|Julian on John 20 Years Later
A Son Grapples with the Memory of His Father
by Mary Lyn Maiscott (December 8, 2000)
Twenty years after John Lennon's passing,
his son Julian utilized his website to make a
courageous statement about his relationship
with his famous father.
"Sadly, I never really knew the man." This is Julian Lennon talking about his father, John Lennon, who was murdered 20 years ago. Although Julian, 37, had stated that he would give no interviews about the December 8th anniversary, he decided to use his website (www.julianlennon.com) to reveal his thoughts. The result is a candid and touching essay on his feelings about his dad, his brother, and himself.
John Lennon said in an interview that he lost his mother twice--once when he was sent to live with his aunt and again when his mother was struck by a car and killed. Julian must feel as though he lost his father several times, since months or even years would pass between their visits. When John was killed, Julian had not seen him for nearly a year, and previous to that, four years had elapsed between visits.
On Julian's last trip to see his dad, in early 1979, the two had gone boating in Florida. According to Robert Rosen's book Nowhere Man: The Final Days of John Lennon, John used their boating expedition to explain to Julian why he left Julian's mother, Cynthia, for Yoko Ono. "He assured Julian that he did love him," Rosen writes, "and in the future they'd be closer than ever, but it would be a long, difficult process."
Take a Sad Song...
Of course, they did not have the time to go through that process. "I went through a series of love/hate relationships with Dad, whether he was there or not," states Julian. "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."
Like many of us, John often failed to achieve the kind of transcendent life that he wanted to live and that he wrote about in his songs. How frustrating it must have been to young Julian to hear his faraway dad on the radio singing All You Need Is Love, when that certainly was what Julian needed from John.
It took another Beatle, Paul McCartney, to write a song for Julian. In Hey Jude, written after John left Cynthia, Paul told Julian to "take a sad song and make it better." Julian has said that the song still gives him goose bumps because of the concern it shows.
Julian's own first hit, in 1984, was Too Late for Goodbyes, with a bouncy melody that belies the song's lyrics: "Ever since you've been leaving me, I've been wanting to cry. Now I know how it feels for you. I've been wanting to die."
Julian recently returned to the music business after an absence of seven years, part of which was spent simply traveling and relaxing. "But in the end I started playing again because of my love of music," Julian explains in the "Biography" section of his site. The resulting album, Photograph Smile, features a picture of Julian as a little boy, smiling.
The Apple Doesn't Fall Far
In his website's "Family Tree" section, Julian reveals that his family's musical talent did not start with his father. His great-great-grandfather John (Jack) Lennon toured the United States in the late 19th century with a troupe of minstrels. Perhaps this interest in genealogy is part of his search for his own identity.
"Life is difficult enough," Julian writes. "Trying to find one's own identity makes it even harder, especially when you're not allowed to be you. How are you supposed to define your own character when all people want from you are answers about someone else's life, a life that you don't have answers for!"
Despite his obvious bitterness toward Yoko Ono, Julian says that he dearly loves his brother, Sean, "and I hope that he's able to cope with his destiny." After speaking to Sean directly ("Keep your chin up kiddo!"), he ends with words to his father: "And Dad, wherever you are, may your light shine as long as we do!"
And may Julian's shine as well.
Copyright © 2001-2002 Mary Lyn Maiscott