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Lennon: The Definitive Biography

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The best and most complete biography about the influential Beatle.


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The best and most complete biography about the influential Beatle.

30 review for Lennon: The Definitive Biography

  1. 5 out of 5

    Connor

    Lennon by Ray Coleman was the most gripping book I have ever read. The story of his life is full of grief, sadness, anger, happiness and death. Ray Coleman demonstrates what John Lennon's life was like besides the fame and glory. I recommend this book to anyone that is a Beatles or a Lennon fan or anyone who is generally interested in this topic. The book starts off in Liverpool, 8th of October 1940, It is the height of the London Blitz, most of Liverpool has been blown to bits but Julia and Lennon by Ray Coleman was the most gripping book I have ever read. The story of his life is full of grief, sadness, anger, happiness and death. Ray Coleman demonstrates what John Lennon's life was like besides the fame and glory. I recommend this book to anyone that is a Beatles or a Lennon fan or anyone who is generally interested in this topic. The book starts off in Liverpool, 8th of October 1940, It is the height of the London Blitz, most of Liverpool has been blown to bits but Julia and Alfred Lennon are about to have a baby. John Lennon was born in the Liverpool Maternity Hospital. During the 1950s John was attending Quarry Bank High School this was about the time that the Skiffle craze hit England, John and his mates formed a group called The Quarry Men. On the 6th of July 1957 The Quarry Men performed at the Woolton village fete, This is where John met Paul. The newly found band then made its way to Hamburg, This is where the newly established Silver Beetles started to get big. During the 60s the band that we all know as The Beatles were get so big it was unbelievable. Unfortunately in 1970 the band broke up. This started Lennon's career with his wife Yoko. Their first debut Album Imagine got to No.1 in the charts. in 1980 three weeks after he finished recording Double Fantasy Lennon was shot 5 times in the back and one in his arm outside his apartment. He was rushed to Roosevelt Hospital, he was pronounced dead at 11:15 on the 8th of December 1980. There were three parts that really struck me: 1) The Blackpool incident: This part really struck me because it shows the struggle between a divorced couple and how hard choices are. John had to choose who he lived with his mum in Liverpool or his dad in New Zealand. 2) John’s mum dying: This part was probably the saddest part of the book because after John and his aunt Mimi saw Julia she walked out onto the road and was struck by a off duty police officer. This part really struck me because I knew someone who died like this 3) The day John met Paul: This part was one of the most important bits of the story because without John meeting Paul, The Beatles would of never been around. that is why it struck me. Even though Lennon is dead this book gives a great overlook on the legends life. I recommend this book to anyone that is a Beatles or a Lennon fan or anyone who is generally interested in this topic. I felt that I had a strong connection with the book because this man is my inspiration.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Dawn Lennon

    A great biography fills in the gaps about a life, not every gap but enough of them, to give us a clearer picture of who someone is versus who we think they are from our personal experiences and/or observations. Great biographies are well-written, easy to follow even when that life isn't linear, insightful about relationships, revealing about motivations that contribute to decision-making, fair in balancing the strengths and weaknesses of that life, and rich in insider knowledge about what has A great biography fills in the gaps about a life, not every gap but enough of them, to give us a clearer picture of who someone is versus who we think they are from our personal experiences and/or observations. Great biographies are well-written, easy to follow even when that life isn't linear, insightful about relationships, revealing about motivations that contribute to decision-making, fair in balancing the strengths and weaknesses of that life, and rich in insider knowledge about what has made the subject so unique, accomplished, and culture changing. This biography has all of that and more in its 800 plus pages. Like so many, I was a fan of Beatles music and aware of the impact it and they had on, okay, my generation at the time. But I, like most, "knew" John Lennon through the lens of the media, the feel (more than the message) of his music, and the cultural messages that he and Yoko promoted. But I never really understood the back story, the center story, or the after story. To the extent that what Coleman has captured this in his book, I now have a fuller picture, a richer understanding, a deeper empathy and acceptance (especially of Yoko), and greater appreciation of Lennon's gifts and talents, his demons and his drive, and his roller-coaster relationships with Paul, George, and Ringo. This book is its own magic carpet ride and one worth taking.

