Tossing Lines: Never mind Yoko Ono, what about Cynthia Lennon?
Driving down Vauxhall Street in Waterford at dawn, Sirius radio’s Classic Vinyl played the Beatles tune “I Feel Fine” from 1964.
My mind wandered to those young lives on the verge of unimaginable mega-stardom.
Never mind Yoko Ono, I thought, what about Cynthia Lennon, the quiet Beatle wife who stood by her husband for 10 years as their world was transformed by wealth, fame and LSD?
I picked up Cynthia Lennon’s 2005 autobiography titled “John” to hear her tale of Beatlemania and finally, bullets.
Cynthia Powell Lennon was a reserved English girl who married a complicated man whom she describes as “a creative genius who sang movingly about love while often wounding those closest to him.”
They fell in love while attending the Liverpool College of Art in 1958 and, with Cynthia pregnant, they married in 1962, just before the release of “Love Me Do” started the meteoric rise to fame that changed their world.
As Beatlemania took hold, Beatles management wanted Cynthia out of sight to ensure her husband’s sex appeal with young girls.
But staying out of sight, even at home, was difficult with constant surveillance from fans camped outside.
When Julian Lennon was born in 1963, Cynthia had good reason to stay home as the Beatles toured the world and cranked out all those iconic albums in the course of five short years, including “Meet the Beatles,” “A Hard Day’s Night,” “Help!,” “Rubber Soul,” “Revolver” and “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.”
Their newfound wealth meant a beautiful home in the country and unlimited buying power, which only enabled John’s increasing drug use, keeping him “always in another dimension”, often difficult to reach or reason with. Drugged strangers littered their home, and Cynthia worried about her son.
In 1968, John convinced Cynthia to join friends in Greece while he stayed home to work on songs for the “White Album.” She went, and returned to find John and Yoko sitting on the floor of their home, dressed in robes, staring into each other’s eyes. “The intimacy between them was daunting,” she recalled.
Recent letters from Yoko Ono and pictures in the tabloids had already provided ample evidence of her husband’s estrangement and infidelity.
Only six years into their marriage, she fled. The relationship was doomed.
John filed for divorce and arranged for a friend to seduce his wife to add credibility to his preposterous accusations of adultery. The plan failed, yet John bought the man a Mercedes for his efforts.
When Ono became pregnant, Cynthia countersued for divorce.
John cut off communications, and through a series of cold lawyers’ meetings, eventually offered a settlement of 100,000 pounds, the equivalent of $239,000 in 1968 (worth about $1.6 million today).
Tired of it all, Cynthia relented, and the divorce was granted on Nov. 8, 1968.
After the Beatles, she tried her hand at various jobs and restaurant ventures, launched a perfume, and wrote two books.
Married four more times in her life, she continued to paint, showing her work in a handful of galleries, but her focus remained on repairing the relationship between her husband and son.
When John Lennon was shot and killed outside his apartment in New York on Dec. 8, 1980, Cynthia was devastated.
Looking back, she wrote: “I never stopped loving John, but the cost of that love has been enormous. If I had known as a teenager what falling for John Lennon would lead to, I would have turned around right then and walked away.”
Cynthia Lennon died in 2015, at age 75, from cancer, in Spain where she lived. She was worth about $6 million.
A lot had happened since her husband so innocently sang “She’s in love with me and I feel fine.”
Interesting how an ordinary ride down Vauxhall Street can take you around the world.
John Steward lives in Waterford. He can be reached at email@example.com. Read more at www.johnsteward.online.