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The Lives of John Lennon Albert Goldman
Bantam Books, NYC, USA..1989g
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The result of six years of research and some 1,200 interviews, this book takes fans deep into Lennon’s secretive world, from his traumatic childhood to his Beatles days to his hidden life with Yoko Ono. While the Lennon of legend enjoyed a gifted and inspired life, the private Lennon lived in torment, poisoning himself with drugs and self-hatred. The Lives of John Lennon exposed for the first time all of his various lives, from idealist to cynic, from ascetic to junkie. It is a lasting tribute to his brilliant achievements and a revelation of the price he paid for them.
The Lives of John Lennon is a 1988 biography of musician John Lennon by American author Albert Goldman. The book is a product of several years of research and hundreds of interviews with many of Lennon`s friends, acquaintances, servants and musicians. Notwithstanding, it is best known for its criticism and generally negative representation of the personal lives of Lennon and his wife, Yoko Ono.
Lennon in the work
When first published, The Lives of John Lennon was controversial because of its portrayal of Lennon in a highly critical light. Lennon was presented in the book as a talented but deeply flawed man who manipulated people and relationships throughout his life, flinging them aside when they were no longer useful to him. Goldman also suggested that Lennon was an anti-Semite and a heavy drug-user and that he had dyslexia and schizophrenia. The author even went into detail about the long-rumored homosexual affair between Lennon and The Beatles` manager, Brian Epstein, as well as alleging a number of liaisons by Lennon with other men, including a claim that he solicited underage male prostitutes in Thailand. This latter assertion greatly angered Yoko Ono and Paul McCartney. The book was criticized by Lennon fans for allegedly containing much unsubstantiated conjecture, and tending to present worst-case scenarios when doing so.
Lennon was indeed a heavy drug user, as has now been acknowledged by most people who knew the musician well, including Ono and Lennon`s first wife, Cynthia Lennon. The same is true of Goldman`s claims about Lennon`s tendency towards violence, a tendency Lennon himself owned up to in a Playboy interview. Concerning Lennon`s supposed bisexuality, Ono herself said in a 1981 interview that she told Lennon—although it`s unclear whether or not she was just teasing him—that he was a `closet fag` because he used to tell Yoko he liked her because she looked `like a bloke in drag`. Of the affair Goldman alleges between Lennon and Epstein, Lennon said in his 1980 Playboy interview that their relationship `was almost a love affair, but not quite. It was never consummated.`
Among Goldman`s most serious charges are that Lennon was not only instrumental in the murder of a sailor whom he met in Hamburg, but also in the death of bandmate Stuart Sutcliffe. Goldman states that Sutcliffe`s death was the long-term result of severe kicks to the head administered by Lennon in a fit of drunken rage. He also alleges that Lennon caused the death of an unborn baby he`d conceived with Yoko Ono during 1968, when he kicked the pregnant Ono in the belly during an argument.
Goldman does show genuine respect for Lennon`s musical achievements with the Beatles and some of his early solo work (although he largely dismisses most of it, even the widely acclaimed `Imagine`). All the same, Lennon`s best writings are presented as more the products of mental illness or drug abuse (especially after 1966), than the creations of a talented person, while his melodies are charged with being mostly `stolen` from other musicians` songs, changed just enough to avoid legal action. Lennon was sued for plagiarism for `Come Together` and settled out of court in return for promise to record songs by the original songs` publisher, Morris Levy, resulting in Lennon`s 1975 album Rock `n` Roll.
Goldman also claimed that when Lennon started making music again in 1980 following a long hibernation, he was not immune to Manhattan`s cocaine-fueled disco scene. According to Goldman, on the day Lennon was murdered he was scheduled to undergo plastic surgery several days later to repair his nasal septum (due to snorting cocaine, which he supposedly did at the Hit Factory recording studio where he recorded his album Double Fantasy). Goldman did not cite a single name of anyone who might have witnessed this at the studio. Goldman alleged further that on December 8, 1980 (the day of Lennon`s murder) not only did the singer`s cocaine snorting warrant plastic surgery, but he was in such bad physical condition from drug abuse and lack of exercise that during his autopsy the medical examiner recorded observations to that effect, overlooking the four bullet wounds momentarily.
The overarching theme of the book is to debunk the notion that Lennon retired from rock for five years, from 1975 until his 1980 comeback album, Double Fantasy, to live as a househusband and raise the couple`s son, Sean. Goldman asserts that in reality Lennon had retreated into a secluded, darkened room watching television all day, every day, leaving domestic servants to tend his son, while Ono was feeding a chronic heroin habit. This theme is also supported in the book Nowhere Man: The Final Days of John Lennon, which is based on Lennon`s own diaries from the months and weeks leading up to his murder.
Goldman further asserted that this turn of events was caused, not only by Lennon`s own native laziness and dependence on strong women throughout his life to manage his affairs (other than his marriage to Cynthia, in which he took a dominant role), but through the instigation and manipulation of Yoko Ono, who Goldman claimed in the book was jealous of Lennon and saw his fame as competition for her own musical ambitions.
Goldman contends Ono encouraged Lennon`s heroin addiction as a way of controlling him and his vast fortune, to her own ends. She also supposedly used tarot-reading charlatans to feed Lennon readings that would urge him to take various courses of action Ono supported. These readings would determine seemingly trivial choices of Lennon`s life, such as which route the limo would take home from the studio or which day was most propitious on which to record, but were, in fact, according to Goldman, often part of Ono`s constant machinations. Ono`s concern for routes and directions reflects a belief in Japanese traditional katatagae, but this is overlooked by Goldman, who has been accused of racism.
Goldman also alleges Lennon`s comeback was only allowed, and then orchestrated, by Ono after she realized her own ambitions at stardom without Lennon were futile.
He also enumerates what he described as Yoko Ono`s lavish spending habits, wasting of Lennon`s resources, abuse of domestic servants and personal assistants, even to the point of setting up May Pang as Lennon`s girlfriend and Ono`s personal spy during his Lost Weekend when he was separated from Ono during the autumn of 1974.
Much of this story is confirmed by Pang in her own book.
Goldman quotes Harold Seider, Lennon`s lawyer for the last few years of his life, as saying that much of Lennon`s public image was largely fabricated:
The real Lennon was not the public statements that he made. They were made because they were public statements, and he was looking to make a point. He couldn`t give a shit (about lying) because to a certain extent he had contempt for the media because they bought all the crap. He was there to manipulate the media. He enjoyed doing that. He understood how to use the media. You got to give him credit for that, and you got to give her credit... They would use the media, but it was not that they believed it, but that was the image they wanted to present.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia