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John Lennon: The Life

4.13 of 5 stars 4.13  ·  rating details  ·  5,758 ratings  ·  315 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, 882 pages
Published (first published 2008)
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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.
"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
Mar 01, 2009 Richard rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  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
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
Jun 28, 2015 Aaron rated it 1 of 5 stars  ·  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.
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
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
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 1 of 5 stars  ·  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
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
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
Jason Coleman
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
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
Sarah beara
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.
Paula Schubach
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
J. Robinson
This is the Lennon book for people of the future. Like a good historian, the author continually provides a frame of reference, filling in context and explaining things for those who were not around when the Beatles arrived. I was, but this bio provided a great amalgam of earlier Beatle books. Having just read an equally long bio of Mick Jagger, it is good to know that these characters may be seen by later generations, not as heroes, but as innovative artists who both shaped and were shaped by th ...more
Diane W.
I had grown up with Paul being my favorite Beatle. We sang Imagine for the SDWC concert #songsofpeace. (And the lyrics to this song hangs nicely framed inside Anthology, a music restaurant venue in Little Italy.) To learn more about John Lennon and his family was fascinating. Barenaked Ladies do sing a song called Be My Yoko Ono - and for a few years I did feel that way. But the Beatles were already parting paths before she came in the picture. John was a simple man and he and Yoko matched each ...more
Karén Eloyan
As an avid fan of the Beatles, John Lennon has always been of interest to me, but he’s always been something of a mysterious character. I knew he died a premature death, and that he was a musical genius. After reading this book, however, I now know more of Lennon’s life than I had ever imagined I could. The book is very informative, and the attention to detail borders on psychotic, from what books Lennon liked to read as a child to what stance Lennon’s killer assumed before shooting him. It is ...more
A good book to read if you don't like John Lennon much.
Shahine Ardeshir
If you have to pick a life to write about, John Lennon's is probably one of the most complex, interesting and tragic. What I enjoyed most about this read was the journey that Philip Norman took us on, and his ability to share all of John's dichotomies, schizophrenic tendencies and contradictions. That's what made this a fascinating read about a truly fascinating life.

That said, 'long' is too underwhelming a word for the sheer volume of this book. Totalling more than 850 pages, this book tested m
I listened to this book and the narrator read it like a stereotypical British documentary. I don't know if that was done tongue in cheek or not but when the reading changed from narration to dialog he did the voice terrifically. I would like to read another biography about John because he really came across as an insecure, angry man. The portrayal was backed up, but it wasn't the feel-good story you necessarily want to read about one of your favorite musicians. That being said, I still enjoyed i ...more
Jan 11, 2009 Tonya rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Beatles and John Lennon fans
This is definitely a MUST for any John Lennon / Beatles fan.

Philip Norman, the author writes in this book:
"In September 2003, I suggested to John's widow, Yoko Ono, that I should become his biographer, Yoko Ono was upset by the book and would not endorse it . . . [saying:] I had been 'mean to John.'"

Maybe Yoko should is by far one of the best John Lennon biographies that anyone has taken the time to research and write.

I am on page 451 of this book (chapter 18 of the 30-chapter book)
Grant Michalski
Norman's John Lennon: The Life provides tremendous insight into one of the most influential bands of the 20th century, albeit through a Lennon-tinted lens. Starting in Liverpool with the life of Freddie Lennon, John's father, the book covers, in considerable detail, the larger-than-life life of John, from birth to his death outside the Dakota in December of 1980.

The book is an excellent read for fans of the Beatles, talking about hits or well-known events in a matter-of-fact manner as though the
So I'm listening to the audio version of this book, and I get to Track 9 and the second CD. Suddenly, within the same track, the narrative goes from John Lennon and his art-school buddies, straight to George Harrison joining the Quarrymen. It skips John's first meeting with Paul McCartney. This was abrupt, very weird, but I thought maybe there was just an editing error and I'd press on.

It kept bothering me though, and midway through the third CD I stopped to look up the audiobook on Amazon. Ther
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Philip Norman: One, If Not THE Best, Musician Biographer? 3 6 Jan 10, 2015 05:49AM  
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