1969 – John Lennon and Yoko Ono marry

One of the most controversial relationships in modern cultural history, John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s love began inauspiciously, as an affair (Lennon was already married at the time) characterised by the usual deception and unthinking cruelty of such things, and notable for Ono’s miscarriage in 1968 (a few weeks after Lennon’s divorce). With Ono, Lennon became more activist, protesting the Vietnam War in particular.

The two were married in Gibraltar, and their honeymoon was spent in the Hilton Hotel of Amsterdam, conducting their now-legendary Bed In for Peace. How much influence Ono had over Lennon in the ongoing dissolution of the Beatles in this era remains a matter of dispute. There seems little doubt that she may have exacerbated existing strains, but it is unlikely that she was solely responsible (as some have claimed). Lennon and Ono would remain married until Lennon’s death in 1980.

Referenced in:
The Ballad of John and Yoko — The Beatles

1970 – John Lennon’s “Instant Karma!” is released in the US

“Instant Karma” (also known as “We All Shine On”) was Lennon’s third solo single (that is, single as a non-Beatle – although George Harrison contributed electric guitar, piano and backing vocals), and the first to be a great success. It sold over a million copies in the US alone, and was a top ten hit in eleven different countries. It was also one of the quickest produced songs of all time, taking literally only ten days from recording to release (February 6 was its debut in the UK).

Like much of Lennon’s work, it is a vague hippie anthem, raising philosophical questions and radiating optimism – although not without its sly touches, such as the lines “Get yourself together / Pretty soon you’re gonna be dead”. Two months later, Paul McCartney would announce the official end of the Beatles, but until them, “Instant Karma” would compete with “Let It Be” (the second last Beatles single) on the charts.

Referenced in:
God Pt II — U2

1988 — Albert Goldman’s “The Lives of John Lennon” is published

One of the most controversial celebrity biographies of its era, Albert Goldman’s “The Lives of John Lennon” was almost universally denounced as a hatchet job. Goldman alleged, among other things, that Lennon was manipulative, anti-Semitic, dyslexic and schizophrenic. Lennon was also, apparently, involved – in a highly negaitve way – in several suspicious deaths, including those of Stuart Suttcliffe and an unborn child of Yoko Ono (who he apparently caused the miscarry by kicking her in the stomach during an argument).

Lennon’s associates, friends and family were near unanimous in their condemnation of the book. Cynthia Lennon (his ex-wife) and Yoko Ono both denounced it – Ono even threatened a libel suit at one point. Paul McCartney advised people not to buy it when asked about it in interviews (and he was one of the few people treated well in its pages). Other Lennon biographers have largely dismissed the book, and many of those Goldman interviewed in researching it later claimed that their words were misquoted or otherwise misrepresented.

Referenced in:

God Pt II — U2

This date is approximate – I have been able to narrow it down no more precisely than “late August”, and have thus chosen the latest possible date in August.

1967 – “How I Won The War” premieres

It was John Lennon’s debut in an all-acting role – it’s just a pity it wasn’t a better film. “How I Won The War” was a British film focusing on the exploits of a fictional military unit during WOrld War Two. It was intended to be a satirical retelling of the war, a humourous look at how a group of well-meaning incompetents lucked into saving the war.

It was critically panned, and a commercial failure despite the attention that Lennon’s casting brought it. About all that anyone remembers of it today it that it was for this film that Lennon adopted his now trademark circle-rimmed glasses, and that, of course, he mentioned it in a song on Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.

Referenced in:

A Day in the Life — The Beatles

1969 — John and Yoko stage their first Bed-In

After getting married on March 20, 1969, John Lennon and Yoko Ono proceeded to have possibly the strangest honeymoon ever.

From their room in the Amsterdam Hilton (room 902, the Presidential Suite), they held a series of press conferences each day from March 25 to March 31. Between 9am and 9pm each day, they invited the press into their room, where the couple discussed peace (especially in regards to Vietnam) while sitting in their bed. The wall above them was decorated with signs reading “Hair Peace” and “Bed Peace”.

It’s unclear exactly what effect, if any, this all had on the outcome of the Vietnam War. If nothing else, Lennon’s astute use of his celebrity to get his message out certainly helped to raise the issue’s profile, although it’s arguable he was preaching almost entirely to the converted – by 1969, pretty much everyone already had an opinion about Vietnam…

Referenced in:
The Ballad of John and Yoko — The Beatles

1980 – John Lennon is shot and killed

Mark David Chapman is, by any standard, an idiot. On this day in 1980, he shot John Lennon five times, in the back, while Lennon’s wife Yoko Ono looked on helplessly.

Whatever his actual motive for shooting John Lennon – and Chapman has contradicted himself on several occasions regarding it – the fact remains that he acheived only two things: depriving the world of a truly great musical talent, and giving the rest of the world one more reason to loathe American culture.

The fact that he has not been shanked in the yard at Attica State Prison only serves to underscore the massive injustice of Lennon’s death.

Referenced in:

That Says It All – Duncan Sheik
Far Side of Crazy – Wall of Voodoo
Life Is Real (Song for Lennon) – Queen
I Just Shot John Lennon – The Cranberries

1971 – The Attica Prison Riot ends

The Attica Correctional Facility is located in Attica, New York state. Rioting broke out there on September 9, 1971. The proximate cause of the riot was the death of prisoner George Jackson, a black radical prisoner who had been shot to death by corrections officers in California’s San Quentin Prison on August 21 while armed and attempting to escape. However, the conditions inside the prison also contributed to the riot’s outbreak – at that time, inmates were each allowed only one shower per week and one roll of toilet paper per month.

Nearly half of the prison’s approximately 2,200 inmates rioted, seizing control of the prison and taking thirty-three correction officers hostage. The State began negotiating with the prisoners for their release, and during the following four days of negotiations, the authorities agreed to 28 of the prisoners’ demands.

However, the demands for complete amnesty from criminal prosecution for the prison takeover and for the removal of Attica’s superintendent, remained sticking points. On September 13, at the order of then Governor Nelson Rockefeller, state police took back control of the prison. When the uprising was over at least 39 people were dead, including ten correction officers and civilian employees.

Referenced in:

Attica State – John Lennon
The Hostage – Judy Collins