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by Cynthia Lennon

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The New York Times bestselling exposé of the real John Lennon, written by his ex-wife.

The time has come when I feel ready to tell the truth about John and me, our years together and the years since his death. There is so much that I have never said, so many incidents I have never spoken of and so many feelings I have never expressed: great


The New York Times bestselling exposé of the real John Lennon, written by his ex-wife.

The time has come when I feel ready to tell the truth about John and me, our years together and the years since his death. There is so much that I have never said, so many incidents I have never spoken of and so many feelings I have never expressed: great love on one hand; pain, torment, and humiliation on the other. Only I know what really happened between us, why we stayed together, why we parted, and the price I have paid for being John’s wife. —From the Introduction

Editorial Reviews

Cynthia Powell first encountered John Lennon in 1958 at the Liverpool College of Art, where they were both students. Almost from the first, she was smitten; one relative remembers her proposing to the future star the year they met. When Cynthia became pregnant in 1962, their somewhat one-sided romance became a rocky marriage, which somehow survived through much of the group's fame but crumbled because of John's affair with Yoko Ono. In John, the first wife of the late Beatle shares her unique view of a lover and husband becoming a generation's demigod.
Glenn Frankel
There's not much new here, truth be told, but it's Cynthia Lennon's eyewitness testimony that vividly captures the time and place and the characters…Cynthia's depiction of those early Beatles days—when the boys were the closest of friends, loyally supporting each other and sharing the adventure of becoming famous—is fresh and all the more poignant because we know that eventually the friendship imploded as the Beatles fell out and fell apart. Her portrait of John is loving but candid.
—The Washington Post
James Rosen
Unlike its subject, John is without pretense, an honest and straightforward account that makes an important contribution to the first-person literature of the Beatles. Cynthia's insight into John Lennon's late teens is unrivaled, and she dispels many myths…It's heartbreaking stuff, particularly for fans wedded to a romanticized view of John Lennon as a gentle poet for peace.
—The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly
Cynthia Lennon, John Lennon's oft-overlooked first wife, is so soft-spoken, her voice threatens to trail off at times. But Lennon's voice of experience taps a well of feeling no audio actor could truly access. From teenage love to Beatlemania to spiritual pursuits in India, Lennon successfully conveys the excitement and trauma of an intimate life with one of pop culture's most cherished figures. She also uncorks opinions on rival Yoko Ono, often in bitter tones. This straight-from-the-horse's-mouth narrative is lovingly introduced by Julian, Cynthia and John's only child, and should capture the imagination of even the most casual fan. It's disappointing that Random House decided on an abridgment since this is a never-before-heard take on a well-worn subject. The production is capped off with a brief, artificial-sounding author interview with wooden questions and Lennon's rehearsed answers. But fans of Lennon and the Beatles, as well as those interested in 1960s and 1970s popular culture, should find this a satisfying, albeit abbreviated, listen. Simultaneous release with the Crown hardcover (Reviews, Oct. 17). (Oct.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
From the Publisher
“Lennon’s eyewitness testimony vividly captures the time and place and the characters . . . her portrait of John is loving but candid.” —Washington Post

“A welcome window into a period that’s typically narrated at breakneck pace, [providing] a gentle reminder that John Lennon was a human being . . . before he was a piece of history.” —Detroit Free Press

“[Cynthia Lennon’s] portrait reveals an immensely talented and driven man who was capable of great passion, affection, and loyalty, but whose inability to handle confrontation and tendency toward flight from painful realities led him to abandon his family when the going got tough.” —Buffalo News

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Chapter 1

One early December afternoon in 1980 my friend Angie and I were in the little bistro we ran in north Wales, putting up the Christmas decorations. It was a cold, dark afternoon, but the atmosphere inside was bright and warm. We'd opened a bottle of wine and were hanging baubles on the tree and festive pictures on the walls. Laughing, we pulled a cracker and the toy inside fell onto the floor. I bent to pick it up and shivered when I saw it was a small plastic gun. It seemed horribly out of place among the tinsel and paper chains.

The next day I went to stay with my friend Mo Starkey in London. I couldn't really spare the time during the busy pre-Christmas season, but my lawyer had insisted I go to sign some legal papers, so I took the train, planning to return the following day. I left my husband and Angie to look after things in my absence. Angie was the ex-wife of Paul McCartney's brother, Mike, and after her marriage broke up she'd come to work for us, living in the small flat above the bistro.

