Cynthia Lennon actually wrote two memoirs during her lifetime, the one when John was alive and the real memoir, written after John’s death and published in 2005. That’s the one to read — titled just “John.” She wrote the first one in fear of legal action from John & Yoko; the second memoir was written from the heart and brain and took guts.
Yes, Yoko comes in for a bit of a bashing but can you blame Cynthia? Yoko was every celebrity wife’s worst nightmare — the determined stalker who wins your husband’s heart and tears him away from you. I love John and his music but there’s no denying that John was cruel to Cynthia and Julian during most of his life. He tried to reconcile with Julian toward the end but it was probably too late.
In “John,” Cynthia tells one heartbreaking story after another but the one that sticks with me is John yelling at a young Julian for smiling too much. Cynthia related that Julian never again smiled as much as had as a young lad.
But “John” the memoir is not a bitter tome by an ex-wife; I consider it one of the best Beatles books I’ve read because Cynthia had a very unique vantage, having met and fallen in love with John when they were both teenagers. She was also with him through the height of Beatlemania and was the target of many crazed girls who hated her for being married to a Beatle. (By the way, the best book I’ve read about The Beatles is “Here, There and Everywhere” written by sound engineer Geoff Emerick — simply brilliant and tells you everything you want to know about how they created their music.)
I’ve thought and written a lot about kindness in recent years and it’s clear Cynthia did too. She remembers with fondness two people in particular who treated her with great kindness after John ran off with Yoko. Most of those in The Beatles inner circle were too afraid to have anything to do with her after the breakup, Cynthia recalls. Even Ringo’s wife Maureen (who later became friends again with Cynthia) kept her distance for awhile.
The exception was Paul. Say what you want about Paul (he has a massive ego, he doesn’t tip, he goes through assistants like water, he’s a bit of a dick — all things I’ve heard from behind the scenes people) but he came through for Cynthia. He famously wrote “Hey Jude” on his way to visit young Julian after the breakup.
Paul, it seems, always came through for Cynthia. John had written young Julian a letter expressing his love. Cynthia had to sell that letter years later when she was desperate for money. Much later, the letter came up for auction and Paul bought it for her, framed it and presented it to her, a gesture that Cynthia never forgot.
The other person who showed great kindness toward Cynthia was Ray Cooper, who played in Elton John’s band for years (Elton is Sean Lennon’s godfather). Cooper happened to meet Cynthia at a cafe and told her that, if she ever needed anything, to let him know.
In 1981, when John’s death was still fresh and Julian had just turned 18 years old, the boy was at a loss but wanted to break into the music business. Cynthia contacted Ray Cooper for help and Cooper came through, introducing him to people and putting him up at a flat. That’s true kindness, the kind you don’t forget, the kind Cynthia never forgot.
Bravo to Cooper and Sir Paul. Rest in peace Cynthia.