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John Lennon: The Life [Hardcover]

Philip Norman
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)

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Book Description

1 Oct 2008

The final word on music’s greatest legend, in which Philip Norman reveals a John Lennon the world has never seen. With ground-breaking insight into the pain, beauty and frustration that shaped the genius of modern music, John Lennon: The Life redefines a legend.

John Lennon - the iconic songwriter, composer and one quarter of The Beatles - was a giant of the twentieth century. As the founding member of the world's most successful group ever, he changed lives.

Now, the bestselling author of Shout!, recognised for over 25 years as the ultimate Beatles biography, 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 characters, Philip Norman presents the most complete and revealing portrait of John Lennon ever written. The book's hundreds of key informants and interviewees include Sir Paul McCartney, Sir George Martin, Neil Aspinall, Sean Lennon, whose moving reminiscence reveals his father as never before, and Yoko Ono, who speaks with sometimes shocking candour about the inner workings of her marriage to John.

This masterpiece of biography takes a fresh look at every aspect of Lennon's much-chronicled life as Norman shows us the whole man from Lennon's schooldays to his death outside his New York apartment building on December 8, 1980.

Honest and unflinching and featuring previously unseen photographs this truly is the definitive John Lennon.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 853 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins; 1st edition (1 Oct 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0007197411
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007197415
  • Product Dimensions: 23.4 x 15.8 x 6.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 225,890 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Philip Norman was born in London and brought up on the Isle of Wight. He joined the Sunday Times at the age of twenty-two, soon gaining a reputation as Atticus columnist and for his profiles of figures as diverse as Elizabeth Taylor, P. G. Wodehouse, Little Richard and Colonel Gaddafi. In 1981 he published SHOUT!, a ground-breaking biography of the Beatles that was a bestseller in both Britain and the US. He has also written the definitive lives of Sir Elton John and Buddy Holly.
His journalism has been published in three collections, THE ROAD GOES ON FOREVER, TILT THE HOURGLASS AND BEGIN AGAIN, and THE AGE OF PARODY. He is married with a daughter and lives in London.

Product Description


‘Reading this book brings the John Lennon I knew vividly back to life.’ Bill Harry, founder of Mersey Beat

‘This is the best Lennon book so far’ The Word

‘Norman has written about Lennon twice before but he has uncovered much new material in his research for this impressive and highly readable book… It is greatly to Norman's credit as a biographer that he does justice to all of (Lennon's legacy) in a book whose 854 pages simply fly by.’ Sunday Times Culture

‘Can there be more to find out (about Lennon)? And, can Philip Norman, the author of the new 300,000 word John Lennon: The Life, be serious when he tells The Word magazine, "Lennon deserves a real biography, as if he were John Keats or Mahatma Ghandi. Not a pop person but a major towering presence in his century?"  The answer to both questions is empahatically yes…And yes, Norman has unearthed some startling things.’ The Independent

'Although more than 800 pages long, this book is nicely paced, well researched and will not disappoint.'
Glasgow Evening Times

‘Reading this book brings the John Lennon I knew vividly back to life.’
Bill Harry, founder of Mersey Beat

'This is the first serious Lennon biography for 20 years and unlike Albert Goldman's bilious effort in the 80s, Norman's style is trustworthy, contextual, and plainly told, yet with enough splashes of historical colour…'
The Times

‘A well-written book and almost everything you could want to know [about Lennon] is in there.'
Oxford Times

The New Statesman called the book 'magnetic'.

'Philip Norman's style is compelling', Irish Times

'Norman's mesmerising biography'. Irish Examiner

‘Meticulously researched, compulsively readable book.’
Sunday Times Culture magazine

‘The Rock biography of the Year.’

‘The best all-round Lennon biography.’
Sunday Herald Magazine

--This text refers to the Paperback edition.


[Norman] 'has uncovered much new material in his research for this impressive and highly readable book' - Robert Sandall

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
35 of 37 people found the following review helpful
There seems to be renewed interest in John Lennon at the moment. Two exhibitions have recently opened: one in New York organised by his widow Yoko Ono and one in Liverpool curated by his first wife Cynthia and son Julian; Cynthia also published a second memoir, John, in 2005; three not uncontroversial films have been made on his killing (Chapter 27, The Murder of John Lennon and The Killing of John Lennon) and a biopic of his early years is in the pipeline (directed by Sam Taylor-Wood). The relatively recent deaths of George Harrison (2001), long-term roadie Neil Aspinall (2008) and erstwhile Beatles lawyer Allen Klein (2009) have surely also brought Lennon back into the headlines. Reflecting this interest and also expressing it is Philip Norman's 800+-page biography John Lennon: The Life, which has arrived in good time for the 30th anniversary of Lennon's death next year.

So many books have been written on John Lennon (even rockstars have named children after him). Why should we keep on reading them? And the answer is, first and foremost, because he was a fascinating songwriter and singer. He also undoubtedly had a complex personality, seemingly ricocheting between headline-making arrogance and painful self-doubt, aggression and tenderness, tomfoolery and pleas for peace, neglect of his first son followed by becoming a doting househusband for the second, and seamlessly switching from marriage to a quintessentially conservative Liverpudlian wife in suburban England to a Japanese-American performance artist seven years his senior in downtown New York.
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25 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A serviceable biography 14 Oct 2008
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I'm not working just now and like one of the other reviewers I read it in three days. I really enjoyed it. I was 12 when Love Me Do came out and my sister and I bought all their albums on the day of release for several years.

