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John Lennon: The Life

4.15  ·  Rating Details  ·  6,513 Ratings  ·  349 Reviews

For more than a quarter century, Philip Norman's internationally bestselling Shout! has been unchallenged as the definitive biography of the Beatles. Now, at last, Norman turns his formidable talent to the Beatle for whom belonging to the world's most beloved pop group was never enough. Drawing on previously untapped sources, and with unprecedented access to all the major

Kindle Edition, 866 pages
Published (first published 2008)
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Dec 30, 2008 Brian rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"In September 2003, I suggested to John's widow, Yoko Ono, that I should become his biographer," writes Philip Norman in the Acknowledgements section of John Lennon: The Life. However, after reading the final manuscript, "Yoko Ono was upset by the book," Norman tells us, "and would not endorse it . . . [saying] I had been 'mean to John.'"

I actually don't think Yoko's got anything to worry about; Norman's book is both clear-eyed and appropriately sympathetic as it traces the arc of Lennon's all-t
Dec 04, 2008 Jessica rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
What I learned:

John Lennon's parents were terrible.

He needed therapy.

A lot of drugs were involved, but never, remarkably, during a recording session.

John really was a genius.

Yoko Ono is not an artist.

Writhing around in a bag is not art.

Screaming like you're in labor isn't music.

I really feel bad for Julian.
Mar 01, 2009 Richard rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Highly
Don't panic. I'm not going to give you a long (boring) review. I'm not very good at that. But I will say I just finished reading all 822 pages of JOHN LENNON - THE LIFE. I think it's an excellent book. Well written and very detailed. With all my respect and love for Yoko Ono, who withdrew her support for the book because she felt it was "mean to John". I must say I don't find the book "mean to John" at all. Mr. Norman is quite kind in my opinion. The 'sex with his mum stuff that Mr. Norman tells ...more
Mar 10, 2013 Annie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
This long, in-depth biography was engrossing, although for me there were sometimes more details than I wanted. It began with John's grandparents, his entire family, the culture he grew up in. It explains the emotional traumas he carried all his life and how his attitudes developed. The culture and current events of the time throughout John's life are told as background and explanation.

I enjoyed learning what the inspiration for certain songs were and what they represented.

John was a very troubl
Troy Blackford
Aug 13, 2016 Troy Blackford rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An incredibly thorough and well-researched look at the entire stretch of John Lennon's furiously artistic and much-too-short life. The man's frustrations, interests, facility with language, playfulness, and distressing mood swings are documented in the full, and the story will leave you feeling his loss even more keenly than before. The insights I gained here will stick with me for life. A truly balanced and remarkable work. For anybody with more than a passing interest in the man.
Jun 04, 2016 Gary rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Wonderful...glad I finished it....I was engrossed.....having a love of the Beatles, and of John motivated me to finish this book. A bit long.....but it goes into all the complexities of John's life,and the man certainly lived quite a life...A lot to tell....I enjoyed it. If you are a fan....this is a must read for you.....
Aaron Badgley
Jun 28, 2015 Aaron Badgley rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People who dislike Lennon and like fiction.
Recommended to Aaron by: An enemy.
Oh not another hatchet job on John, yes folks, it is. I should Have Know Better. Nothing new to report in this book. Same stories we have heard and read before. I was hoping for more. I did not like this book for several reasons.
Sep 22, 2012 Lisa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very interesting book. I thought I would have to stop reading it so I would have time to start & finish the book I'm supposed to be reading for book club, but I found myself going back to this one each time. It was very disturbing at times & I know celebrities are very different from who they (and the media) portray themselves to be to the public, but it was still disappointing to read some of the things he did or how some of his darker personality traits manifested themselves. To be fai ...more
Jarrett Dobson
I am a massive admirer of the work of John Lennon. So I sought after a biography, with this one promptly displayed. The massive size(800+ pages) appealed to me. Little did I know what I was in for...

First of, the reason for the three stars. It IS immersive and very readable. I found the later chapters to almost redeem the earlier issues, and the handling of his assassination to be truly heart-breaking, especially the well thought of call back that closes the final chapter.

