John Lennon was one of the founding members of the Beatles and is considered to be one of the most influential musicians of all time. Lennon's music career spanned more than two decades, and he left behind a legacy that will never be forgotten. His life was cut short by tragedy in 1980, but his music will continue to inspire people for generations to come. John Lennon's life has had an enduring impact on popular culture. Photos of John Lennon are considered to be some of the most iconic images of all time.
Unique photographs of John Lennon at Proud Galleries - we feature photographs of the most famous people in music history. Our photography gallery London continues to pioneer popular culture within the heart of central London, featuring music, fashion, film, art, documentaries.
Pictures you'll find at Proud
As a visitor you'll find that the selection of images of musician John Lennon and the Beatles at Proud Galleries depict the beginnings of the Beatles through to their Sargent Peppers Lonely Heart Club days and then into the post Beatles days, John’s solo career. With such an out spoken public figure, adored by millions across the world for his music and his later message of ‘Give peace a chance’, the effect of his actions whether in the studio or his clothes, the art on stage, what ever it was it had a huge impact then, now and will continue to for generations.
We’ve pick out several of our favourites in the gallery, the website holds a number of the collection and a large number are often on display in the lower gallery at Proud Galleries .
Photographer Robert Whittaker met the Beatles, and their manager Brian Epstein, on their 1964 Australian tour. He famously captured Epstein framed with peacock feathers, much to Epstein’s delight. Whittaker then returned the UK under contract with Epstein to capture the artists under him, most notably amongst them the Beatles.
Whittaker’s images of John Lennon as the main subject or as part of the fab four, were captured right at the beginning of John’s worldwide success, from the early shots in 1964 at Farringdon studios taken for the cover artwork for ‘Summer, Winter, Autumn, Spring’, released in the US in 1965. Also shot in 1964 is his enigmatic portrait of John Lennon at Abbey Road Studios No1, Lennon in sombre mood with his guitar, the singer gazing slightly off camera. We can only guess at what he was thinking.
Whittaker captured many of the iconic images used on single and album covers during the Beatles explosively successful early period of the swinging 60s. A quick trip to Whittaker's website is one down memory lane for any fan. Notably, what was shot as a conceptual art piece, became a notorious album cover in the US and withdrawn by Capitol Records following complaints, but now is considered on of the rarest record covers of all times, The Butcher cover for the Yesterday and Today album. It featured the Beatles with raw meat and dismembered dolls, after Lennon’s comment about the ‘Beatles being bigger then Jesus’ Whittaker remarked ‘Coming after Lennon declared the Beatles were more popular than Jesus, dismembered dolls and meat offended many’. If you find an original in your grandparents cupboard then put it in a safe deposit box, a sealed stereo Butcher cover sold for $75,000 in 2015.
In 1967, the summer of love, Our World is the first satellite broadcasted programme to 5 continents, it had the largest viewing numbers at the time and The Beatles where asked to represent Britain. Songwriter John Lennon wrote ‘All You Need Is Love’ and the rest is history. Alec Byrne captured the fab four and said ‘This wasn’t just any band: It was the Beatles. Everyone was pushing and jostling and you had to get in there and make sure you weren’t shoved to one side. So the ironic thing is there wasn’t exactly a lot of love in the room at Abbey Road Studios: it was more like a street scrap. No hard feelings were involved or anything; we all knew the game and what we had to do. The picture was everything. ‘All you need is the photo’ would be more like it. Alec Byrne
The next image - John Lennon, Madison Square Garden, was also captured by Byrne, and we feel is perhaps the most important. It captures Lennon on stage in 1973. Two shows where preformed on the same day in aid of the Willowbrook State School. The shows were John Lennon's only rehearsed and full length live performances in his solo career, and his first – and last – formal, full live concert since the Beatles retired from live performance in 1966. Lennon never toured during his post-Beatles career. The concert also marked the last time he performed live with Yoko Ono or with Elephant's Memory.