It was always good to see Mo. We'd been friends since 1962, when I was John's girlfriend and she was the teenage fan who fell in love with Ringo at the Cavern. Ringo and Mo had married eighteen months after us, and in the days when the Beatles were traveling all over the world, she and I had spent a lot of time together. Her oldest son, Zak, was fifteen, a year and a half younger than my son Julian, and the boys had always been playmates.

When Mo and Ringo parted in 1974 she had been so heartbroken that she got on a motorbike and drove it straight into a brick wall, badly injuring herself. She had been in love with him since she was fifteen and his public appearances with his new girlfriend, American actress Nancy Andrews, had devastated her.

After the split Mo, still only twenty-seven, had moved into a house in the London neighborhood Maida Vale with her three children, Zak, eight, Jason, six, and Lee, three. Because of the injuries she'd received in the motorbike accident she had plastic surgery on her face and was delighted with the result, which she felt made her look better than she had before. Gradually she'd begun to get over Ringo, and she had a brief fling with George Harrison before she began to see Isaac Tigrett, millionaire owner of the Hard Rock Café chain.

The evening I arrived Mo had her usual houseful of people. Her mother, Flo, lived with her, as well as the children and their nanny. Mo always had an open house and that evening some old friends of ours, Jill and Dale Newton, had joined us for dinner. The nanny had cooked a huge meal, and later, Jill and Dale, Maureen and I sat over a couple of bottles of wine and talked about old times. After a while the conversation turned to the death of Mal Evans, the Beatles' former road manager. Mal had been a giant of a man, generous and soft-hearted. We'd known him since the early days when he'd worked for the post office and moonlighted as a bouncer at the Cavern Club. When the Beatles began to be successful they took him on to work for them.

Mal had been a faithful friend to the boys and was especially close to John: they got on incredibly well and, with the Beatles' other loyal roadie, Neil Aspinall, he had been on every tour, organizing, trouble-shooting, protecting and looking after them.

When the Beatles broke up Mal had been lost. He'd gone to live in Los Angeles where he began drinking and taking drugs. It was there, on January 4, 1976, that the police had been called by his girlfriend during a row. She claimed that Mal had pulled a gun on her, and when they burst into the apartment the officers found Mal holding a gun. Apparently he pointed it at them before they shot him. It was only after he died that they found the gun wasn't loaded. It was a tragic story, and we could only imagine that Mal had been under the influence of drugs. The Mal we knew could no more have shot someone than flown to the moon. Whatever the true story, his death had shocked us all and that night, our talk around Mo's fireplace was of what a good man he had been and how awful his premature death was. To us, the idea of being shot was almost unimaginable-how could it have happened to such a good friend?

After a while I went to bed. I knew the others would carry on talking and drinking until the early hours, but I wanted a good night's sleep as I had to get up early in the morning to catch the train home.

I was asleep in the spare room when screams woke me. It took me a few seconds to realize that they were Mo's. At that moment she burst into my room: "Cyn, John's been shot. Ringo's on the phone-he wants to talk to you."

I don't remember getting out of bed and going down the stairs to the phone. But Ringo's words, the sound of his tearful voice crackling over the transatlantic line, was crystal clear: "Cyn, I'm so sorry, John's dead."

The shock engulfed me like a wave. I heard a raw, tearing sob and, with that strange detachment that sudden shock can trigger, realized I was making the noise. Mo took the phone, said good-bye to Ringo, then put her arms around me. "I'm so sorry, Cyn," she sobbed.

In my stunned state I had only one clear thought. My son-our son-was at home in bed: I had to get back so that I could tell him about his father's death. He was seventeen and history was repeating itself in a hideous way: both John and I had lost a parent at that age.

I rang my husband and told him I was on the way and not to tell Julian what had happened. My marriage-the third-had been strained for some time and, in my heart of hearts, I knew it was going to end, but he was supportive. "Of course," he said. "I'll do my best to keep it from him." By the time I was dressed and had gathered my things, Mo had organized a car and a driver to take me to Wales. She insisted on coming too, with Zak. "I'll bring Julian back to stay with us if he needs to get away from the press," she promised.

John had been shot in New York at 10:50 p.m. on December 8. The time difference meant it was 3:50 a.m. on December 9 in Britain. Ringo had rung us barely two hours after it had happened, and we were on the road by seven. It was a four-hour drive to north Wales, and during the journey I stared out of the window in the gray dawn and thought of John.

