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The Lives of John Lennon

3.35  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,241 Ratings  ·  83 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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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 2,086)
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Paul Bryant
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
Jul 31, 2009 M. D. Hudson rated it liked it
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
Sep 24, 2007 Lonnie rated it really liked it
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
Mar 30, 2012 PM rated it liked it
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
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
Aug 13, 2012 Steve rated it really liked it
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
Jul 19, 2010 Bullet rated it it was ok
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 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
Jan 12, 2009 Kate rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Sep 02, 2012 Alfred rated it it was amazing
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
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
Oct 08, 2008 Sara rated it really liked it
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
Harv Griffin
Jan 21, 2014 Harv Griffin rated it really liked it
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
Aug 26, 2008 Craig rated it it was amazing
The truth is out there. Somewhere between this and the gauzy tripe the Beatle/Ono hype machine would have us swallow.
Dec 08, 2009 Rachy rated it liked it
Shelves: music-related
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
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
Apr 04, 2011 Peacegal rated it it was ok
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
Oct 28, 2015 Connie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Any die-hard Lennon fan with either a good sense of humor or a good BS filter
Recommended to Connie by: No one
I bought this book back in '93, and was thrilled to get it as I was a hard-core Lennon fan.

However, I wasn't aware at that time of the hatchet jobs Goldman was well known for in his biographies of rock stars.

The book itself was a pretty good read, and I was shocked by some of the of the things I read. I have no idea if it was true or embellished with Goldman's BS but it still made for good reading, although it did cause some major scream-out arguments I had with another die-hard Lennon fan when
Oct 15, 2007 Donald rated it liked it
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
Feb 11, 2009 Chris rated it it was ok
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. 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
Feb 05, 2008 Andy rated it did not like it
The vehement hatred that seeps through this one's pores may stain your fingers. Though Lennon was obviously no saint (his abandonment of his first wife and son stands as evidence of that), Goldman's wild allegations that Lennon was a street mugger strain credulity.
Sep 12, 2008 John rated it it was amazing
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.)
Teo smite
Sep 09, 2009 Teo smite rated it liked it
Interesting but you have to fight the author's bias and be ready for some unflattering stories.
Aug 06, 2007 Ben rated it did not like it
I'm still waiting for a good biography of Lennon.
Clint Wells
This one was painful but necessary.
James Newman
Mar 30, 2016 James Newman rated it liked it
BANG BANG, YOU’RE DEAD Goldman gleefully entitles the penultimate chapter of his book on John Lennon, and this reader senses the thrill the writer must have felt approaching the finish line of this abysmal hatchet job of a biography. Actually it reads more like a novel, if novels were as untruthful and as hurtful as this book sets out to and succeeds to be. The truth is novels rarely hurt anyone but the author and the publisher, financially, at least. This turd of an account obviously hurt the w ...more
Feb 10, 2009 Zack rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
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
Nov 19, 2013 Alex rated it did not like it
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
Tom Schulte
Sep 06, 2015 Tom Schulte rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: bio, history, music
after getting past the author's obvious contempt for what Lennon became, there is a lot of history here on not only Lennon but Yoko, The Beatles, rock and pop, and more. some and even much here may be trash talking and rumormongering, but it is an antidote to hagiography out there - no doubt Lennon gave into drugs, lazy reclusion, and profligate excess, the details of that are fairly irrelevant. Was May Pang a Yoko-assigned assignation? Julian and Sean unloved children? Lennon bisexual? Yoko and ...more
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