Friday, 3 April 2015

Godspeed Cynthia Lennon

Cynthia Lennon photographed by Astrid Kirchherr
Cynthia Lennon occupies a singular place in rock music history. She was the first woman to marry a Beatle, although John Lennon was not even famous when she married him. Her status as John Lennon's first wife overshadowed everything else about her life, to the point that all most people know of Cynthia Lennon is her marriage to John Lennon. Sadly, Cynthia Lennon died April 1 2015 at the age of 75. The cause was cancer.

Cynthia Lennon was born Cynthia Powell on September 10 1939 in Blackpool, Lancashire. It was not long after her birth that her family moved to Hoylake, Lancashire (now Merseyside). She was interested in art from a very young age. She was eleven years old when she won a prize in an art contest held by the Liverpool Echo. At age 12 she was accepted into the Junior Art School in Liverpool. It was in September 1957 that she enrolled in the Liverpool College of Art. It was there that she met John Lennon.  The two eventually began dating. It was in August 1962 that Cynthia learned she was pregnant. Upon being told, John Lennon insisted that the two should get married. They did so, on August 23 1962. She gave birth to their son on 8 April 1963.

The Lennons' marriage was only a few months old when The Beatles' first single, "Love Me Do", was released on October 5 1962 in the United Kingdom. It was not long before the United Kingdom was swept up in Beatlemania, and the rest of the world followed. Cynthia had met John as a poor art student and struggling musician, but found herself married to the leader of the most successful rock band of all time. Unfortunately, their marriage would suffer because of The Beatles' success. Cynthia was often left at home with their son Julian while John toured with The Beatles. Over time the two of them grew apart as John became less and less communicative with her. In the meantime John's friendship with artist Yoko Ono eventually blossomed into an affair. Cynthia and John Lennon divorced in November 1968.

In 1973 Cynthia opened a restaurant called Oliver's Bistro in Ruthin, Denbighshire, Wales. In 1978 she published the memoir A Twist of Lennon, which she also illustrated. She sold the bistro in 1983. She was involved in various ventures over the years. In 1988 she launched a failed perfume called Woman. In April 1989 she opened  a restaurant called "Lennon's" in Convent Garden, London. In 1995 she recorded a cover of Mary Hopkin's "Those Were the Days", produced by Sir Paul McCartney. In 2002 she published the biography John about her relationship with John Lennon. In 2010 she and her son Julian unveiled the John Lennon Peace Monument in Liverpool.

Cynthia would eventually remarry. She was married to Roberto Bassanini from 1970 to 1973. She was married to John Twist from 1976 to 1983.  She had a relationship with  Jim Christie from 1981 to 1998. She was married to Noel Charles from 2002 to his death in 2013. After her marriage to John Twist she had her name changed back by deed poll to "Cynthia Lennon".

For better or worse Cynthia Lennon will always be known as John Lennon's first wife. Sadly, this ignores the fact that she was her own person. From her various illustrations it was obvious that she had talent as an artist. While it is difficult to say how things may have unfolded had she not met John Lennon, it seems possible that she could have had a successful career as an artist. At the very least, she could have had a successful career in commercial art.

It also seems possible that she may have played a role in The Beatles' success. Writing in The Rolling Stone, Yoko Ono noted that The Beatles behaved differently when she was around, saying, "I wonder how much her presence encouraged the group to go all the way to the top." It is impossible to say if The Beatles would have been a success had it not been for Cynthia's presence, but regardless she was a part of The Beatles' lives even before they became the biggest band ever. Cynthia Lennon has sometimes been reduced to a footnote in the life of John Lennon and the career of The Beatles, but she was always so much more.

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