  3. 5 out of 5

    E

    What I appreciate most about this book is that the author has genuine admiration for his subject and demonstrates this through sincere attempts to understand everything Lennon endured and did. This is a welcome respite from the usual biographer who is almost always out to unleash the most sordid, tabloidesque details for the sake of sales, or at least has a vendetta against Yoko Ono. Coleman does not apologize for Lennon's infamous behavior and he shouldn't. The man beat his girlfriends after his What I appreciate most about this book is that the author has genuine admiration for his subject and demonstrates this through sincere attempts to understand everything Lennon endured and did. This is a welcome respite from the usual biographer who is almost always out to unleash the most sordid, tabloidesque details for the sake of sales, or at least has a vendetta against Yoko Ono. Coleman does not apologize for Lennon's infamous behavior and he shouldn't. The man beat his girlfriends after his mother died; he was emotionally erratic toward almost all who knew him, especially his first son; and a lot of his revolutionary activities were mere spurts of experimentation. But, as Coleman points out, these repulsive acts and unreliable personality were not born out of some natural malice. Lennon was abandoned by both of his parents and lost quite a few close friends and relatives before he was an adult. Like so many neglected children, John Lennon had no excuses but many explanations for his behavior, enveloped in his countless creative gifts to the world. Coleman also does not take sides in the Cynthia vs. Yoko construct, and avoids it altogether in most situations. If anything, his biography of John Lennon is comprehensive, but it's also that of a true fan.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Jenny Downing

    I loved this! Picked up at a charity shop for 1 (rrp on the book just 3.95 in the day, I wasn't seeking it so was doubly delighted to enjoy it so much. I learned so much about the Beatles and John Lennon's life. Fascinating. Ray Coleman was close to the Beatles and John in his capacity of music reporter so the book is not based on library research alone. I am a born again Beatles/Lennon fan, listening to the music and referring to the book for the biographical background to some of the lyrics. I loved this! Picked up at a charity shop for £1 (rrp on the book just £3.95 in the day, I wasn't seeking it so was doubly delighted to enjoy it so much. I learned so much about the Beatles and John Lennon's life. Fascinating. Ray Coleman was close to the Beatles and John in his capacity of music reporter so the book is not based on library research alone. I am a born again Beatles/Lennon fan, listening to the music and referring to the book for the biographical background to some of the lyrics.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Misti Rainwater-Lites

    Received this book in my xmas stocking when I was a kid. It's my all-time favorite biography. I was so obsessed with John Lennon for so many years that I married my first husband partly because his birthday is the day before John Lennon's and my birthday is the day before Yoko Ono's. I thought we might be soul mates on the basis of our birthdays and a few other things. I was wrong about the marriage but I am not wrong about this book. It rocks.

  6. 5 out of 5

    gazoo

    A fab book about a pretty interesting guy. Author does a nice job of taking us on lennons personal journey and his struggle and strength of mind to not be pigeon holed by fans and continue searching and experimenting and expressing within and without to be John Lennon the musician, artist and humanitarian. Listening to Double Fantasy especially this time of year brings on some extremely positive vibes.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Robyn

    This is one of the best biographies I have ever encountered! It reads very easily and feels more like a novel of Lennon's life, yet it provides tons of detail and insight. There is very little bias, it shows both the good and the bad side of John Lennon. Although it's a very long read it was worth the time.

  8. 5 out of 5

    AJ Griffin

    When it comes to John Lennon, there are pretty much two kinds of biographies: the kind ones, and the nasty ones. This book falls into the former, but regardless of any favoritism it's probably the most comprehensive of the bunch. Part of my feels kind of pathetic for being qualified to make that statement.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Danimal

    If this is the definitive Lennon bio, we're in trouble. Seems like he was too close to the subject, and Yoko who he apologizes for a lot (altho perhaps she merits it?), to be critical at all. Altho he does hate the last album. Some good stories, but not enough of them.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Apolla

    the first book about John Lennon I ever read, and probably still one of the best I've seen. It's honest without being cruel and paints a picture not of St John but of a human being who happened to be spectacular. I've read it so many times that I've totally broken the spine.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Firos BF

    The definitive biography about one of the greatest humanists and musicians the modern world has ever seen. Must-read for any Lennon lover.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Arnold

    The only book you need to read on John Lennon. Authoritative and Ray was one of the few writers who could genuinely claim to be a close friend of the superstar

  13. 4 out of 5

    Anna

    Loved. A descriptive and insider view of the life of one of my personal favorite musicians.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Rob Hermanowski

    Probably the best Lennon bio out there.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Alex Johnston