In the jumble of thoughts whirring around my mind two kept recurring. The first was that nine had always been a significant number for John. He was born on October 9 and so was his second son, Sean. His mother had lived at number 9; when we met my house number had been 18 (the two digits of which add up to 9) and the hospital address Julian was born in was number 126 (again, each digit adds up to 9). Brian Epstein had first heard the Beatles play on the ninth of the month, they had got their first record contract on the ninth and John had met Yoko on the ninth. The number had cropped up in John's life in numerous other ways, so much so that he wrote three songs around it-"One After 909," "Revolution 9" and "#9 Dream." Now he had died on the ninth-an astonishing coincidence by any reckoning.

My second thought was that for the past fourteen years John had lived with the fear that he would be shot. In 1966 he'd received a letter from a psychic, warning that he would be shot while he was in the States. We were both upset by that: the Beatles were about to do their last tour of the States and, of course, we thought the warning referred to that trip. He had just made his infamous remark about the Beatles being more popular than Christ and the world was in an uproar about it-crank letters and warnings arrived by every post. But that one had stuck in his mind.

Afraid as he was, he went on the tour, and apologized reluctantly for the remark. When he got home in one piece we were both relieved. But the psychic's warning remained in his mind and from then on it seemed that he was looking over his shoulder, waiting for the gunman to appear. He often used to say, "I'll be shot one day." Now, unbelievably, tragically, he had been.

We reached Ruthin by mid-morning, and as we rounded the corner into what was normally a sleepy little town, my heart sank. There was no way that my husband could have kept the news from Julian: the town was packed with press. Dozens of photographers and reporters filled the square, the streets to our house and the bistro.

Amazingly we managed to park a few streets away and slip in through the back door, without being spotted by the crowd at the front. Inside my husband was pacing up and down restlessly. My mother, who lived above the bistro with Angie, was peering anxiously at the crowd from behind a drawn curtain. She was seventy-seven and suffering from the early stages of Alzheimer's. Confused by the crowds outside, she had no idea what was going on.

I looked at my husband, the question unspoken. Did Julian know? He nodded toward the stairs. A minute later Julian came running down. I held out my arms to him. He came over to me and his lanky teenage frame crumpled into my lap. He wrapped his arms around my neck and sobbed onto my shoulder. I hugged him and we cried together, both heartbroken at the awful, pointless waste that his father's death represented.

Mo had busied herself making tea, while Zak sat quietly nearby, not knowing what to say or do. While we drank the tea we talked about what to do. Maureen offered to take Julian back to London, but he said, "I want to go to New York, Mum. I want to be where Dad was." Although the idea alarmed me, I understood.

Maureen and Zak hugged us and left, then Julian and I went up to the bedroom to ring Yoko. We were put straight through to her, and she agreed that she would like Julian to join her. She said she would organize a flight for him that afternoon. I told her I was worried about the state he was in, but Yoko made it clear that I was not

welcome. "It's not as though you're an old schoolfriend of mine, Cynthia." It was blunt, but I accepted it: there is no place for an ex-wife in public grieving.

A couple of hours later my husband and I drove Julian to Manchester airport. The press spotted us as we left home, but when they saw our faces they drew back and let us pass. I was grateful. We sat through the two-hour drive in virtual silence. I was exhausted by the depth of my emotions and by the need to hold back my pain and attend to the necessary practicalities, for Julian's sake.

At the airport I watched him being led off by a flight attendant, his shoulders bowed, his face chalk white. I knew he would sit on the plane surrounded by people reading newspapers with headlines about his father's death splashed across their front pages and I longed to run after him. Before he disappeared through the gate he turned back and waved. He looked painfully young and I ached at having to let him go.

Back in Wales the press was still camped outside our door in huge numbers-there wasn't a spare room left in town. Years later, when she was hosting the British talk show This Morning, Judy Finnegan told me that she had been a young reporter among that throng. "I felt for you," she told me. "You looked absolutely shattered."

I was furious when my husband let one of the more persuasive journalists, a man who said he was writing a book about John, into our home. Later he claimed that I gave him a lengthy interview, but in fact I said just a few words, then asked him to leave. I was in no state and no mood to give an interview. I fell into bed and lay, numb and exhausted, too wrung out for any more tears, trying to take in the enormity of what had happened.

That night, after I drifted into a shallow sleep, there was a terrible crash. I leapt up, screaming-it was as though a bomb had gone off. I ran outside in my nightdress and saw that the chimney pot on our roof had crashed through the ceiling into Julian's attic bedroom. A high wind had blown up, as if from nowhere. It seemed ominous and I thanked God that Julian hadn't been there.

