CYNTHIA LENNON REMEMBERED
Ref: Daily Mail ~ April 1, 2015
Yoko Ono has led the tributes to John Lennon's first
wife Cynthia calling her a 'wonderful mother' with a 'strong zest for life'
after she died at the age of 75 following a short battle with cancer. The
second wife of the Beatles singer said she was 'very saddened' by the news,
adding that she was 'proud' how she and Cynthia had 'stood firm in the
Beatles family'. Cynthia, who married Lennon after meeting him in college,
died yesterday at her home in Spain. A message on her son Julian's website
said he was at her beside throughout, and the family 'are thankful for
In the statement, Yoko said: 'I'm very saddened by Cynthia's
death. She was a great person and a wonderful mother to Julian. 'She had
such a strong zest for life and I felt proud how we two women stood firm
in the Beatles family. Please join me in sending love and support to Julian
at this very sad time.'
Cynthia Lennon, nee Powell, married Lennon in 1962 and
stayed with him as he rose to global stardom with The Beatles until the
couple divorced in 1968. But the pair divorced in 1968 after Cynthia discovered
her husband's relationship with the Japanese artist.
Former Beatles Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr added their
condolences. Writing on his website, McCartney, 72, said: 'She was a lovely
lady who I've known since our early days together in Liverpool. She was
a good mother to Julian and will be missed by us all, but I will always
have great memories of our times together.' Starr, 74, tweeted: 'Peace
and love to Julian Lennon God bless Cynthia love Ringo and Barbara xx.'
Julian also tweeted a picture of his mother, who was 75,
inside a heart with the message 'In Loving Memory'. He also posted a moving
video tribute to his late mother with a song he had written in her honor.
'You gave your life for me, you gave your life for love,' it begins, showing
footage of him as a young boy with his parents. It also shows footage of
Cynthia with John during the early days of Beatlemania. The love you left
behind will carry on,' Julian sings in a style influenced by his late father.
It concludes with the words: 'I know you're safe above.'
Cynthia met Lennon at art school in Liverpool in 1957
and the couple married just before Beatlemania transformed her husband
from a jobbing musician into one of the most famous men in the world. Lennon
and Cynthia in 1967. Cynthia was first a secret for Lennon - and she was
then left behind, as Beatlemania continued to grip the world At the height
of the Beatles' early success, she was kept so far in the background that
many of Lennon's female fans were not even aware of her existence, and
she stayed at home bringing up Julian while the Fab Four toured the world
and topped the charts.
Cynthia Lennon grew up in a middle-class community on
the Wirral, met John Lennon while they were both students at the Liverpool
College of Art. The pair married in 1962, when Cynthia was just 22, after
she became pregnant with their son Julian. Beatles' members George Harrison,
Paul McCartney, and The Beatles' manager, Brian Epstein - who was best
man - all attended. The Lennons bought Kenwood, then a 22-bedroom home,
in Weybridge, Surrey, for £20,000 in 1964. Kenwood became the place
to visit for the other Beatles, various American musicians and total strangers
that Lennon had met the previous night in London nightclubs.
While she had suspicions of Lennon's infidelity over the
years, with friends telling her that Lennon had had numerous affairs as
far back as their time together at art college in Liverpool, Cynthia ignored
the warnings. The Lennons' marriage troubles came to a head in February
1968 when Lennon drunkenly confessed to sleeping with other women during
their marriage. Lennon suggested Cynthia take a holiday with friends. She
returned to find her husband sitting across from Yoko Ono on the floor
- staring into each other's eyes. In one of her book's she wrote that she
then found Yoko's slippers outside their bedroom door - shocked and upset
she left the house to stay with friends. After years of trouble, the marriage
finally ended in August 1968 when Yoko Ono discovered she was pregnant.
Fearing a lengthy divorce process, the couple settled outside of court,
with Lennon agreeing to pay Cynthia £100,000 and give her custody
The divorce prompted Paul McCartney to pen the Beatles'
classic Hey Jude to help Julian cope with his parents' separation. He changed
the name Julian to Jude in the song. The line 'take a sad song and make
it better,' is about the Lennons' broken marriage and its impact on their
son. Cynthia learned of Lennon's death on 8 December 1980, while she was
staying with friends in London.
She married Italian hotelier Roberto Bassanini in 1970,
divorcing him in 1973. In 1976, she married John Twist, an engineer from
Lancashire, but divorced him in 1983. In an interview to publicise one
of her books, 2005's John, she told Good Morning America: 'I have read
so many books and seen so many films, and it's like we don't really exist.
We are like walk-on parts in his life. We did spend 10 years together.'
