JULIAN LENNON

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The son of John Lennon and his first wife Cynthia, Julian Lennon parlayed a remarkable vocal similarity to his father into a moderately successful singing career during the 1980s.

Julian (John Charles Julian Lennon) was born April 8, 1963 in Liverpool, and as a child inspired several Beatles compositions: "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" reportedly arose out of a drawing Julian made of a classmate, and following his parents' divorce, he became the subject of Paul McCartney's sympathetic "Hey Jude." Julian began playing guitar and drums at age ten, adding piano as a teenager; he appeared as a drummer on the track "Ya Ya" on the John Lennon album Walls and Bridges. Following his father's assassination, Lennon decided to pursue a singing career, although he worried that his vocal and stylistic similarity to his father would prove detrimental. He initially signed a contract to record an unreleased song stolen from John Lennon's vaults, but after thinking better of it, he enlisted Yoko Ono's help in buying out the contract.

Lennon signed with Atlantic and recorded his debut album, Valotte, at a French ch‚teau of the same name. The album produced four chart singles, including the Top Tens "Valotte" and "Too Late for Goodbyes"; Lennon was nominated for a Grammy for Best New Artist. Success was accompanied by hedonistic indulgence, and the follow-up, 1986's underwritten The Secret Value of Daydreaming, perhaps suffered because of it. Lennon returned in 1989 with Mr. Jordan, an album that found him trying to break away from his John Lennon influences with a darker style reminiscent of David Bowie. However, the single "Now You're in Heaven" proved only a minor hit. Following 1991's Help Yourself, Lennon temporarily retired from the music industry and spent nearly seven years in seclusion. In the spring of 1998, he returned with Photograph Smile, an indie album initially issued only in Europe and Japan but given American release the following year. ~ Steve Huey, All Music Guide.


Julian Lennon Reflects on John

Julian Lennon, the son of murdered Beatles star John, has revealed his bitterness that his father was so often absent.

In a message posted on www.julianlennon.com, he blamed John's fear of fatherhood and his relationship with Yoko Ono for the distance that came between them.

"I had a great deal of anger towards Dad because of his negligence and his attitude to peace and love, that peace and love never came home to me," he wrote.

The message is to mark the 20th anniversary of his father's shooting by obsessed fan Mark Chapman on 8 December 1980 in New York.

Julian, Lennon's son from his first marriage, described his father as a "guiding light" who was "sucked into a black hole".

He said he went through "love/hate relationships" with him whether he was there or not.

"I wonder what it would have been like if he were alive today," he wrote.

"I guess it would have depended on whether he was `John Lennon' (Dad) or `John Ono Lennon' (manipulated lost soul)."

'Manipulated'

He said he thought his father's work was incredible and so was what he achieved with his the three other Beatles, Paul, George and Ringo.

But he said it did not give him any clear insight into what his father's real life was about or how he truly felt about it.

Julian, himself a musician, also spoke of the expectations he has had to live up to being a music legend's son

"Life is difficult enough," he said.

"Trying to find one's own identity makes it even harder, especially when you're not allowed to be you."

Brotherly love

In his message he speaks with warmth about his half-brother Sean, Yoko Ono and John's son.

"I have a brother and I love Sean very much and I hope that he's able to cope with his destiny," he said.

"One thing's for sure he's got a big brother who will protect him and love him till the end, whatever happens."

He rounds off his message with a few words for his father.

"I just wanted to say that wherever he is I hope he realises the mistakes he's made as I realise them and hope never to repeat them, as he did his father's," he wrote.

Yoko Ono has marked the anniversary of his death with an appeal for the world to reflect on the horrors of "gun violence". © BBC News

MORE ON JULIAN

Sean's half-brother Julian, the elder son of the late Beatle John Lennon, didn't have it quite so easy. When he debuted at age 20 with the slick, commercial pop album Valotte in 1985--just five years after his father's death--critics slagged him mercilessly, unfairly comparing him to dear old Dad. When Julian attempted to go a more eclectic and adventurous route with his third album, Mr. Jordan, he was not only again lambasted (this time for "trying too hard"), he also alienated much of his Beatle-obsessed fanbase. After his fourth release, Help Yourself, failed to make a dent in America (though it charted in other countries), a frustrated Julian heeded the advice of that album's title and took a much-needed seven-year sabbatical from music; when he eventually returned in 1998, it was a delightful surprise. His beautifully crafted, singer-songwriter-esque fifth album, 1998's Photograph Smile--full of lush ballads and smart, snappy pop tunes--finally established the 35-year-old Julian as a true talent in his own right, and garnered him the most favorable reviews of his career.

Although Julian Lennon bears his father's famous name and face--his resemblance to John is uncanny--he actually had very little contact with his father while growing up. Julian was born just as extreme Beatlemania was sweeping the globe, so John was often away from home. Furthermore, for a while Julian and his mother, Cynthia, were kept secret from the public, because Beatles manager Brian Epstein felt John would be more appealing to (female) fans if he was believed to be single and available. Julian was only a small boy when John and Cynthia divorced, after which John was busy living in the U.S. with new wife Yoko Ono and new son Sean, so Julian only saw his father a handful of times between the ages of six and 16. (Julian has been vocal about his resentment of his father's absence, and of Yoko for coming between them, but has also said that he and John were growing closer towards the end of John's life.)

