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Lennon Legend: An Illustrated Life of John Lennon    by James Henke order for
Lennon Legend
by James Henke
Order:  USA  Can
Chronicle, 2003 (2003)
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

This biography is clearly a labor of love, including as it does removable replications of memorabilia like sample artwork, film posters, and Lennon's scribbled corrections to songs, including the poignant 'Beautiful Boy' to his son Sean ('I can hardly wait / to see you come of age'). It's like having a personal scrapbook of the musician's life. James Henke introduces John Winston Lennon as the 'driving force' behind the Beatles, the one who encouraged them all to strive to reach 'the toppermost of the poppermost' as they re-defined rock-and-roll. Lennon himself described their 60s experiences as 'like being in the eye of a hurricane'.

We learn about the artist's early life, including his school obsession with his 'Daily Howl' instead of studies (a sample of his creative journal is enclosed). His mother loved music and taught him to play the banjo. John Lennon formed his first band, the Quarry Men, in 1957, and Beatlemania began in 1963. Lennon published books at the same time as he was writing songs for the 'meat market' and participating in the 'bloody tribal rites' of Beatles concerts. He took a stand against the Vietnam war, became interested in transcendental meditation, married Yoko Ono and performed the famous bed-in as a prelude to a series of political protests. He was living in New York when he was murdered in 1980.

This is a bit like a miniature museum exhibit in a box, including a 60-minute CD of various interviews with the musician. In them, John Lennon tells us that the 'world is too fast', that the artist's job is to reflect what we all are, and that the 60s showed us possibilities. He comes across as a self-deprecating decent person, and the interviews culminate in his singing Imagine. I recommend Lennon Legend as a unique tribute to a complex, creative dreamer who left an enduring legacy.

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