The Lives of John Lennon
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The Lives of John Lennon

3.28 of 5 stars 3.28  ·  rating details  ·  1,059 ratings  ·  80 reviews
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 e...more
Paperback, 720 pages
Published September 1st 2001 by Chicago Review Press (first published 1988)
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Paul
If you're going to read this you need to have a sick bag ready. But Lennon fans probably owe it to themselves to chomp through this pile of bile, this ream of spleen, these 700 pages of hate-mail, as a cold turkey shock therapy corrective to the meretricious Saint John vomitoriums usually coughed up by the hacks, half-friends, distant relatives and showbiz bindweed who throng the Beatley shelves. It's entrancing to read a book of such unmediated contempt, for according to Goldman, Beatley John w...more
M. D.  Hudson
This came out in 1988 and caused a huge scandal because it suggested that Lennon helped murder a Hamburg sailor he was rolling, and also killed Stu Sutcliffe by kicking him in the head, that he had a long-term homosexual affair with Brian Epstein, etc. etc. I’d avoided reading it because Paul McCartney told me to back then. The book is and is not what I expected. Goldman shamelessly over-writes, throwing about nasty characterizations that wind up looking pretty ridiculous. But his facts feel str...more
Lonnie
Sep 24, 2007 Lonnie rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Beatle/Lennon fans
This book casts a giant shadow over the legend of Saint John of Liverpool. Being a Lennon fan myself, I bought into the myth of the Ballad of John and Yoko, the peace-nic image and the devoted house husband that gave up his career to be a house-husband. What is presented here is a gifted musician who wants to be an in-your-face bad boy but needed to depend on others for support; first, the Beatles then Yoko, who sold out his black leather biker and ducktail to the Beatle bangs and suits and his...more
PM
Goldman's biography of John Lennon is entertaining but there is a sinister undertone throughout the book. I've read that the author started out with admiration for the musician but ended up feeling increasingly negative about Lennon. Personal feelings are no doubt an occupational hazard of writing about the life of a public figure but a biographer has a responsibility to remain objective to the best of his/her ability. It's pretty evident that Goldman was unable to do that. In addition, Goldman'...more
Brian
If I had to choose my all-time favorite book -- biography or otherwise -- this would probably be it. Certainly, the fact that it's about a Beatle automatically moves it toward the front of the line. But why choose this particular book -- which I've re-read more times than I can count -- when there are so many other Beatle bios out there? Simple: this one's terrible.

No, really. This is a train wreck. Goldman has a major axe to grind, and over the course of 700-plus pages, he grinds his axe to iro...more
Steve
As a Beatles fan, I really appreciated reading this piece of rock de-mythology. After his death, it was considered heresy to see John Lennon as the nasty, irreverent rocker he had always been instead of the cuddly peacenik martyr he became in rock legend.

Goldman was a jazz fan who took a dim view of the teenybopper music of the Sixties. But as in his biography of Elvis, the most impressive parts here are his descriptions of the musical milieu of his subject. He notes that Liverpool was a backwat...more
Bullet
I like this book probably more than I would ever admit out loud, and that's because it's just a great story. It reads almost like a John Irving novel (without the intricate twists and coincidences). It's just awful and full of hatred, but damn...is it fun to read!
I read this a few times when I was in high school and had an unhealthy obsession with the Beatles. Needless to say, I was shocked and inspired. It wasn't a turn-off to read horrible things about someone I admired, because (even if they...more
Kate
I learnt Lennon had a pretty sad life shot through with anger, violence and insecurity. He leant heavily on Yoko and bought the myth they fabricated about their relationship while at the same time resenting her domination of him. Surprisingly little examination of his relationship with McCartney. Goldman jut states they were hostile towards each other. But reading between the lines it looks like Lennon wouldn't have written half the stuff he wrote without Paul there to compete with. He seems lik...more
Armin Hennig
Das Schauermärchen von John und Yoko

Drei Sterne für ein derart umfangreiches Werk erscheinen verhältnismäßig wenig. Wer immer schon alles nur erdenkliche Schlechte über John Lennon und noch Schlimmeres über Yoko Ono lesen wollte, wird von Albert Goldman umfassend informiert. Er lässt keine Schweinerei aus, für die der gern Friedensapostel verehrte Ex-Beatle verantwortlich war und erst recht keinen Scheißhaufen, in den der gern möglichst verantwortungsfreie Weltverbesserer getappt ist.
So weit, so...more
Harv Griffin
Jan 21, 2014 Harv Griffin rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Beatles fans
Shelves: reviewed
pic of my copy of the book

My personal take on The Beatles is that George Martin was the most important “member” of The Beatles. Martin, as Producer and Recording Engineer, was doing things with 4-track equipment in England that nobody else in the world could get near; not even the best producers in Hollywood with their then state-of-the-art 8-track recorders could accomplish what George Martin coaxed out of his older equipment. Every time John Lennon would ask the impossible, George Martin would find a way to deliver, in...more
Rachy
I found this book entirely readable. Even with thousands of interviews and years of research, I was still suspicious of the author's intentions. This is a controversial book in that it puts Lennon in a very bad light, but Yoko Ono comes off as the real villain. Like any piece of history, a writer chooses a specific interpretation and this is why one must read other sources or viewpoints to balance the overall account. I am doing that now as I read another Beatles book. But let's get back to Live...more
Alfred
While the Lennon 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.