But still, music was in Julian blood, and so, with little guidance from his father, he started playing guitar and writing songs on his own; by age 19 he had a record deal with Atlantic. But shady, opportunistic music business types, eager to take advantage of the marketing possibilities of Julian's famous family connections, manhandled his career from the very beginning, entangling him in dubious contracts and dictating the type of widely accessible pop music he should record. Julian, having not grown up in the music business due to his lack of contact with his father, was as naÔve as any 19-year-old developing artist, and as a result, never really had control of his career.

Although Valotte was a commercial, if not critical, success--yielding the hit singles "Valotte" and "Too Late For Goodbyes"--the sophomore jinx hit with the sales disappointment The Secret Value Of Daydreaming, and the two albums that followed (Mr. Jordan and Help Yourself) were even less successful, thus seemingly cementing Julian's reputation as a second-rate Lennon knockoff. This reputation still dogged him years later, as his own record label Music From Another Room released Photograph Smile in Europe, because Sean Lennon's much-anticipated debut, Into The Sun, came out on the same day; the two albums were often compared in the English press via a petty, mocking "which Lennon is better?" debate.

But Julian had the last laugh, as Photograph Smile received high praise from critics. This time he was creating music and doing business on his own terms, and truly proving himself as an artist. It took 15 years and a close brush with permanent retirement for it to happen, but finally, Julian Lennon had arrived. ~ Written by Lyndsey Parker

PURCHASE: Julian Lennon: Photographic Smile

Julian Lennon is active on myspace.com and facebook.com

The Lennon's Official Site

Julian Lennon returns on his own terms.

He may call himself a "quiet observer of life," but listening to Julian Lennon go on about everything from his rejuvenated recording career to his dadís personal shortcomings, itís hard to agree.

"I donít say much unless thereís something to say," insists the articulate and polite Lennon, speaking from London. Today heís feeling quite chatty, offering a monologue filled with insights, colorful anecdotes and offbeat colloquialisms.

Fifteen years after bursting onto the music scene with a voice uncannily like his late father, Julian Lennon has finally made peace with his past. The comparisons to John continue, but they no longer seem to matter. John Charles Julian Lennon, born in April 1963, just one month after the Fab Four hit the top of the U.K. charts with "Please Please Me," says heís content in the present and completely relaxed about his future.

"At this point, I donít give a flying you-know-what about what the critics are saying," he offers. "If I did, Iíd still be hiding under a rock right now."

After a seven-year hiatus from the recording industry, Lennon, 36, has re-emerged with the most acclaimed album of his career, Photograph Smile (Fuel 2000). A shimmering collection of 14 autobiographical pop ballads, Lennon considers his fifth album to be his first "real" record. He doesnít even mind people calling it "Beatles-esque."

"In the early days, [the music press] gave me a very tough time, comparing one album of mine to the Beatlesí entire catalog," he says. "There were four of them buggers and only one of me. But someone recently said that if the Beatles were still together, or if dad were still alive, this is the kind of music theyíd be doing. And I felt good about that."

Lennonís raised some eyebrows by dedicating the album to his late stepfather, Roberto Bassanini, who he says was "the real father figure in my life."

"I have tremendous respect for dad as a musician, but as a father all he taught me was how not to be a father," Julian says quietly. (Donít believe Yoko, folks: Paul had just as much of a role in the Beatles as John, "abso-frigginí-lutely," Julian affirms.)

While Lennonís 1984 debut album, Valotte, was a massive commercial and critical success that earned him a stadium tour and cover-boy status, every album since generated less interest than its predecessor. By the time Help Yourself came out in 1991, Lennon, burned out and frustrated, had "truly had enough of the music industry."

"I wanted to evaluate, understand and absorb what had happened to me," Lennon says. "I had a lot to figure out."

He retreated from the public eye and struggled for five years to get out of his recording contract. ("Iíve told Sean [Julianís half-brother], ĎRead the small printÖ donít sign your life away like I did.") Other creative outlets ó photography, poetry, cooking, sculpture (even a bit part in Leaving Las Vegas) ó filled his time. But his passion for music wouldnít be denied.

"Ultimately, I refused to let a good thing inside of me die because of other people," Lennon said. He took control of his career by establishing his own label, Music from Another Room, and co-producing Photograph Smile.

Living in Italy, where thereís "such an enjoyment and praise of life," the never-married Lennon says heís found a much-needed balance in his life.

"My music matters, but itís not everything anymore," he says. "Other things, friends and family among them, are equally important."

Currently touring the U.S. with a small band, Lennon hopes to eventually perform the strings-laden Photograph Smile songs with a full orchestra. But heís certainly not planning any stadium world tours anytime soon, not even if the album takes off.

"Iíve been through that mill, a hundred gigs in a few months. It just leaves you looking up at the sky and thinking ĎI want my mother,í" he says with a laugh. by Nicole Pensiero

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