Early Days and Youth
October 9th, 1940 and midway through a Nazi bombing raid on Merseyside Liverpool and John Winston Lennon was born. His father was not present at the birth, receiving the news while he was serving in the merchant navy, and was so often away during the young Lennon’s childhood. His parents separated when he was four years old and there are numerous rumours and versions of stories around as to how that happened, but John ended up living with his Aunt Mimi.
His mother visited him regularly and it was her that introduced Lennon to music, buying him his first guitar and teaching him how to play the banjo and the piano.
It has always been noted how much of a joker Lennon was, especially given some of his antics during Beatlemania, and it would seem that this was very much part of his character from a young age, often getting into trouble. At school it was thought that he should go to art school for his college years, he achieved poor grades but was often drawing figures that where grotesque or cripples.
His mother was killed in a tragic accident when he was 17, she was on her way to visit him and knocked down by an off duty policeman. The effect this had on Lennon went on to haunt him, he was already a product of the tough environment he grew up in, the port city of Liverpool. Lennon grew up to be noted as emotionally hard and a bully, often mocking the afflicted. He had also lost his Uncle who was the closet he had to a father figure, and who had reputably started to teach him to paint and draw.
This unstable childhood came out later during various hits he had with the Beatles and on his own solo work. Julia appeared on 1968's White Album, and in the Plastic Ono album - Mother and My Mummy’s Dead all where connected to his loss of parents. Paul McCartney was to later discuss that the 1965 hit Help, was an actual cry for help from a depressed Lennon, who was paranoid that people around him always went away or died.
It’s easy now to look over all the reports and stories and see how Lennon was affected by and struggled with his past as he navigated the world, a past of pain and loss that ended up giving us some of the biggest musical hits of all time, there can’t be many people in the world that haven’t joyfully sang along to the chorus of Help without knowing the origin story of the song.
Speaking of the sixties, see our feature on images of Bob Marley!
John Lennon and Paul McCartney met in 1975, Lennon had started the Quarrymen, a skiffle group, he was inspired by the popularity and music of Elvis Presley when he was 16. The group where playing a church fete in Woolton, Liverpool, and Lennon was introduced to a 15 year old McCartney. He was soon offered a part in the band and it was McCartney that introduced Lennon to George Harrison a year later and Stuart Sutcliffe. The group had regular gigs from professional to local parties. The Casbah Coffee Club in Liverpool and the Hippodrome in Manchester where amongst those between 1958 and 1959. The Grosvenor Ballroom, Wallasey, had them as a resident band in 1960 - 61 but it was cancelled due to regular outbreaks of violence in the crowd.
Allan Williams was manager and promoter for the band, he had had some success with other bands out in Hamburg, Germany. Once the drummer Pete Best was added, and after some reservations from various family members to the young musicians seeing off, set off they did. It was famously the following period in Germany that cemented the guys as a band. Hours and hours of playing to the German audiences that reputedly "like it as long as it was loud” - Lennon.
After they returned from Germany, there’s a number of stories out there floating about concerning Lennon’s behaviour, often starting fights with the audience, urinating out of windows and using a black comb to imitate a moustache and throwing infamous right handed salutes to name a few, came the Cavern Club and Brian Epstein, the manager that would take the group on their next steps to fame. They had a new drummer Ringo, Best had been sacked and Sutcliffe had stayed in Germany (he sadly died in 1962). Epstein secured them a record contract with EMI, Lennon and McCartney had co-written Love me Do in October ’62 and it went to no. 17 in the charts. Lennon then produced the follow up single Please Please Me which topped the charts. The Beatles were off and Beatlemania was just around the corner.
The images in Proud’s Gallery of John Lennon in the Beatles really start from this time, as the fab four start on their journey that changed the world in so many ways, captured on film by Robert Whittaker who had a front row seat with them. The kind of access that you would only see in reality TV shows now, but this was unscripted and happening live in front of his lens.