That being said, this i
Interesting history of John's parent and grandparents and a rather sordid account of the Beatles' yesr in Germany but in general, the book lacks much psychological underpinning to either John or his relatives. A potential bombshell; that Lennon may have killed artist Stuart Sutcliffe by kicking him in the head in an alcohol-fueled rage is left as an open question, leaving one to wonder whether there is a statute of limitations on homicide or manslaughter in England. Lennon's swings from meditati ...more
Mar 22, 2013 Jacki rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I love John Lennon, but this author relied heavily on hearsay. He even went as far as asking you to imagine how the days were spent at home, using conversation that I assume he did not hear.
Papparazzi writing with a gossip twinge. I don't think I believed half of what I read. Some insight into the life of Lennon was refreshing, but this book is mainly a disheveled look that portrays Lennon as weak and Yoko as barbarous. Not impressed.
Carol Storm
Sep 23, 2014 Carol Storm rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Definitive Lennon biography -- but would have liked more about the Hamburg scene, more about the early Beatles and the complexity of John's creative relationship with Paul McCartney.
Feb 14, 2012 Kristina rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: John Lennon fanatics only
Recommended to Kristina by: Jack W.
I've given up on this book. I'm 200 pages in and I'm still getting minute details of Lennon's life with his band that is almost the Beatles, but not quite. This book is really only for psycho crazed John Lennon fans who must know EVERYTHING about him. I'm only a casual fan and I don't want to know what books he read as a child and that he liked to circle jerk. Norman (and/or his assistant) researched the hell out of Lennon's life and I'm getting an almost day-by-day blow of his activities. I eve ...more
Paul Lyons
The life of John Lennon is indeed a complicated one, and certainly a challenge to any would-be biographer. Philip Norman's approach is simple, and straight forward...though I did find myself frustrated at times by his verbiage...and use of run-on sentences. I can't say I loved the writing, per se...and the book was no page-turner (which I am ashamed to admit, the Geoffrey Giuliano was)...yet you can't deny Philip Norman's intelligence, extensive research, and access to key players throughout Joh ...more
I've been an audiobooks listener for more than 20 years and this is by far the worst abridgement I've ever heard. First of all, there is no reason why any book should be recorded abridged. Still, I have listened to several that were (when there was no other choice) and there was always an attempt to make it cohesive. No such effort was made by Harper Audio on this one. Entire chapters were simply skipped. I first noticed when a casual referance was made about "ever since John's uncle George died ...more
Michael P. Fertig
If you're a Beatle fan, you must read this book. If you're not a Beatle fan, you must read this book. If you have aspirations in music, art, politics, domestic homelife, or anything grandiose or banal, you must read this book.

It's easily the most comprehensive story of Lennon's life, and if you're like am, you'll find yourself fighting back tears at certain points in the story. Knowing how the story ends made it difficult, at times, to carry on reading. Learning of how optimistic John was of th
Jul 13, 2011 Claudia rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
THE BOOK about John Lennon...finally. If you love John as I do, it's wonderful after all of these years to own and read a book that tells us all, at last, who and what John Lennon was. This book is the most honest and thorough account I've seen yet. It describes John as a human being, with his many positive traits, and his faults. This book provides much detail into John's relationship (or lack there-of) with his parents as well. The only thing I found disturbing about this book was the input by ...more
I enjoyed the information on the earlier part of John's life, but that took up more than half the book! On the other hand, the presentation of Yoko as some sort of savior to John was a bit hard to swallow. It made me wonder if she has pre-approval of the manuscript. I'm not one of the people who hate Yoko and blame her for breaking up the Beatles; I think they were all ready to move on to other things in their lives, but I've always thought her relationship with John was rather co-dependant.

If y
Lorrie Kim
Aug 22, 2016 Lorrie Kim rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Almost two months after I read it, the brilliance of this biography stayed with me and I thought about something from its contents daily. Philip Norman, who first dazzled me in the early 1980s with his "Shout! The Beatles in Their Generation," has achieved a depth and greatness with this work that sets a benchmark for all biography, in my opinion.

The first thing that transported me was, as always, the quality of the writing. Norman uses a wider vocabulary than most writers, and almost never fall
Mark Stidham
Dec 21, 2015 Mark Stidham rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
At 800 pages plus in standard format, you don't quite know what you bargained for in starting the book. But the detail throughout should tell you that this is an exhaustive telling of the events and the facts of Lennon's life. The life stands apart from the music and art he left behind.

