The 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.
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.