The Beatles: John Lennon was ‘utterly distraught with no support after mother’s death’

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The Beatles: John Lennon was ‘utterly distraught with no support after mother’s death’

John left an indelible mark on rock and roll with The Beatles and as a solo artist before his tragic death. The singer-songwriter will be remembered next week on the 40th anniversary of his assassination by Mark Chapman, who gunned down the star outside his apartment in New York. John’s half-sister Julia Baird gave insight into the man behind the music in unearthed accounts and revealed his struggles after their mother’s death.

John was raised by his aunt Mary Elizabeth Smith, known as Mimi, shortly after his parents split-up when he was a child. 

Ms Baird, who grew-up with their mother Julia Lennon, recalled bonding during his visits when they would perform comedic sketches for entertainment.

But in 1958, their world came crashing down when Julia was fatally struck by the vehicle of off-duty police officer Eric Clague.

After the mother-of-four’s death, Ms Baird, then 11, immediately “went looking for [John] straight away” and after finding him the pair broke down in tears.

She recalled: “It was just the reassurance that the whole world hadn’t fallen apart.

“There’s nothing you can say, it’s just the same as any family where [a] mother dies or father dies… it was no different than anybody else, you comfort each other.”

Ms Baird recalled that her mother was “a trailblazer”, who had a deep love for Elvis Presley and had taught John to play the banjo – an instrument few people had at the time.

Her music and artistic talent was passed onto John, who was known to have produced a number of album cover sketches that have since gone up for auction.  

Ms Baird described how the future star, then 17,  “threw himself into alcohol, music and cynicism” after his mother died.

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“It was just something that three of us had to crawl through, like crawling through mud. 

“In the beginning of my book it says, ‘It’s like climbing a mountain’ and John was still climbing when he died.” 

Ms Baird felt that she and her sister Jackie were “still climbing that mountain” because it “was never openly dealt with at that time”.

She continued: “[It’s] just the way some families deal with grief or not dealing with it if you like, ours was one of those families.

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“It was just never mentioned. It’s like she had never been or something. It’s the old ‘children should be seen and not heard’ – we were just left to cope on our own.”

During a 2015 interview with the journalist Anna Frawley for Beatle Show, Ms Baird admitted that it was still difficult to talk about Julia’s death.

She instead penned her heartbreak in the 2007 book Imagine This: Growing Up With My Brother John Lennon.

Ms Baird said: “There was no talking about that, that’s why this is in the book because you can sit and write things you can’t talk about.”

Published at Mon, 30 Nov 2020 11:20:00 +0000

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