John Lennon and Paul McCartney created one of the best song writing duos of all time, several of the images here at Proud Galleries capture the band back stage or in rehearsals, ‘PRACTICING AT DONMAR REHEARSAL HALL, NO.I’ and back in Hamburg in 1966 ‘ERNST MERCK HALLE’ both captured by Robert Whittaker.
John and Paul both lost their mothers at a young age, they both had the same attitudes towards music, which whether intentionally or not can’t have help but come out through their song writing together. Paul McCartney reflected that they used to go off and hitch hike together, ‘It was something that we did together quite a lot, cementing our friendship, getting to know our feelings, our dreams, our ambitions together. It was a wonderful period. I look back on it with great fondness’- McCartney in Many years from now by Barry Miles.
John Lennon was particular in his efforts to communicate a clear message, he disliked overtly complicated explanations something that was reflected in his writing. During a Rolling Stone interview Lennon explained that he ‘only liked simple rock and roll’. Perhaps this was reflected in his interviews, especially later in his career, steering clear of complex explanations and forcefully striving to get to the very root of problems.
Lennon initially aspired to play the songs from the fifties, the numbers he grew up with, for their simplicity and clever use of language, embracing the pun and word play later much loved my John. Lyrics that threatened the establishment as the new youth culture found their feet in a changing world, a moment that combined with Beatlemania beautifully.
As his musical career changed over the years, Lennon was never scared of being outspoken and he learnt that if people where going to take his words to heart, or if the press where going to twist what he said so much, then he needed to make sure he used his moments to press forward his message.
These message changed over the years and had huge influence on his fans and popular culture, his life had become a journey of self discovery of truth that he tried to communicate as clearly as possible. His willingness to undergo internal examination came out later in his solo projects and his ever changing image.
From the early days in Hamburg, Germany, the Beatles had taken on more of a greasy rocker look, swept back hair and leather jackets, when Epstein came on the scene he help the four clean up their look. The collarless sharp suits and boots where in and the mop tops where grown. Any style that they laid down became the must have for their loyal fans.
John Lennon’s image was a changing landscape, as the years progressed a look at any photo has shown him in various styles over the years, the hair was cut at different lengths, the flares came and went to be replaced with suits, collarless, large collars, flower prints or plain corduroy. The looks became synonymous with Lennon, each was uniquely him in whatever guise or period of his life he was occupying.
One of the most lasting fashion statements that has inspired so many offshoots, and still continues to do so was the military shirt that he was wearing in Alec Byrce’s image from the 1972 Madison Square Gardens concert. A photo of him in the jacket are on the cover of the live album from the concert, the history of the jacket is interesting. It was given to John at an airport by a returning war veteran, supposedly Vietnam but the badges indicated Korea, any way the vet didn’t want them and hoped that Lennon could use them in an art project. The deliberate fusion of military wear at peace protest was typical of Lennon’s rebellious nature and sense of humour. The original jacket is now in a museum in Japan, a quick tour of the web and the Lennon inspired look is still alive and going.
Other famous looks inspired by Lennon, the Denim all over look, jeans and jacket. The all white ensemble was busted out a few times in various ways, suits with polo necks and the mullets and fur trimmed jackets combined with colourful paisley designs. He inspired legions of fans the world over to emulate and copy his look.
The Beatles started to disintegrate in the late 1960’s, the demise of the band provides for endless reading online, wether it was artistic differences, drugs or the loss of Brian Epstein, the amount of pressure the band where under be it from the press, management or the personal choices, wife’s looking back it doesn’t seem sustainable and split up they did.
There is no doubt that Lennon went on to produce some of the most well known songs of the 20th century during the first part of the 70’s. His life seemed to go on a rollercoaster of artist expression and internal searching and outspoken activism which has became the subject of much debate and criticism. He was constantly in the public eye and a huge impact on society with his actions. But such actions came back to haunt him as he tried to find a home for himself and his wife outside of the public eye. They moved to the USA in 1971 but their activism caused the government concern that he could cost them the election.