Recalling their early days, she said: 'You couldn't resist
being around him. You couldn't resist watching what he was up to. I mean,
he was a total rebel. Everybody was amazed by him.' Author Hunter Davies,
who wrote the only authorized Beatles biography in 1968, described Cynthia
as a 'lovely woman'. He said that unlike John, she was 'quiet and reserved
and calm' and 'not a hippy at all.' He said their friends at art school
never thought the relationship would last because they were so different.
In her book, Cynthia described being mistreated by John. Julian was their
only child together. He said: 'When I was writing the book I spent two
years with them, visiting her home and spending time with her. 'I think
it was the attraction of opposites between them. When they got together
at art school everyone was amazed - she was seen as refined and reserved
and nobody thought they would last.
Later, she lived through all the excitement of Beatlemania
and seeing her husband being adored by millions, while she had to hide
in the background and endure the pain of having to deny being his wife
— it being an unspoken rule that rock stars were unmarried in those days
to protect their image as a teen idol. And she never complained, not publicly
anyway, and only in a very small voice to him. I liked John Lennon a lot.
But I liked Cynthia, too. And it seemed that John treated her badly and
was unnecessarily cruel to her, denying after their marriage was over that
he had ever been in love with her, when his love letters had told the exact
opposite. He wouldn’t have married her, he used to say, if she hadn’t got
pregnant. ‘Julian,’ he told an American magazine in 1970, ‘was born out
of a bottle of whiskey on a Saturday night.’ ‘That was cruel,’ Cynthia
would say years later. ‘Inhuman.’ Before adding wryly: ‘The question should
be: “Would I have married him?” She smiled at that, adding: ‘No. He wasn’t
the best husband. But he wasn’t the worst.’ But Lennon did have a habit
of making dramatic over-statements.
They’d met at Liverpool Art College in 1957 in their first
term, when she was 18 and John 17. Some students thought Cynthia Powell,
as she then was, must be posh because she came from Hoylake, which was
‘over the water’, Liverpudlian slang for the middle-class Wirral. Actually,
she wasn’t any posher than John Lennon, who also had a middle-class upbringing
with his Aunt Mimi, but she was certainly more reserved, and felt intimidated
by his endless bravado, tight jeans and long, greasy hair. They weren’t
in the same class, but he was quickly smitten, telling his friends that
she looked like Brigitte Bardot, and making jokes about her, determined
to catch her attention. Secretly, she would hang around him, dazzled by
his rebellious charisma. They got together after a Christmas party during
their second year in 1958. Her widowed mother was not best pleased at her
choice, Cynthia having dropped a Hoylake boyfriend of two years for John.
Cynthia was now watching the birth of The Beatles as Paul
McCartney and George Harrison, who were at the school next door, would
join John at lunchtimes in the college for rehearsals. It had to be exciting,
as were John’s passionate, not say erotic, love letters to her when he
dropped out of college to go to Hamburg with The Beatles. He was, the letters
made clear (as did several of The Beatles’ early songs which were about
letter-writing) desperate that she would stay faithful to him while he
was away. The reverse, however, never seemed to apply, to John. ‘It was
all “love, love, love” and, of course, other things which are unprintable,’
she would remember. ‘I suppose I fell in love with a bad boy, whom I knew
to be a bad boy. My father had died a couple of years earlier. If he’d
still been alive, he wouldn’t have let John get past the front door.’ Altogether,
John was a jealous, suspicious, unfaithful, bohemian boyfriend. She was
a lower middle-class, very reasonable, faithful girl, and she waited for
Soon he was back in Liverpool, playing at the Cavern Club,
when, almost on the brink of The Beatles’ first recording session, Cynthia
discovered she was pregnant. It was August 1962. ‘There’s only thing for
it, Cyn. We’ll have to get married,’ John said as soon as she told him.
Aunt Mimi was furious. She and Cynthia never got on. Manager Brian Epstein
arranged a very quiet wedding, and the happy couple moved into a little
flat in Liverpool where Cynthia, and then baby Julian, would stay a secret,
as The Beatles became the biggest act in the world. ‘The more successful
The Beatles became, the further away from me John seemed to be,’ she told
After a year of her reclusive existence, the truth eventually
leaked out and she and Julian joined John in London, first in a flat in
Kensington and then, as the money poured in, in a grand house in Surrey’s
stockbroker belt. But the nature of their relationship had changed. The
very nice, friendly girl from Hoylake was no longer as erotically exciting
as she’d once seemed. John had affairs, usually with clever, upmarket women.
‘I wasn’t passive or a dimwit. I think it was more a case of being patient.
