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John Lennon: The Life Hardcover – October 28, 2008
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For more than a quarter century, Philip Norman's internationally bestselling Shout! has been unchallenged as the definitive biography of the Beatles. Now, at last, Norman turns his formidable talent to the Beatle for whom belonging to the world's most beloved pop group was never enough. Drawing on pre-viously untapped sources, and with unprecedented access to all the major characters, here is the comprehensive and most revealing portrait of John Lennon that is ever likely to be published.
This masterly biography takes a fresh and penetrating look at every aspect of Lennon's much-chronicled life, including the songs that have turned him, posthumously, into a near-secular saint. In three years of research, Norman has turned up an extra-ordinary amount of new information about even the best-known episodes of Lennon folkloreâhis upbringing by his strict Aunt Mimi; his allegedly wasted school and student days; the evolution of his peerless creative partnership with Paul McCartney; his Beatle-busting love affair with a Japanese performance artist; his forays into painting and literature; his experiments with Transcendental Meditation, primal scream therapy, and drugs. The book's numerous key informants and interviewees include Sir Paul McCartney, Sir George Martin, Sean Lennonâwhose moving reminiscence reveals his father as never beforeâand Yoko Ono, who speaks with sometimes shocking candor about the inner workings of her marriage to John.
Honest and unflinching, as John himself would wish, Norman gives us the whole man in all his endless contradictionsâtough and cynical, hilariously funny but also naive, vulnerable and insecureâand reveals how the mother who gave him away as a toddler haunted his mind and his music for the rest of his days.
Read the first chapter from John Lennon: The Life by Philip Norman [PDF].
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Then why giving only three stars?
Well, Philip Norman, the author, is famous for diminishing the role of Paul McCartney in the Beatles. He said that John was three quarters of the Beatles - which is very unfair to Paul, George and Ringo. Throughout the book he puts plenty of quite derrogatory remartks to Paul that are totally uncalled for. He has also included quite a few gossip remarks. One example is suggesting that Stu Sutcliff's death could have been caused by a fight with John.That is based on a remark from a Stu's relative, years after his death, which is not confirmed by Paul, Astrid, or any of the other guys. It is there just to include a polemic topic.
Throughout the book he keeps suggesting a homo affective relation between John and Stu, that do not resonate with any of John's, Paul's, Astrid or anybody else's accounts.
He does not provide much detail or comments on the music either. One particularly silly comment, describing Abbey Road, is saying that Oh! Darling is a particularly unmemorable song (once again to downplay Paul). Well the proof that he is wrong is someone who was born after The Beatles disbanded (me) still be hearing and enjoying that very song, right? It is memorable that long afterwards.
At this point you're probably asking why I am still giving it three stars, right? There is some good reasons for that. The author does a good job in portraying a scenario of all John's life phases and what was happening in England and in the world. He provides lots of details and facts.
My criticism is that you need to take everything with a grain of salt. Don't have this book as your only source of information. Read other stuff from John and about him, to have a more balanced view.
And don't listen to the author when he writes about Paul. Too much unjustified bickering. John was certainly my favourite Beatle, but I believe that the true power of The Beatles was that those FOUR guys challenged themselves to put out the world's best music ever. So many years passed and I still listen to them constantly.
Read the book, but beware of the author bias.
And I suppose the big question is still; Who broke up the Beatles? Clearly the death of Brian Epstein was a factor but it also seems clear John was determined to leave and used Yoko as a wedge to make that happen. it was just never going to work having her in the studio and the idea of her providing input on the music made it worse. a damn shame but they left behind a treasure trove. John's death is still one of the seminal moments in my life. We know from Double Fantasy that there was much more to come.
That may be the most telling aspect of the whole ordeal. For, if anything, it was John himself who was most mean to John - and nearly everyone else. Even the most casual Beatles fan knows that. And Yoko was, in many ways, his facilitator. In others, the mother figure he never truly experienced.
Nonetheless, from his early childhood to Quarry Bank, to Beatlemania and well beyond - until the day of his tragic murder - Philip Norman covers it all in exacting detail, straight from the mouths of John Lennon's family, friends, and closest confidants. And all the names and footnotes are laid out for all the whole to see. So, to that end I say, "Bravo Mr. Norman!" You've taken on one of the most beloved and controversial figures of the 20th Century, laid him bare, raised him up, praised him where deserving, and - not really criticized - but shown us all just how complicated, confused and conflicted this self proclaimed "Working Class Hero" could be.
In doing so you've painted a picture of a man with parental & authority issues, who never quite grew up, yet managed to reach heights never before scaled by anyone in his chosen profession. A man full of insecurities and paranoia. A drug addict. Sex addict. And God only knows what else. And yet he managed to author some of the most endearing, inspiring, tender, and meaningful songs of his time. And despite all his flaws, bared to the world for decades now, he remains beloved by untold millions still.
You've taken the story of this complicated man, and told it in a straightforward, unapologetic fashion. Told his story, good, bad and otherwise - warts & glory - in a manner easy for anyone to understand and relate to. And done a fine job of it sir. And John Lennon fans everywhere (this one included) are forever in your debt.
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to glimpse his genius. He is now, by far my favorite Beatle...Read more