2008 and currently serves as a Journalist-in-Residence at Emerson College.

More About the Author

NPR CRITIC, AUTHOR, PIANIST, and SPEAKER TIM RILEY reviews pop and classical music for NPR's HERE AND NOW, the NEW YORK TIMES, the HUFFINGTON POST, THE WASHINGTON POST, SLATE.COM and SALON.COM. He was trained as a classical pianist at Oberlin and Eastman.

In 2009, Emerson College appointed Riley Journalist-In-Residence and then Assistant Professor, where he teaches Digital and Music Journalism while supervising the department's social media strategy.

Brown University sponsored Riley as Critic-In Residence in 2008, and his first book, Tell Me Why: A Beatles Commentary (Knopf/Vintage 1988), was hailed by the New York Times as bringing "new insight to the act we've known for all these years..."

A staple author in college courses on rock culture, he gave a keynote address at BEATLES 2000, the first international academic conference in Jyvaskyla, Finland. Since then, he's given lively multi-media lectures at colleges and cultural centers like the Chautauqua Festival on "Censorship in the Arts," and "Rock History."

His current projects include the music metaportal, the RILEY ROCK INDEX, and a major new Beatles textbook for Oxford University Press, and articles for Radio Silence and truthdig. See: http://timrileyauthor.com.

Customer Reviews

It's not that I don't want to know about these things...it's just that I think he goes a bit too far.
P. Dunlop
This book is a big read but is a must for serious devotees of John Lennon's music, as the founder and leader of the Beatles and post Beatles.
Mike Hill
Lennon agreed to go this to prevent a lawsuit, but in this book the notion is presented as occurring to Lennon before the lawsuit.
Geoffrey M. Kirk

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

28 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Jeff Walker on October 17, 2011
Format: Hardcover
This is the umpteenth Beatles/Lennon bio I've read. Is there anything new, given that whoever the latest Beatles biographer is, part of his task is to find several people connected to the story who haven't been interviewed yet? Yes indeed. Multiple examples: Apparently even John's kindergarten kicked him out for being a disruptive bully. Aunt Mimi claims that John read most of the literary classics by age 10; even if she meant `by 15', this would make John an extraordinarily precocious reader by today's standards. And boy, Aunt Mimi could be cruel. Once after a row, when John fled to his mother's house vowing not to return, Mimi had his beloved dog Sally put down on the pretext that there would be no one around anymore to walk Sally. Allan Williams, the Beatles' first quasi-manager and possibly John's first substitute father from outside the extended family, had an oriental wife. Hmmm. Pete Best was dumped mostly because he wasn't mentally quick enough; one `thick' Beatle would have undermined their collective image. Brian Epstein met with Walt Disney to discuss the Beatles performing songs for the upcoming `Jungle Book' movie, but John, mercifully, nixed the idea. When John was dejected and morose circa 1966, he would compensate by going on shopping sprees to fill up his house with stuff he'd mostly never look at again; he would do likewise in the late 1970s for the same reason. Apparently it was John who came up with the title and conceptual drift for `Yesterday', a highly significant contribution. John got Magic Alex to do some of his dirty work for him, especially entrapping Cynthia in a situation amenable to adultery charges, albeit phony ones; as reward John bought Alex a new Mercedes, just as Elvis pampered his `Memphis mafia' cronies.Read more ›
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Rebecca Foulds on January 21, 2012
Format: Hardcover
A good effort, but of all the Lennon biographies out there (and I've read almost all), this one gets mired down in musical details that couldn't hold my interest. The account of Lennon's Liverpool origins is well researched and flows well; this section gets the book off to a good start. After that, the account goes downhill, with too much focus on lengthy interpretive analyses of late 50's and early 60's rock & roll/jazz/blues/Beatles' music, at the expense of the biographical details that I believe most readers would find more intriguing. I do appreciate the foot notes that document the source of the text material (something that is lacking in most Beatles/Lennon biographies, especially the recent tome by Bob Spitz). Sad to say, I had to put this book down when I was less than half way through, something I have never done with any other Lennon biography - it was simply too tedious and boring. I wish I had saved my money.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Jessi on March 21, 2012
Format: Hardcover
I received this book for Christmas, and I finally finished it two days ago (March 19th, 2012). Now this is a large book, but I am an avid reader who frequently breezes through 800 page books in a week or less. So let me tell you my personal pros and cons of this book:

*The prose and writing style of this book reads exceptionally well.
*The chapters preceding the Beatles "middle period" were fascinating. I found myself zipping through the first 200 pages as if they were nothing, because I was SO engaged and interested. The opening chapters are literally the only thing that saved this book from that dark place in my closet where I keep books that I've given up on and never intend to read again.
*The author does an admirable job of telling an extremely complicated story and does provide details that even I didn't know, and I am a huge Beatlemaniac.

*Way too much information. Sure this IS a biography so we do want to know as much as possible about the subject, but Riley manages to pack so much information onto a page that it quickly becomes overwhelming. The trick that I've noticed with the dozens of biographies that I've read is to give the reader enough information to keep them interested, engaged, and reading. But a reader should never resort to forcing themselves through 400 pages of a book.
*Way too little information about Lennon's relationship with his first family (wife Cynthia, and son Julian). It's common knowledge that John wasn't very involved with his first family, but I found myself desperate for even a brief mention of Cynthia and Julian so that I knew they hadn't died or disappeared off the face of the Earth.
Read more ›
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19 of 24 people found the following review helpful By W. Paul Blakey on October 20, 2011
Format: Hardcover
There are moments in Lennon that make you want to read on, mostly in the first half of the book, but these begin to fade as the author indulges himself in intellectualizing the discography. He spends more time analyzing and discussing the playlist, and telling us in a patronizing voice what is good and why (in fact he becomes so Ono-friendly I began to wonder if she had funded the biography through some sort of grant made to his university) that only the nerdiest Lennon fans will be able to read the book without skipping these great chunks of waffle. Was he perhaps paid by the word? It has that sort of, give me 5000 words before Tuesday cram in everything you can think of and people will think I'm smart school essay feel.

Which is why I titled this piece 'Needs an editor.' Perhaps I should say, needs a better editor, for I'm sure he had a whole team of helpers, probably grad students providing the reams of minutiae that clutter the work.

What is worse is the continual translation of English to American that is supposed to make us believe he knows something about living in Liverpool in the 1940s and 50s.

And then there is the underlying war on drugs subtext that tsks as he describes Lennon's 'addictions' (as if the pot and LSD somehow detracted from the music) rather than seeing them in the light of the times and how without them Lennon would have stagnated instead of launching himself toward the stars.

Good try: 69%

... see me after the class.
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