    Ray Coleman had advantages that other biographers dream about. He was writing soon enough after Lennon's death that he had access to many of Lennon's family members, in particular Mimi Smith, Lennon's aunt who'd raised him for most of his life. He had at least some of Lennon's correspondence. He was personally committed to the subject; well, all biographers more or less are, but he wasn't just doing it because he was a professional writer. He really wanted to write Lennon's biography. Ray Coleman had advantages that other biographers dream about. He was writing soon enough after Lennon's death that he had access to many of Lennon's family members, in particular Mimi Smith, Lennon's aunt who'd raised him for most of his life. He had at least some of Lennon's correspondence. He was personally committed to the subject; well, all biographers more or less are, but he wasn't just doing it because he was a professional writer. He really wanted to write Lennon's biography. Unfortunately, he blew it. Coleman's book is the uncritical, hagiographical twin to Albert Goldman's notorious hatchet job, The Lives of John Lennon. Coleman's Lennon is not just a genius, but a saint: the only truly talented one in the band, a visionary musician who touched the lives of everyone he met and saved the Beatles from the mindless pop fluff of Paul McCartney and the incomprehensible Indian noodling of George Harrison. He was also 'one of the great peacemakers of the twentieth century'. Coleman boldly contends that without Lennon, the Beatles would have had 'no cutting edge, conscience, or originality'. The Beatles, then, were Freddie and the Dreamers plus John Lennon. He was the cream in their coffee, the yeast in their dough, their only spark of life. This is all bullshit, of course, and is a direct result of Coleman's slavish worship of Lennon himself, at the expense of his bandmates. Coleman cannot explain why, if Lennon was such a towering genius, his solo music is so much less sparkling and imaginative than the music he made with the Beatles. Coleman has no appreciation whatever for what the other members of the band brought to the party. The tone of Coleman's book is that of someone more keen to impress the reader with his own importance, than of someone interested in assessing the real stature of a man who was, at the end of the day, a popular musician, not a politician, prophet or philosopher. Coleman likes to remind the reader, over and over again, that he knew Lennon personally; unfortunately, this lack of distance cripples him as a serious biographer. The best that can be said for this book is that at least it's not completely fictional, like Geoffrey Giuliano's Revolver: The Secret History of the Beatles. It is, however, a massive wasted opportunity. Coleman had all the research material, and he threw it away on a book about how his mate John was the only talented one in the band. A much better biography of Lennon is Tim Riley's Lennon: The Man, the Myth, the Music - The Definitive Life, but if you really want to begin to understand Lennon, you have to read about him in context, and that means reading about the Beatles as a group, not just him personally. I would recommend Jonathan Gould's Can't Buy Me Love: The Beatles, Britain, and America, and of course Mark Lewisohn's ongoing, epic Tune In, which I've reviewed elsewhere on this site. In the meantime, Coleman's is certainly the worst book I have ever read about the Beatles, and I've read a lot of books about them.

  16. 5 out of 5

    H.B.

    A true story about how hard it is to become an American citizen, in which we learn that UFOs sometimes visit New York.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Lenunu

    The book is really awesome.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Gustav Gerät

    very good book, I like it

  19. 5 out of 5

    Isabel H.

    By: Ray Coleman Biography 106 pages John Lennon was born on October 9, 1940 in Liverpool, England. When he was four years old, his parents separated and he ended up living with his Aunt Mimi. As a boy and young adult, John enjoyed drawing grotesque figures and cripples. He made it to art school, and was not allow to play Rock and Roll. In college, he met a woman named Cynthia Powell, who became his first wife. His mother died before his 18th birthday. John did not like to talk about the death of By: Ray Coleman Biography 106 pages John Lennon was born on October 9, 1940 in Liverpool, England. When he was four years old, his parents separated and he ended up living with his Aunt Mimi. As a boy and young adult, John enjoyed drawing grotesque figures and cripples. He made it to art school, and was not allow to play Rock and Roll. In college, he met a woman named Cynthia Powell, who became his first wife. His mother died before his 18th birthday. John did not like to talk about the death of his mother, because it was too great a sorrow to be publicized. After the death of his mother, John went to live with his Aunt Mimi. John considers his Aunt Mimi the greatest person. John married Cynthia Powell in August 1962 and they had a son who they called Julian. Since the Beatles were becoming very popular at the time, Cynthia had to keep a very low profile. John Lennon divorced Cynthia and re-married with Yoko Ono who he met at the Indica Gallery in November 1966. In 1970, the Beatles broke up also, after Paul McCartney has announced that he is leaving the Beatles. After the Beatles broke up, John Lennon went his way and he tried to send out his message out clearer. He started doing this by releasing his first solo album, Imagine. On October 9, 1975, Yoko gave birth to John's other son Sean. John left his whole music career for 5 years to raise his son. John did not miss music at all during this period. Unfortunately, John was shot in front of his apartment complex in New York while he was in the process of releasing another album "Milk and Honey". John died of the age of 40 in the Roosevelt Hospital on December 8, 1980, after receiving multiple gunshots in the back. There is several reasons why I really like this book. First of all, I have heard John Lennon on the radio before and I thought that the Beatles were really amazing, so I decided to read this book. Second, this book is descriptive, so you are able to see what all the screaming girls were like and the suspense of the gun shot was like. Also, when I first started reading this book I was like, this is going to be a funny book because when ever someone says something about John it seems to be strange. Next, my parents sometimes talk about the Beatles and how they were the best thing when they were young. I found it interesting how they really were the people who actually made Rock and Roll popular. There was only one thing that that was really sad and that was when John Lennon got shot. He was not expecting for his life to end when he was only 40-years-old. Overall, there is many reasons why I find John Lennon's life interesting.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Maggie

