John Lennon is arguably the greatest rock and roll martyr of our time.
Lennon was born in Liverpool, Merseyside, NW England, in 1940. He was the child of a broken home (though not in modern terms)—his father took off when John was very young, and Julia Lennon passed away, leaving Lennon to grow up in the care of his aunt Mimi. Aunt Mimi didn't believe for a second that a person could make a living playing the guitar. She was wrong.
After doing poorly in grade school, Lennon went to an art school and did poorly there. He became caught up in the skiffle craze of the 1950s and formed a band or two. Such was the childhood that shaped a modern idol. In spite of the inherent glamour, it is not recommended to inflict such a childhood on anyone you know, as the world has already had a John Lennon and producing another one would be like reinventing the wheel. Even if it was better than the original, everyone would hate it on principle.
Lennon became part of the songwriting team of Lennon and McCartney in his teens. Shortly after, John Lennon and Paul McCartney found George Harrison, and just a bit after that the three of them got hold of Ringo Starr, and then they were the Beatles.
During the decade of the Beatles (this being the 1960s) Lennon was more than a Beatle, more than a songwriter and a rhythm guitarist and a vocalist and a movie actor. He was an author, a scribbler and an activist. He wrote A Spaniard in the Works and John Lennon In His Own Write. He drew pictures of things. He fought peacefully for peace during the Vietnam War with his wife, Japanese artist Yoko Ono, and spent a lot of time on the evening news.
Lennon had a personal life as well. He was married twice and had a son with each wife. Both sons and his second wife (Ono) are now recording artists. One of them is even good at it.
John Lennon was known for speaking his mind and getting into trouble for it. The most notable of these occurences is the statement he made in a press conference that the Beatles had become more popular than Jesus. While meant not as an attack on Christian beliefs but as a simple observation on the current state of things, it was taken for the former. Millions of fans burned millions of records and posters and the Beatles were, for a short time, precisely the opposite of what they had once been, which was hugely popular. Lennon later made a public apology regarding the statement. The apology was less "I'm terribly sorry for what I said" and more "I'm terribly sorry you're all so stupid as to misinterpret what I said," but it did the trick and many of the fans returned to fandom.
In spite of his excessive openness with political opinions and his radical approach to protests and government, Lennon maintained a solid and sturdy fan following throughout the '60s and '70s.
Tragically, Lennon was shot on December 8, 1980 outside his apartment in New York City. The gunman, Mark David Chapman, was reportedly under the influence of Salinger, like countless other Holden Caulfield killers.
Chapman is still in prison in New York, and each year on December 8, a vigil is held in Central Park near the place where Lennon was shot, to honor the memory of a man who inspired the world in a very strange and wonderful way.
Lennon's work with the Beatles and the Plastic Ono Band is still being released on compact disc. His books are out of print now but still available through various clever methods of book-gettership. The Beatles' movies are still released on VHS and DVD, but How I Won the War is virtually improbable to find. It is therefore only a matter of time before you catch it on VH1 four times a day, but such is life.