It is a well written book that had me wanting to know what happens next. There seemed to be so much that happened, and even at the great length over a relatively short life, one gets a good sense of the child, th
Mar 06, 2015 Glenn rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I am not really sure how I started reading this book. I think I might have responded to targeted advertising. In any event, I picked it up, and had trouble putting it down (that's a lie, I did read Les Miserable and Revival by Stephen King in the middle of reading, "John Lennon.") But aside from those two interruptions, I was riveted by a somewhat surprising, somewhat self-evident depiction of an extremely complex cultural icon. This book really got to the nitty gritty of what made John tick...h ...more
Bill F.
For most of my life - at least the last 28 years of it - I've been fascinated by the life of John Lennon. His words, music, ups, downs, genius as well as destructive behavior make him one of the most fascinating figures of the 20th century. Norman's book is fabulous, so I'll get that out quick and up front. Norman criticizes earlier Lennon biographer Ray Coleman for not bringing Lennon 'to life' in his early 1980s work, Lennon. Well, Norman certainly does bring Lennon to life. Here we see all as ...more
Sep 22, 2015 Scribd rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: friday-reads
What with the rock stars of yore slowly fading away, replaced by the flashy, trashy celebrities of nowadays (but isn’t that always, apparently, the case?), it’s easy to forget how profoundly those old timers have shaped our culture. Mick. Dylan. Ozzy. Rod. Bowie. Elton. But none so important, so defining, as Lennon. As with most events that predate my existence, I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about John Lennon or the Beatles. Of course, I know the songs; I get the references. But their sig ...more
Jason Coleman
May 16, 2015 Jason Coleman rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: musique
Like Norman's Beatles biography, Shout!, this book fades badly down the stretch. Whether it's fatigue at the end of a long project (page count: 822), an inability for this British writer to digest Lennon's American phase, or a mild case of brainwashing by Yoko Ono, the post-Beatles Lennon never really shows himself to Norman. Fortunately, the childhood and Beatles years are very good. Lennon alternated between furious jags of activity and collapses into inertia, and Norman captures this existenc ...more
Sep 24, 2014 Gabriella rated it it was amazing
Shelves: biography
A brilliant biography. I don't really get the less-than-stellar reviews. Maybe for people in their first flush of Lennon idolization, it's too hard to read.

This bio explores Lennon's life and his complicated sexuality, but what I appreciated most about it was that it brought the reader up to date on some issues that had never been properly explored. For example, I had no idea that Freddie Lennon came back into his son's life, various twists and turns occurred, and that at the very end of his fat
Luiz Fernando
May 16, 2016 Luiz Fernando rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If you see John Lennon as a hero who fought against the Status Quo, wrote some of the greatest songs the world has ever seen, - like I do- just read this book you`ll start seeing him as a man whose life was so emocionaly troubled that it was a MIRACLE he iether didn`t commit suicide or got into a life of crime. Philip Norman destroys the myth ``John Lennon`` and shows to us the insecure and broken man he really was, but not because he was like that, but because his troubled the life of his young ...more
Sarah beara
Jan 08, 2013 Sarah beara rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
So far this is one of the best Beatles related book I've read. I'm a few chapters in and I they're still discussing his youth. Usually they just give the Readers Digest version we've all heard, but this sheds more light on John and how he came to be the man he was.
Biographies are good for me to read; they take away the shiny gloss of celebrity and help me to really understand what makes a person tick. This one was well done, but not perfect. I've heard complaints that it either vilified or deified John Lennon; my impression was that it humanized him. My only gripe is that it seems to skip big chunks of time during the second half of John's life (I either completely missed the part about Sean being born or it just wasn't included... he was just suddenly th ...more
James Biser
Aug 22, 2016 James Biser rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is a great capture of the life of John Lennon. It is good to learn the struggles, challenges, conquests and defeats of a man whose words and voice represent the voice of the "modern" world of the 1960's.
Although many people remember the news that were the events of Lennon's life and many are familiar with the stories of his loves and artistic accomplishments, Phillip Norman spells out exactly how these events occurred and how the Beatle, John Lennon evolved into the character who helpe
Paula Schubach
May 15, 2014 Paula Schubach rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
John Lennon's life is incredible (although I find him, specially when he begins with the peace thing, a bit annoying) and Norman brings us a lot of tasteful details. To a Beatles' fan like me, the most interesting are the parts when he describes how the songs were composed. I have to stop reading alll the time to re-listen the songs and understand what he's talking about, what slows the reading, but is an extra pleasure. The book is amazing, but the portuguese (Brazil) translation is a disaster. ...more
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Philip Norman: One, If Not THE Best, Musician Biographer? 3 6 Jan 10, 2015 05:49AM  
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