Daddy don’t go…the sad sagas of Sean and Julian Lennon

lennnonfamilies.jpgThe Associated Press reports today that Sean and Julian Lennon, half-brothers and sons of Beatle John Lennon, have reconciled after an 8 year estrangement.

Like you care. But maybe you should.

The Lennon boys’ problems mirror those of a significant part of our society. They’re both boys who grew up without a dad….

Julian and Sean couldn’t have been born in more different circumstances.

When Julian was born April 8, 1963, Beatlemania was taking hold of Britain. In less than a year it would infect Europe, the US, and the world. Lennon barely had a moment for himself, much less for the responsibilities of a new husband and father. His relationship with Cynthia, Julian’s mother, was problematic at best. College sweethearts, they grew apart as Lennon’s world grew larger and larger and Cynthia’s was circumscribed by both her devotion to Julian and the machinations of Brian Epstein who wanted to downplay John’s marriage to keep young female fans happy. Perhaps their split was inevitable. After John left Cynthia for Yoko Ono in 1968, he saw his son Julian no more than perhaps a dozen times in the 12 years before his death….

Sean Lennon was born October 9, 1975 – on his father’s 35th birthday. John had lost his record contract and was having an artistic crisis believing that he might no longer be a viable composer and performer. He retreated into a domestic life, caring for his young son, baking bread, and making peace with himself. In young Sean’s five years with his famous father, they spent no more than a few weeks apart before Mark David Chapman separated them forever….

Neither Lennon son knew quite how to respond to the loss of his famous parent. Julian, named for the mother John himself lost after years of thinking of her as a sort of absent older sister only to discover his relationship with her mere months before her death, had never really known his dad – but he carried many of his father’s musical genes and sounds eerily like him when he sings. A self-taught musician like his old man, he released a series of successful albums in the 1980’s. For a time Yoko Ono worked with Cynthia Lennon to nurture a relationship between Julian and his much younger brother. In the early 1990’s, however, Julian became caught up, with his mother, in a protracted legal battle with his step-mother for a share of his father’s estate (ultimately successful) that estranged him not only from his step-mother but also from his brother….

Sean grew up living a pampered and protected life, watched over carefully by his mother and given every advantage in musical education. While he also carries the Lennon music genes, his success as a musician has been considerably less impressive than his older brother’s. He currently is touring Europe with his band….

Neither of the Lennon boys has illusions about John Lennon as a father. Sean has described his dad thusly:

I think of my dad as a huge asshole. The only thing that made it okay was that he could admit it.

Julian’s relationship with his absent father has been more problematic – possibly because of being ignored as a child (something kids, as we know, feel deeply), possibly due to loyalty to his mother Cynthia. At any rate, Julian’s view of his dad seems more thoughtful if more pained:

Well it’s difficult when people come up to you and say ‘I loved your father so much’ y’know coz it tugs at my heart in two ways. Yes, as an artist in his solo work and with the Beatles- he was fantastic..but as a father I don’t have much respect for him coz he wasn’t there and he didn’t take the time to be.

And now, after a rift lasting nearly a decade, the Lennon brothers are reconciling. juliansean.jpg

Julian, the child of his youth, reflects John’s Liverpool years and his “scuffling days” – and, to paraphrase U2, all that he couldn’t leave behind. Sean, the progeny of his approaching middle age, reflects Lennon’s reflective period of coming to terms with his legacy as a musical legend. He was, as his father called him, the beautiful boy. They bring together the different halves of John’s life.

One hopes that they can make a whole family for themselves.

16 replies »

  1. This is nice news. I can’t help empathizing with Julian – millions of members of m-m-m-my generation (X) know a great deal about being unwanted or ignored by our parents. I don’t want to put a lot of words in his mouth, but either I feel his pain or I’m projecting my own.

    It will be interesting to see if this gets us a Lennon Brothers record, and if so, what will it be like?

  2. Sean should be so lucky as to work with Julian. I don’t think Sean’s untalented – I just the parent with the great music instincts isn’t his mom….

    If they can keep Yoko from interfering, they might make something really nice.

  3. History replays itself in John Lennon’s song

    “Father, you left me, but I never left you
    I needed you, but you didn’t need me
    So I got to tell you
    Good bye Good bye”

  4. “If they can keep Yoko from interfering…”

    Son of a BITCH. Will you NOT DO THAT when I’m drinking soda? I just projectile snorted all over my laptop.

  5. “I think of my dad as a huge asshole”.

    I didn’t like it that Sean said that.

  6. Although it’s weird that it comes from sean who only knew him for 5 years, during which (according to this piece) Lennon was a devoted father. If anyone has the right to call Lennon an A**hole it should be Julian.

  7. Okay…John DEVOTED his life to Sean and his mother during his last years of life. I saw it, the whole world saw that he was a good father. As good as he could be ya know? And I’m sure that had it not been for John’s early fame in the 60’s he would have also been a good father to Julian. But I’m sure that during the times when he wasn’t recording and all, he spent as much time with Julian as he could! Like Simon said (haha sorry) “if anyone has the right to call Lennon an A**hole it should have been Julian. My father chose not to be in my life AT ALL. I’m sure John tried to raise his sons as best he could during the times he was able.

  8. Gia,

    I love John, too – but I’m not in any way deluded about his limitations as a man. That he was able to make the great art he was given his limitations is even more admirable and remarkable.

    But his sons paid a price. One hopes that their finding their brotherhood with each other will give them a sense of family and all the good that can bring to anyone.