John Lennon Yoko & Nixon
It was later proven that when, John and his second wife Yoko Ono, where trying to gain residency to the US in 1972, they where secretly up against the Nixon Administration. They where extremely concerned that John was going to inspire communism and lead bands of young people marching down the streets to topple the establishment. Obviously this was all denied and the reason for Lennon’s threat of deportation was put down to his conviction of possessing cannabis in the Uk in 1968. It isn’t hard to look back and see what caused so much fear amongst the powerful elite, the FBI had spent years analysing public appearances and lyrics that Lennon had wrote to look for legal evidence to deport him.
Lennon had publicly spoken out against the Vietnam war and against any war or violence, which was captured later in anti war anthem ‘Give Peace a Chance”. The pair had hosted the Bed-in protest in Amsterdam in ’69 and then again in Montreal, to help push along the peace talks concerning the Vietnam war. The cry was taken up by the masses of anti war protesters, with Lennon actively encouraging them to protest non violently - Lennon said. "Protest by peace in any way, but peacefully. We think peace is only got by peaceful methods. To fight the establishment with their own weapons is no good because they always win, and they've been winning for thousands of years. They know how to play the game of violence.”
Mass anti war rallies where held with famous activists, like the musician Pete Seeger, standing with +500,000 people all singing “Give Peace a Chance”, it became the chant at many rallies, pretty impressive for a man who wrote a song in a bed protest, and very worrying for any government body.
As well as bed-in’s for peace Lennon had released two poignant albums, the first in 1971 Imagine possibly his greatest solo work. Its self titled hit was a piece of work that as John was quoted to referring as "an anti-religious, anti-nationalistic, anti-conventional, anti-capitalistic song, but because it's sugar-coated, it's accepted'.
Imagine called for revolution but without saying it. The song didn’t tell any one to burn flags and pull down buildings, but just asked us to Imagine what a world with no countries, religions or possessions would be like. Still just as pointing today. For a government bodies both left and right of the political landscape it was undermining everything that held them in power. Notably various religious organisations have approached Yoko Ono to use the song, changing the lyrics to allow for their ‘one religion’ - all have been refused.
The 1972 album ‘Some Time in New York’ was released a year later and was far more coarse and open in its political voice. Its incendiary song ‘Woman is the Nigger of the World”, possibly the first feminist song written by a famous male star. It was a sign of Lennon developing as a person and his views points changing, taking on a truly global view and deeper awareness of the political status of the people and their ruling classes, it caused uproar…as it was intended to do, forcing debate on difficult subjects in society at the time.
After the Nixon administration dissolved, Lennon received his residency in 1976, it was a poignant victory against a government that was determined not to let him in. He openly thanked all his fans and supporters who been canvassing their local politicians on his behalf. John Lennon as a voice in the public dominion then went relatively quiet. He back out of public life to concentrate on his family and raising his son with Yoko.
John Lennon had appeared on stage with Elton John in 1974, it was unknowingly Lennon’s last live performance. His comeback was set for his 40th year, and he had started writing again after a period spent in Bermuda. All this was cut tragically short in 1980 outside Lennon’s residence with his tragic assassination. In interviews leading up to his death it seemed that Lennon had found balance in his personal life, was finally happy and was coming back with something to say in a changing musical landscape.
See also: our feature on David Bowie photos!
John Lennon Memorial
John Lennon’s relationship with his bandmates in the run up and following the Beatles split is reported as a turbulent time, especially between him and Paul McCartney. There were a number of songs released on solo albums taking swings at each other. No one wants to think that a great partnership between friends could end that way, and McCartney has said that reconciliation had begun between the two of them. In the end before John’s assassination all three Beatles had played with him again, Ringo Starr and George Harrison helped record albums and McCartney had an impromptu jam session. Paul McCartney still talks fondly about his closest friend and fellow musicians it is comforting to know that the old wounds had begun to heal, and we can only imagine about what might have been if he had lived on.