Book Summary of "John Lennon: The Life" by Philip Norman

by David Harris

"John Lennon: The Life" is a biography about the famous rock musician. It was written by Philip Norman, a novelist and journalist who also wrote biographies about the Rolling Stones, Elton John and Buddy Holly. The book is more than 800 pages long, and was released to some controversy when it debuted in 2008.

Lennon Books

"John Lennon: The Life" was the first biography of the late Beatle for many years. Before that, Ray Coleman published "Lennon: The Definitive Biography" which bordered on "adulatory," according to a review in "The Guardian." Norman's much longer book also tells the story of Lennon's life, but does it in much more detail. Norman used sources such as bandmate Paul McCartney, widow Yoko Ono and Beatles' producer George Martin.

The Life

"The Life" tells the story of John Lennon, beginning with his pre-stardom life in Liverpool, through the Beatle years, to his assassination in December 1980 by deranged fan Mark David Chapman. In the early section of the book, Norman re-creates postwar Liverpool as Lennon meets McCartney and forms the Beatles. He also gets into Lennon's psychology, exploring why the singer was constantly angry and examining the fear of abandonment that followed him since childhood.


Norman is the first biographer to have access to the papers of Lennon's Aunt Mimi. She raised Lennnon when his parents separated. Her notebooks provided him with a good glimpse of Lennon's early years. However, critics have said he did not properly portray some people in Lennon's life. For example, Norman claims that May Pang's relationship to Lennon was never really clear, while Pang said and has illustrated with photos that she had a very close relationship with the singer, according to an interview with "Absolute Elsewhere."


Although initially supportive of the project, both Paul McCartney and Yoko Ono distanced themselves from the book upon its release. Ono even called the book "too mean." Some of the claims Norman make in the book are based on unsubstantiated claims rather than verified information. For example, Norman claims Lennon had a secret crush on McCartney, although the surviving Beatle stated there is no way that allegation can be true. Norman also wrote that Lennon may have also harbored sexual desire for his mother.

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