John Winston Lennon was born on October 9, 1940 to a troubled, working-class Liverpool family. John's father deserted his mother when John was only three, so at an early age Lennon was sent to live with his aunt in the suburb of Woolton, where he was a rebellious child. Frequently skipping school and doodling instead of studying, Lennon left Quarry Bank High School at age 16 after his aunt persuaded the headmaster to write him a recommendation to Liverpool Art College. At art school Lennon became involved in music, buying a guitar and starting a skiffle band in early 1957. That band, the Quarrymen, evolved over the next few years into the Beatles. Lennon remained a principle singer and songwriter for the band through its decade-long career, splitting these duties with Paul McCartney. The pair agreed early on to share songwriting credits, though they directly collaborated on only a few of the Beatles' hits. Lennon, for his part, contributed more experimental and mystical music during the band's later years, while McCartney was more pop-oriented; Lennon also led the group into drug use during the mid-'60s and encouraged them to follow his guru, the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.
Shortly after forming the Beatles, Lennon married an art school classmate, Cynthia Powell, with whom he had a son, Julian, in 1963. Their marriage was rocky, especially after Lennon began openly dating an older Japanese-American artist named Yoko Ono. Cynthia divorced John in 1968, clearing the way for John and Yoko to begin living and working together full time. Shortly after the release of 1968's The Beatles (aka The White Album), John and Yoko released the experimental "found sound" collection Unfinished Music, No. 1 -- Two Virgins. The cover of this album featured a naked photo of the couple, causing it to be banned from many stores. Lennon and Ono became the subject of media attention as reporters speculated that Ono was "controlling" Lennon and causing trouble for the beloved Beatles. In the spring of 1969, shortly after the trouble-filled Get Back sessions were completed, Lennon and a very pregnant Ono embarked on a "honeymoon" to Europe, stopping along the way to get married in Gibraltar on March 20th. The couple staged a notorious "Bed-In" at the Amsterdam Hilton, where they recorded the single "Give Peace a Chance," released later that year. Opposition to the Vietnam War was very important to the couple, who constantly decried political injustices from their celebrity bully pulpit.
The newlyweds returned to England in May 1969, where Yoko had a miscarriage, the first of several. To deal with their anguish, John and Yoko hastily recorded two more avante- garde albums, Life with the Lions -- Unfinished Music No. 2 (which features such "songs" as flipping through various radio stations and several minutes of silence) and The Wedding Album (whose entire B-side consists of John and Yoko screaming each other's name). After recording Abbey Road during the summer of 1969, Lennon flew to Toronto, where he performed at a September rock 'n' roll festival with "The Plastic Ono Band," consisting of Ono, famed guitarist Eric Clapton, German session bassist Klaus Voormann and drummer Alan White; the band's performance was captured on a live album released later that year.
As Lennon spent more time collaborating with Ono, he began to distance himself from the other Beatles. In late 1969 he informed the group that he wanted to quit the band, but because contract negotiations were underway with EMI, his decision was kept quiet. Lennon and the Plastic Ono band recorded the single "Cold Turkey," about Lennon's struggles with heroin, but the song was not particularly popular. Lennon intensified his political actions, paying for billboards in various cities that called for the end of war, and returning an award given to him by the Queen in protest of Britain's involvement in Biafra. Lennon refocused on his music career in February 1970 with the Top 10 hit "Insta