I was also around in London in the late sixties so enjoyed reading the detail about that period.

There are several things about this book which really impressed me however. One is the carefully built up and three dimensional portrait of Lennon's childhood, particularly the portraits of his parents and aunt Mimi. They really come alive for me. So does the picture of Lennon as a 'Just William' character. Clearly for almost his whole life he was a relentless rebel, a continual thorn in the flesh to anyone in authority. I found the stuff about his interest in art and writing really interesting too, going back to his art school days and earlier.

The stuff on Hamburg is great too - that was a hard school, and made them as a band. There is of course a lot of detail on all the Beatles and the changing personnel and friendships. Many readers may be more familiar with this than I as I had never read a book about the Beatles before, but it is really good to get the lowdown on Stu Sutcliffe for example.

The nature of the Lennon McCartney relationship, the friendship with Jagger all add to the mix.

I was less interested in the Yoko Ono years as her work doesn't interest me but the book does bring out how Lennon's personality found his life in New York a new vehicle to express himself in a more explicitly radical way.

The section on the breakup with the Beatles seems to have as much to do with Paul's relationship with Linda as with John's with Yoko but armed with this support they both adopted different financial gurus and that was what really did it.

The is a comprehensive and disciplined book. It doesn't answer every question but for me really brought those years back.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Yoko Apology 8 Mar 2012
By J owens
The best biographies - to paraphrased George Orwell - can only be trusted when they reveal something disgraceful. This book pretends to offer a corrective that Lennon's later years resembled a modern day Howard Hughes locked in a drug induced coma and that he was manipulated by a devious, black magician in the guise of yoko ono. .

Unfortunately, the book is a Yoko Ono approved, sanitised version of Lennon. This official biography is in essence propaganda. The book trawls over old ground re the history of the Beatles and Lennon's solo years with nothing new to add of value. There are a couple of sentences near the end of the book which are startling: Sean Lennon is partially deaf in one ear due to being screamed at by John. the only glimpse in the book that Lennon was a very disturbed and troubled soul - the product of an appalling early childhood and his prolonged drug abuse. And a curt remark denigrating Julian's musical ambitions. The only real sustained reference to john's first family. He who controls the past, controls the future seems an appropriate epigraph for this book. Lennon is delineated as a musical genius who was too good for the Beatles. A travesty of the truth taking into account that from 1966 onwards, it was McCartney who sustained and kept the band together. This book is prostitution journalism, particularly with its gushing testimony that lennon's life was fulfilled by the undying and supportive love of Yoko. The sad truth was that both yoko and Lennon were narcissistic, self obsessed personalities who cocooned themselves in a world of drugs, affairs and mental illness.

The book is useful, but fundamentally insipid. You can pick this book up in the bargain basement of most book stores - next to the equally vacuous book by Philip Norman on The Rolling Stones.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
The item was as described and arrived in plenty of time
Published 3 days ago by R S BULLEN
5.0 out of 5 stars A Great Read!
This book is extremely well researched and splendidly written. It is full of detail, chartering the Lennon's history beginning with John's grandfather in the 19th century, his... Read more
Published 4 months ago by Mr.P.E.Holley
4.0 out of 5 stars Probably the best Lennon bio out there
I think this book successfully manages to celebrate Lennon's life whilst giving an honest account of his less savoury moments. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Djimi Showbiz
5.0 out of 5 stars Great read
Excellent reading, everything you need to know about John Lennon & more , would recommend to any John Lennon fan .
Published 6 months ago by laraine
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent biography
This book is a good account. I was inspired to read after visiting the National Trust Beatles childhood homes in Liverpool. Read more
Published 9 months ago by Charmian
4.0 out of 5 stars Review
Excellent read, very informative and covers in great detail Lennon`s life. A must read for any John Lennon fans New and old
Published 12 months ago by Michael Dixon
4.0 out of 5 stars Great book with some flaws
I got this book nearly two years ago,loved it straightaway.It's a LONG book to say the least.John Lennon is one of the greatest songwriters of our time but a very troubled and... Read more
Published 20 months ago by E. Hunter
4.0 out of 5 stars Well-written and engaging.
Before I started to read this book, I carefully read all the reviews here and noted what they said. Two comments seemed to stand out : firstly, that Philip Norman is biased against... Read more
Published 22 months ago by Q
4.0 out of 5 stars A good biography of john lennon
I enjoed this lengthy biography of John Lennon. Like other reviewers there did not seem to be much about the last five years of his life when you look at the detail that there was... Read more
Published on 8 Jan 2012 by bibliophile
5.0 out of 5 stars Did I read the same book as the one star reviewers?
Growing up in the fifties and sixties, I left Elvis behind and became a staunch Beatles fan after seeing their first UK appearance on Scene At Six Thirty. Read more
Published on 26 Jun 2011 by Pammie
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