At age 11, John Lennon received a guitar from his mother, Julia. This gift encouraged his love of music, which would eventually bring John superstardom as a founder of The Beatles. But it never replaced the singer’s longing for the mother he barely knew.
Abandoned by his parents as a toddler, John was cared for by his Aunt Mimi. “John’s mother was a bit of a wild child,” says Ray Connolly, who befriended John as a journalist in the ’60s and has written a new book, Being John Lennon. “John’s father went off to war and disappeared. His mother started going out with other men and handed John over to her sister.”
Life under Aunt Mimi’s roof proved beneficial to John. “She gave John a good education,” says Ray, but the future Beatle struggled emotionally. “Teachers would say that he was a very bright boy, but very difficult to control,” says Ray.
John also couldn’t bear to be alone — a phobia that would stay with him for life. “He never did things on his own,” the author says. “It was John and Paul McCartney, then John and Yoko Ono. He had to have someone else.”
The one person he wanted most, his mother, always evaded him. “As a child, John thought she lived far away, but she just lived about two miles away,” says Ray. “She was with a new partner and had two little girls. I suppose they weren’t keen on John coming around.”
John’s relationship with his mom started to warm when he became a teenager. “He began playing in a band and he got to know his mother better,” says Ray. But fate took Julia away forever when John was 17. “Julia was hit by a vehicle and killed,” says Ray. “John took this very badly.”
The star never stopped mourning Julia, although he repeated her mistakes by ignoring his own son Julian through most of his childhood. “He was born during Beatlemania, so John was away a lot,” says Ray. When second son Sean was born in 1975, “he was a very good father,” says Ray. “He spent a lot more time with him.” Sadly, five years later, John passed away in 1980.
For more on John Lennon, pick up the latest issue of Closer Weekly, on newsstands now — and be sure to sign up for our newsletter!