The Heartbreaking Story Of John Lennon And His Mother

Among the most famous members of The Fab Four, John Lennon and his mother Julia Lennon did not always get along. Despite what some Beatles fans might believe, John’s aunt Mimi Smith reared him instead of his mother. His music was sometimes a vehicle for expressing his complex feelings regarding his parents.

John Lennon’s Views On Parenthood And Being A “So-Called Orphan”
In a revealing interview from 1980 featured in the book “All We Are Saying: The Last Major Interview with John Lennon and Yoko Ono,” John candidly discussed his views on parents. He expressed how some people fail to recognize that their parents can continue to torment them, even in adulthood:

“Some people cannot see that their parents are still torturing them, even when they are in their forties and fifties — they still have that stranglehold over them and their thoughts and their minds.”

Lennon added,

“I never had that fear of and adulation for parents. Well, that’s the gift of being a so-called orphan — which I never was at all. My mother was alive and lived a fifteen-minute walk away from me all my life. I saw her sporadically off and on all the time. I just didn’t live with her.”

During his youth, John would make thought-provoking statements about parenthood, relying on his unconventional upbringing:

“I would infiltrate the other boys’ minds. I could say, ‘Parents are not gods because I don’t live with mine and, therefore, I know.’ I could say to Paul, ‘If you want to wear tight pants, Paul, tell your father to screw himself.’ His father knew I would say that to him. And it went for all my friends… That was the gift I got of not having parents.”

The Musical Thoughts Of John Lennon Regarding His Mother
Notably, Lennon channeled his complex feelings towards his mother into his music, writing three songs inspired by her. “Julia,” from The White Album, is a haunting folk ballad named after his mother. Although eerie, the song does not express any anger towards her. Another song entitled “My Mummy’s Dead” is a dark nursery rhyme based on “Three Blind Mice.” However, the most famous of the three is “Mother,” a poignant track that blends elements of pop balladry with a cathartic cry of grief. While Freddie Lennon, John’s father, is also mentioned in the song, the focus remains on John’s overwhelming emotions towards his mother.

On the charts, “Mother” did not achieve significant commercial success but managed to make an impact nonetheless. It reached No. 43 on the Billboard Hot 100 and stayed on the chart for six weeks. The song appeared on the album “John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band,” which peaked at No. 6 on the Billboard 200 and spent 34 weeks on the chart. However, in the United Kingdom, “Mother” did not chart at all, while the album peaked at No. 8 and lasted for 11 weeks.

Despite its limited commercial success, “Mother” struck a chord with musicians across genres, resulting in noteworthy covers. Renowned vocalists Barbra Streisand and Christina Aguilera both recorded their own interpretations of the song, showcasing its enduring power and ability to complement powerful vocal performances.

John Lennon frequently used music as a way to express the complex emotions he had for his mother. Even if their relationship wasn’t perfect, he used art as a way to express himself and find comfort. Lennon addressed his feelings head-on in his songs and melodies, making a lasting impression on both fans and fellow musicians.

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