John Lennon: His Life in Pictures on His 79th Birthday

John Lennon
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Click the image above to view the photo gallery. (Photo by Rowland Scherman/Getty Images)

“There are two basic motivating forces: fear and love. When we are afraid, we pull back from life. When we are in love, we open to all that life has to offer with passion, excitement and acceptance.”  —John Lennon

John Lennon rarely, as he put it, “pulled back” from life. Sure, at times he retreated from the spotlight, but from his formative years in Liverpool to gigs at the Cavern Club to Beatlemania and a post-Fab Four period focused on music and family, he rode his passions to new pop culture heights. And nearly 40 years after his passing, Lennon remains a towering cultural figure, one whose influence on everything from popular music to peace initiatives resonates to this day.

“Lennon assaulted pop music from a dozen different directions. He not only attacked the war — any war — but questioned and confronted the very methods and structures he’d utilized in his attack, thereby pushing rock ‘n’ roll up against the wall to test limits and demand answers,” journalist Stephen Holden wrote in Rolling Stone. “John Lennon believed passionately that popular music could and should do more than merely entertain, and by acting out this conviction, he changed the face of rock ‘n’ roll forever.”

Meanwhile, former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, when speaking of Lennon’s signature solo tune, “Imagine,” said, “… in many countries around the world — my wife and I have visited about 125 countries — you hear John Lennon’s song ‘Imagine’ used almost equally with national anthems.”

As well, this year in particular holds special meaning for Lennon fans, as it marks three key anniversaries:

1. The 50th anniversary of the Beatles’ Abbey Road album (which just recently topped the charts again), which featured seminal Lennon tunes like “Come Together” and “I Want You (She’s So Heavy).”

2. The 50th anniversary of Lennon and Yoko Ono’s legendary Montreal Bed-In.

3. The 50th anniversary of Lennon and the Plastic Ono band crossing the pond to play the Toronto Rock and Roll Revival concert.

And today, on what would have been his 79th birthday, friends, fans and loved ones are taking to social media to share their love for the music legend, including Ono.

“HAPPY BIRTHDAY JOHN AND SEAN!,” she tweeted, referring to their son, Sean Lennon, who was born on John’s 35th birthday. “You are still with us and giving us wisdom and happiness when it’s much needed. i ii iii i love you all, yoko”

In honour of Lennon’s birthday, we take a photographic look back at his extraordinary life. Click the image at the top of the page to view the photo gallery.

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50 Years Later: Remembering John Lennon and the Toronto Rock and Roll Revival

John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s Montreal Bed-In Turns 50

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