    "Maggie, what were you like in middle school? Quiet? Funny? A tr00 emo? No one has actually ever asked me that, but any one of you could be wondering it. It is hard for me to say what I was like in middle school, as I have successfully blacked most of it out. Fortunately, I have a fact to tell you so you can head in the right direction about what I was like in middle school. We had an assignment in the 7th or 8th grade to read a biography of some kind about a famous person. We had to write an "Maggie, what were you like in middle school? Quiet? Funny? A tr00 emo? No one has actually ever asked me that, but any one of you could be wondering it. It is hard for me to say what I was like in middle school, as I have successfully blacked most of it out. Fortunately, I have a fact to tell you so you can head in the right direction about what I was like in middle school. We had an assignment in the 7th or 8th grade to read a biography of some kind about a famous person. We had to write an outline of the book once we were finished, and then we were to make a little poster and give a quick presentation to the class about the person we chose. To be clear, a quick 100 page biography would have sufficed for this assignment. Most people read quick 100 page biographies. Middle School Maggie did not do that. Middle School Maggie read a 784 page "definitive biography" about John Lennon because she just had to show off her uber intelligence and superior intellectualism. So, I ended up having to cram to get the book finished in time, everyone laughed during my presentation because it lasted the entire period and wasted the entire day, and my outline ended up being over 8 pages long (it was supposed to be a page). Looking back, I can see what a little you-know-what I was being, but at the same time, I have no regrets. This is, as you can guess by the title and length, an excellently detailed biography about one of the greats. It provides good insight, not just into John Lennon as a musician, but his influences, The Beatles, Rock n' Roll, popular culture of the 60's the hippie movement, and actual man, as opposed to icon I had in mind when my little 12 year old self was picturing when I threw up the V and singing Give Peace a Chance. I had the pleasure of going to Strawberry Fields in Central Park after my junior year of high school. We were on the annual vocal ensemble trip, and I believe it was myself and two other girls who ventured to go. We weren't totally confident in using the subway, but on of my friends claimed she could figure out, so we trusted her. While we were waiting for our bus (is it bus? Or train? City folk help?) two middle aged women next to us turned and asked with a British Accent, "Do you girls know how to get to Strawberry Fields?" It's fascinating how certain personalities, certain people, certain music, transcend all boundaries; age, time, race. John Lennon is a figure for the ages. Recommend for Lennon fans, Beatles fans, music fans, pop culture fans, middle school students who want to show everyone else how smart they are.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Brandy Potter

    Thais book is so full of lies and unsubstanciated crap! I read and purchased this book before I knew better, before I knew about anything Beatles related. First and foremost, the people he interviewed were either minor hangers on that knew nothing or completly misquoted. As usual Cynthia and Julian and most of JOhn's family were relegated to minor irritations. The loving relationships that he had with them completly erased. Even his relationship with Yoko seemed sterile and immoral (which in Thais book is so full of lies and unsubstanciated crap! I read and purchased this book before I knew better, before I knew about anything Beatles related. First and foremost, the people he interviewed were either minor hangers on that knew nothing or completly misquoted. As usual Cynthia and Julian and most of JOhn's family were relegated to minor irritations. The loving relationships that he had with them completly erased. Even his relationship with Yoko seemed sterile and immoral (which in some way sit was at the beginning but not after the divorces) Any John Lennon fan would do better than to own this book. Knowing what I know now and the way Ray Coleman has crucified and lied about almost every person he has ever had the opportunity to write about, I will never buy another one of his books!