The next day Julian rang to tell me he had arrived safely and was in the Dakota apartment with Yoko, Sean and various members of staff. Hundreds of people were camped outside the building, but Sean didn't yet know of John's death so those inside were trying to keep up the pretense of normality until Yoko felt ready to tell him. Julian sounded tired, but he said that John's assistant, Fred Seaman, had met him at the airport and had been very kind to him. It was a relief to know that someone was looking out for my son.

In Wales, life had to go on. We couldn't afford to close the bistro and John and Angie couldn't manage in the busy season without me, so we opened for business. I cleaned, cooked, served customers and looked after my mother, all the while feeling numb and disconnected. While I got on with the business of life I had to contain my grief, but as headlines about John continued to dominate the news and his music soared up the charts, memories of him, our life together and all we had shared played constantly through my mind. The many hundreds of sympathy cards and messages I received from those who had known John, and those who had simply loved the man and his music, helped. But as I struggled through a disjointed, empty couple of weeks in the lead-up to Christmas, with my son away and my marriage on the rocks, I felt overwhelmed with sadness, frustration and loss. How could the man I had loved for so long and with such fierce, passionate intensity be gone? How could his vibrant life energy and his unique creativity have been snuffed out by a madman's bullet? And how could he have left his two sons without a father when they both needed him so much?

From the Trade Paperback edition.

Meet the Author

Cynthia Lennon was born in Blackpool, England, in 1939. While attending the Liverpool College of Art she met John Lennon. John and Cynthia married in 1962 and their son, Julian, was born in 1963. The Lennons were divorced in 1969. Cynthia retained custody of Julian, who saw his father sporadically until John was killed in 1980. In the years since, Cynthia has been a restaurateur, a designer, and a television personality. She now lives in Spain with her husband, Noel Charles.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