But I was beginning to be aware that these women could be dangerous. Most
people now know about sex, drugs and rock and roll, but I don’t think I
was aware so much then. I thought he was working all the time.’
Cynthia once told me that the only normal family day out
she can remember they ever had when Julian was a little boy was in 1965.
John had bought his Aunt Mimi a seaside home in Dorset and John, Cynthia
and Julian went to see her and spent the day on the beach, John hiding
under a large sunhat. ‘It was heaven,’ she told me. ‘We made sandcastles
for Julian with his buckets and spades. And planned to do it again. But
we never did’
Most of the time John was touring, filming or recording.
They had a beautiful house, with lots of staff, but he was bored, and then
irritated when Cynthia’s mother came to stay. He saw himself increasingly
as an avant-garde artist and Cynthia as just a housewife. She did her best
to keep the peace in the house. ‘But little by little, John’s personality
began to change as drugs became an important part of his life,’ she told
me, ‘leading him to the destruction of so much that he valued. At home,
he would be lost in a daydream . . . present, but absent. I’d talk to him,
but he wouldn’t hear me.’ Once she had been a secret. Now she was feeling
When The Beatles suddenly became interested in transcendental
meditation and rushed off to see the Maharishi in Bangor, North Wales,
she missed the train and was left on the platform as it pulled out. The
end came when John met Yoko Ono, who sent him letters while The Beatles
were staying in Rishikesh in the Himalayas studying meditation in 1968.
During all the time they were there, John refused to have sex with Cynthia,
who had joined him, insisting that he slept in a separate room, as he looked
forward to Yoko’s letters arriving at the post office at the ashram where
they were staying. The end of the marriage came shortly afterwards, when,
upset by his indifference towards her, Cynthia took a short holiday in
On returning, she found John and Yoko in the kitchen,
John in his dressing gown, Yoko wearing Cynthia’s. They’d obviously only
just got up. What hurt most was that John knew that she was on her way
home. ‘It was vicious,’ she told me. The divorce was swift and unpleasant.
John, normally the most generous of men, showed a vindictive side to his
character. ‘My final offer is £75,000,’ he shouted at her. ‘That’s
like winning the pools for you, so what are you moaning about. You’re not
worth any more.’ Finally, in 1970, she accepted £100,000 for her
and Julian.The family home was sold. For a time, she lived in Kensington
and saw old friends, though she was hurt that the other Beatles didn’t
stay in touch with her.
She didn’t stay single for long, first marrying Italian
hotelier Roberto Bassanini, and then a very nice engineer called John Twist.
But once again, that didn’t work out. It was impossible for her not to
be associated with John, and probably difficult for her second and third
husbands, too. It can’t have been easy following in Lennon’s footsteps.
Then, in 2002, she married Noel Charles, a friend of Julian, a former nightclub
owner. They lived happily together until Noel died in 2013.
Julian was at her bedside for her last moments. In a tribute,
he said: ‘You gave your life for me, you gave your life for love. The love
you left will carry on.’ Some have said Cynthia should have fought to keep
John Lennon. I think that she was a terrific woman, calm and quiet, who
did her best under very trying circumstances. She and John Lennon were
opposites. She knew that when she began going out with him. That was probably
why she fell in love with him. I like to think that, in the final years,
she was finally happy.
DIVORCE PAPERS SHED LIGHT ON THE LENNON'S
A never-before-seen dossier detailing the bitter breakdown
of John Lennon's marriage to his first wife Cynthia was uncovered in February
after nearly 50 years. The five-page document, drafted by the solicitors
dealing with the Beatle's divorce in 1968, reveals details of his increasing
drug use and his affair with Yoko Ono. It centres on claims made by Dorothy
Jarlett, Lennon's housekeeper of four years, on what she saw while working
at the Lennon family home Kenwood in Weybridge, Surrey. The papers detail
his mood swings, aggressive behaviour towards his young son Julian and
heated arguments between him and Cynthia. Mrs Jarlett describes how Yoko
Ono would visit the country pile while Cynthia was out of the country,
and how she once found the pair in bed together. She reveals how Lennon
became nonchalant towards his wife around 1967 - five years after they
tied the knot - when the Beatles were at the height of their fame. She
said Lennon was uninterested in playing the father figure role and that
he would smack Julian if he misbehaved. The statement was made to Herbert
Oppenheimer, Nathan and Vandyk - a firm of solicitors in London employed
by Cynthia following the breakdown of the marriage. The document has never
been seen before because Lennon and Cynthia settled out of court, with
Lennon agreeing to pay her £100,000 and give her custody of Julian.