  22. 5 out of 5

    Ronn

    I've read many Beatles and Lennon biographies over the years; I cant honestly say which is the most accurate. I would say the this one would make a pretty good claim, having been written by someone genuinely close to Lennon, but I really dont know. There have been so many conflicting claims made over the years, all by people claiming equal authority. I can say that this book would have benefited from better editing as chronology is not followed, and this can make for considerable confusion. I've read many Beatles and Lennon biographies over the years; I cant honestly say which is the most accurate. I would say the this one would make a pretty good claim, having been written by someone genuinely close to Lennon, but I really dont know. There have been so many conflicting claims made over the years, all by people claiming equal authority. I can say that this book would have benefited from better editing as chronology is not followed, and this can make for considerable confusion. There are quite a few photos that be interesting if the were a little larger and a little clearer, especially the ones of writing and drawings. I dont know; I think I was just expecting more. I'd probably feel differently if I had read this 10 or 20 years ago.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Sean Beckett

    Superb. It's another big read. The introductions almost put you off due to their size, but persevere. Having not read another biography of Lennon it's hard to gauge how accurate the depiction is, but it feels true. Probably a little kind given Coleman's closeness to Lennon and Ono. On the whole well worth the time and effort to read with some interesting insights to Lennon's activities in mid/late 70s. Appreciating that he wasn't everyone's cup of tea, you can't help but wonder what he would Superb. It's another big read. The introductions almost put you off due to their size, but persevere. Having not read another biography of Lennon it's hard to gauge how accurate the depiction is, but it feels true. Probably a little kind given Coleman's closeness to Lennon and Ono. On the whole well worth the time and effort to read with some interesting insights to Lennon's activities in mid/late 70s. Appreciating that he wasn't everyone's cup of tea, you can't help but wonder what he would have done next. And given his last 2 albums, one released after his death, you know it would have been at least interesting. Mark Chapman; what a complete twat.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Tom Madej

    I can't quite give the book 5 stars but it certainly rated 4. As a side note for you Beatle factoid nuts ( of who I am one )Coleman lays the sacking of Pete Best squarely at the feet of producer George Martin. I knew that Martin had had a session dummer sit in for Pete on an occasion or two. However, in this book Coleman says that Martin was the one who said Pete must go. Pete doesn't mention this in his book, "Beatle! The Pete Best Story". Pete's tales of the bands days in Hamburg, Germany, in I can't quite give the book 5 stars but it certainly rated 4. As a side note for you Beatle factoid nuts ( of who I am one )Coleman lays the sacking of Pete Best squarely at the feet of producer George Martin. I knew that Martin had had a session dummer sit in for Pete on an occasion or two. However, in this book Coleman says that Martin was the one who said Pete must go. Pete doesn't mention this in his book, "Beatle! The Pete Best Story". Pete's tales of the bands days in Hamburg, Germany, in that book are terrific.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Joe Rodeck

    One of the reasons this book is so voluminous (691pp) is that because it is not well-outlined it gets redundant. Halfway thru the book, he's talking about "Please Please Me" again on the same page as "Double Fantasy." Its jumping back and forth makes it tiring. I'd recommend a solid Beatles bio instead; the house husband era is a bore. Further, if you're a box scores kind of fan; you'll be disappointed that there's no discography. On the plus side, there's unsensationalized "everything you ever One of the reasons this book is so voluminous (691pp) is that because it is not well-outlined it gets redundant. Halfway thru the book, he's talking about "Please Please Me" again on the same page as "Double Fantasy." Its jumping back and forth makes it tiring. I'd recommend a solid Beatles bio instead; the house husband era is a bore. Further, if you're a box scores kind of fan; you'll be disappointed that there's no discography. On the plus side, there's unsensationalized "everything you ever needed to know." For Lennon fanatics only.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Meg

    Truly the definitive biography for the late great John Lennon I remember reading my big fat red library edition of this book before my psych class started in high school. After discovering I was reading about Lennon, my psych teacher went in to a long discussion about where he was the night he heard Lennon was shot. Kind of set the mood for the rest of the day in that class... bummer.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Pinko Palest

    Re-read this after first having read it more than 15 years ago. It is very interesting and informative when dealing with the early Beatles, in Liverpool and Hamburg, but I don't feel it has enough on Lennon's music, creativity and politics between 1965 and 1975

  28. 4 out of 5

    Doug Campbell

    like with most books about john, this has many stories that are re-hashed over and over again. there are a fair amount of different takes on his life in this book, but many of them you (if you have been a fan of him or the beatles for any lenght of time.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Brodiesmom

    Everything. This book makes you feel like you know everything, everything there is to know about John Lennon and makes you realize what a sad, sad world we live in without more of his amazing talent.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Vallin

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Coleman's condensation of Lennons's last day-last hours is especially chilling. Sorry for the spoiler, but it's Mark David Chapman's damn fault!

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