For many years I refused to read this book because I did not want to blot or tarnish, with content that had been repeatedly descri...more
Peacegal
Well, here it is, the book that Beatles fans have been warned about. There’s no doubt Lives is entertaining and readable, but it’s also ridiculously over-the-top. Many Beatles fans have pegged Lives as a character assassination of Lennon. In some ways it is. Goldman is relentlessly harsh on his subject, claiming that Lennon abused his wives and children, stole his songs, murdered Stu Sutcliffe, was ugly and kept a filthy home. If you take it with a grain of salt, however, I found Lives to be oft...more
Donald
Oct 15, 2007 Donald rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Beatles Fans
Albert Goldman paints a very unflattering portrait of legendary rock icon John Lennon. This was a hard read for me, as Lennon is one of my all-time favorites. Goldman's research has been called into question, and I am naturally inclined to side with those who think this is a scurrilous, irresponsible hatchet job on a dead and defenseless genius. I did like, however, the scene where Lennon is portrayed as one who was ranting about the obvious conspiracy behind the death of Martin Luther King, Jr....more
Chris
really interesting book....very very very long and details every part of Lennon's life. The more I read the more I became less of a John Lennon fan. According to Goldman he was a drug-addled lunatic. I knew about what a druggie he was, but I had no idea he was such a nut. A child and woman abuser and just down right mean.

BUT...as soon as I finish reading this book another Lennon book comes out by a different author and the author of the new book says Goldman was a hack and wrote lies. SO WHO KNO...more
Sara
Oct 08, 2008 Sara rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: biography fans, music fans
Really interesting, in-depth (at over 700-pages) account of John Lennon's entire life. As a huge fan, I'll admit the man was often pretty despicable. But it's a highly-flawed and fucked up genius that's interesting, right? Even if you aren't a Lennon/Beatles fan, you'll enjoy this as a juicy biography, just skip the parts about the actual music! Actually, any fan who wants to keep the image of the benevolent, peace-loving, [later-in-life] family man image of John Lennon intact, then do not read...more
majd.
Almost halfway through this book and I'm not going to waste my time finishing it. The writing is actually pretty good. Too bad it's full of crap. He claims to have known John well enough and to have unravelled all his 'dark' secrets simply by interviewing a bunch of people who claimed to be close to John. Some of it is just so detailed there is no way all of it's true. Most of it isn't. Paul McCartney was right. People shouldn't read this.
John
Take everything it says with a grain of salt...actually don't believe any of it, but the claims are so outrageous that it is hard NOT to be drawn in. (For example, did you know that John Lennon killed a guy? No? Then you must read this book.)
Craig
The truth is out there. Somewhere between this and the gauzy tripe the Beatle/Ono hype machine would have us swallow.
Teo smite
Interesting but you have to fight the author's bias and be ready for some unflattering stories.
Ben
I'm still waiting for a good biography of Lennon.
Clint Wells
This one was painful but necessary.
Zack
This is the first really disrespectful biography of John Lennon I've ever read, but not (always) in a bad way--which gives it its surreal trash-eating value despite the whole ethical quandary of truth vs. falsehood. I guess it has both. It seems very well-researched; paying attention to characters I've only ever heard about tangentially before, and all (or most) of the hardcore allegations it makes are believable if horrible--for instance, it claims John had a relapse after famously kicking hero...more
Don
Albert Goldman made his career at what it could be considered being a hack writer and only going after the subjects of his books as a rabid dog would do towards unprotected school children. Anything negative about the subject was all he wanted to hear and use. Yes, he claims it took six years to gather the information (that he wanted to use only) in putting together this terrible offering. He approached (or found) people who had nothing nice to say about Lennon (the same as he did on his Elvis a...more
kate
Apr 21, 2010 kate added it
john lennon's music saves my life over and over again. i relate so strongly with his journey through life, his anger, his childishness, childlikeness, his idealism and his humor. he touches generation after generation.

his art transcends his death and his voice in the world is one that, i feel, is greatly absent. he was also a viciously honest and naked creative force.

this book fails to capture all of that.

I would suggest other sources, including john lennon interviews, if you can find them - to...more
Frederick
This came out a long time ago (the late eighties or early nineties) and Goldman, like Lennon, is dead, too, now.
His book on Elvis didn't hurt Elvis's reputation because Elvis's fans love Elvis all the way. The book on John Lennon is another matter entirely.
I've read bits and pieces and, certainly, when the book came out, the media coverage was inescapable. A lot of people, among them people who knew John or worked with him, condemned the book immediately.
The ultimate flaw of this book is the hat...more
Alex
I got about a little over halfway through this when I decided to give it up. It was literally making me feel sick. If Goldman's account is true, then Lennon was a truly depraved, very sick individual. Among his crimes, according to Goldman, was the raping of a teenage female fan prior to a Beatles concert in the mid sixties; the beating of a pregnant Yoko Only so badly that she lost the baby; and a robbery/mugging in the group's early days of a drunk sailor in Hamburg, in which the victim later...more
Neil Mcdonnell
A tabloid-esque narrative of anti Lennon rubbish and hearsay accounts.
Josh
So what did we learn here? John Lennon was not the saint many make him out to be and was actually kind of a woman abusing, violent, negligent father that wasted away several years doing nothing with himself. If half the stuff in this book is true (and I, for one, tend to believe it), then wow was everyone duped into loving this guy.
Mario
Jul 01, 2013 Mario marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: beatles, owned-books
I bought and started reading the first Bantam paperback edition of this book back in '89 or '90.
A Beatle fan for about 20 years then, and a John's admirer, it hit me to find a slanted and even crude story of an idealized character. I have to recognize that I stopped reading very early, in the part where Yoko gets delivered cocaine to her door in the Dakota.
Today, a Beatle fan for more than 40 years and still an admirer of John's, I just put this worn-out soft cover and yellowed pages book in my...more
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