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John 4.6 out of 5 based on 1 ratings. 62 reviews.
Penny_Girl More than 1 year ago
This book was a great look into the personal side of John Lennon in the early years. Not much has been written about his life with Cynthia as she was always overshadowed by Yoko. Cynthia, with the approval of her son Julian, wrote this book to tell her side of life with John. You get a different perspective of John pre-Beatles, the early Beatle years, and his breakup with Cyn. It is a very touching story and you can tell it must have been very painful for her to have been John Lennon's wife, then been tossed aside and now to retell the tale for all the world to read. This is a very riveting book that is hard to put down until it is done and then you will wish there was more.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
When I use to think of John Lennon, I thought he was the god of music. Before I read this book, to me John Lennon had no faults, never messed up, and was an all round saint. After reading this book, I realized I had it all wrong. Cynthia depicts John Lennon as a normal man with many faults. In the beginning, I felt that it was hard to grasp the concept that John Lennon was a normal person with faults. I tried to put it off as something that was untrue, and that Cynthia was just saying all these things because she was mad that he left her. I stopped thinking that way when I realized that Cynthia's words were filled with love for the man, not the star, we have come to know as John Lennon. Then after I got over my state of shock, I realized that I had put John on such a high pedestal that I had almost forgotten that he was even human. Cynthia made me see a side of John that I soon learned to hate and enjoy at the same. I hated the way he acted towards Cynthia and Julian, but I enjoyed getting to see a new side of him. I learned to hate Yoko Ono, but soon realized that John didn't have to follow her and that he chose to do so. This book made me realize that John Lennon was still a musical genius, but he wasn't "superman." Now when I think of John, I think of normal person with faults who possessed an unearthly gift. I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to know and see the real John Lennon; not just the John Lennon that the public eye has come to recognize, but the real John Lennon who has forever changed music and the people who listen to it.
Mizzoubeatle More than 1 year ago
Very good read. Takes the gloss off John...but not in a "let's turn up the dirt" way. Gives more insight into Yoko...and her strange and wicked ways. Must read for a Beatles fan....
arkie20 More than 1 year ago
I thought this was a terrific book. I've read many books about the Beatles and I liked this one because she was there. She was the mystery wife back in the day and her story was honest and interesting without meanness or cruelty. She points out her own faults and tells the true story. I really liked this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
GREAT BOOK! I always admired Cynthia. From the first time I saw her on their first US Tour, she seemed the calm in the storm for John. I was never close to the man other than at a few concerts and as a listener of his music. Cyn's a better woman than I am.... I know I could have never had the stuff it took to be a part of that whole scene. Being a Beatle's wife was no picnic. May she find happiness all the rest of her life. She deserves it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved reading this book and hearing Cyn tell her love story with John. I always felt she wasn't treated fairly in any of the writting about her. I love John but I've always thought he was hypocritical preaching love when it seemed to me he ignored & abandoned his son Julian. I loved reading this book & getting an insiders view of the start of the Beatles.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
If you are a lennon fan you will like this book
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Cyn is a great writer; I feel so close as if I'm there myself. This is so ridiculously good and insanely hard to put down. I don't think anyone would ever regret reading this book. I highly recommend it.
babsb More than 1 year ago
I felt a real intimacy with Cynthia as she shared her private life with John Lennon. I trusted her to tell it the way it happened, and the only thing I wish is that it had gone on longer with more detail about her times with him. I understand her ending statement about whether or not she would do it if she had known...(Read the book!)
Guest More than 1 year ago
John Lennon has become a legend over the many years since his sudden and untimely death. His story has been told hundreds of times by many different people, some of which who¿ve had no connection to him at all. This is what makes the book John written by Cynthia Lennon (his first wife) so intriguing and insightful into his life. Cynthia tells what it was like falling in love with John and being married to him while The Beatles first started to conquer the world. She talks about the two meeting at college in Liverpool and how his aggressive behavior toward her was apparent from the beginning. When she relays the information of her pregnancy with Julian Lennon to John, he suggests marriage soon after The Beatles get famous sending John into a roller coaster ride of emotions caused by stress and drugs. Cynthia tells how she and Julian were isolated from John as his commitment to the Beatles grew and the fan base grew larger and larger. She also notes the John was slipping into a state of boredom with there message (which is around the time that Yoko Ono came into the picture), and we soon began to ask ¿is love all you need¿. Vulnerability is a huge theme in this book because Cynthia feels as if she isn¿t secure throughout the book. She is bombarded by fans and press all the time and can¿t seem to get away from the spotlight of the Beatles. As John falls under the influence of LSD she is left to care for there child who is also vulnerable to obsessing fans. Cynthia tries to shade her son from his fathers¿ ugly side as best as she can but his abusive and addictive behavior is always apparent to young Julian. Ironically John is portrayed as a dead beat dad instead of an insightful poet that everyone imagines at the sound of his name. I liked learning about another side of John Lennon other then the poet that I had come to love. I also liked how Cynthia still loved him through the craziness of the time period and how she tried to pursue the couple¿s dreams of staying together. However, I didn¿t like the fact that the book made John out as the reason to blame for the marriage failing. He is constantly considered as the reason for the turmoil in the relationship instead Cynthia or Yoko Ono. I feel that all Lennon fans should read this book because it puts a whole new perspective on the songwriter and poet¿s personal life. We see what he was like when he wasn¿t on stage and catch a glimpse into his daily life when he was married to Cynthia. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who wanted to learn a little more about John Lennon.
Guest More than 1 year ago
First and foremost, the reader should pick up this book expecting to read about love, happiness, frustration, pain, hurt, anger, tears, and conflict -- all of the things you would find in any relationship that is put under a non-stop eye of media scrutiny. No matter what you've read about the Beatles over the past 43 years, this story is different because it's told by someone who wasn't in the machine that made the Beatles a success. I looked forward to hearing Cynthia's side of this story. Her narrative is honest and poignant. She paints a wonderful picture of the Liverpool that was in the late 1950s/early 1960s, and gives us a real insight into the young, angry, acerbic -- and very insecure side -- of John that we've seldom (if ever) seen. She talks about Julian's relationship with John openly, giving us a better picture of the strained relationship between father-son and mother-stepmother. The funniest bits are her descriptions of the early moments of their romance. The description of their wedding day was hilarious. This book is must for any Beatles fan. It is touching, sad, funny, and a wonderful read.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I thought I had read everything new to be said about the Beatles, but Cynthia provides details that, even to this day, are new for Beatles fans. This is the only Beatles book to bring tears to my eyes. And when Cyn reveals drugs to be the #1 downfall of their marriage, she made me feel like it was my loss as much as hers. Way to go, Cynthia! A must-read for Beatles fans.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was quite a good book, the behind the scenes goings on were quite different thank the media led all of us to believe. I found Cynthia kind, and reinforced my dislike of Yoko. Interesting book, John Lennon was not a nice person.
nancylmt12 More than 1 year ago
Interesting view of John Lennon's life with first wife Cynthia. Although she had a lot to be bitter about, she was gracious and truthful in her writing without being hateful. I loved reading about the early days as the Beatles were forming into a group.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I was hesitant to read this book because I thought it was going to be a bitter ex-story but Cynthia impressed me. She was a class act. She wanted the best for John and was willing to do what many women would not do. I thought it was well written and an easy read. She should have been treated better. The preface by her son, made the book real.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I felt so sorry for John's son, Jude.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great story
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