October 9 would have been John’s landmark birthday but he was horrifically killed outside his New York home on December 8, 1980, when he was just 40. Across this weekend on Radio 2, the former Beatle’s son Sean has been interviewing his own half-brother Julian, as well as Elton John and Paul McCartney. The brothers discuss their memories of their famous father as well as their own special bond in a tearful heart to heart.
Sean said: “When you’re going through it, it’s weird, but you don’t really have a perspective on how strange it is to be John’s son.”
John replied: “No, the other thing is we don’t know any different.”
The pair had very different upbringings. Julian was born while John was still married to Cynthia Lennon. The Beatles were already starting to become a global sensation and John was rarely at home.
Julian inspired the songs Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds and Hey Jude but was closer to Paul MCcartney. In fact, the latter song (originally calley Hey Jules) was written by Paul to comfort the young boy during his parents divorce in 1968 when he was only five.
In 1968 John married Yoko Ono and Sean was born in 1975. He, too, was only five when he lost his father but in an even more devastating way.
Julian has spoken angrily about how he was neglected by his father throughout his youth but during the new interview he is able to talk about their improved relationship in John’s final years.
He said: “Dad and I had been getting on and speaking a lot more on the phone, you know, when I was sort of 15, 16 and 17…
“I just remember that as being the last kind of moments (I spent with him), listening to him being extremely happy in a happy place, and doing what he loved, and the music that he played me at that particular point, Starting Over, and some of the other album tracks.
“I was very happy for him and looking forward to seeing him again. Anyway, in another dimension…”
He also open up about his admiration for his father’s final work, including the song Mother (below).
Shortly before he was killed in 1980, John had released Double Fantasy, his fifth and best-seling solo album.
Sean said: “I honestly do worry about crying because sometimes I think sometimes when I talk about certain songs that dad wrote, they’re just so emotional.
“They are hard for me to even think about, let alone listen to some of them, especially the later stuff just because I have so many memories of them making Double Fantasy and some of that stuff just breaks my heart because… it’s like a time machine, it takes me right back to those moments before (John Lennon was killed), pretty tough.”
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Julian said: “One of the things and that I’d learnt from his solo work was that directness, that rawness… I mean it was heart stopping stuff in many respects because it was so truthful…
“Those two songs, Mother and God, they really amaze me. He manages to kind of, encapsulate all of his feelings about philosophy and religion and life and The Beatles and he kind of like sums it all up in this way that I don’t think any artist could do it… It’s really an amazing tune.”
The brotrherds also opened up to each other as Julian said: “More than anything, I’m just glad that we’re here, you and I love each other and are able to connect and talk so openly about any of this stuff… This is, you are my family.”
Sean replied: “I know the only brother I’ve got.”
And Julian added: “Don’t get me crying over here.”
John Lennon at 80 from 9-10pm, Saturday 3 and Sunday 4 October, on BBC Radio 2 and BBC Sounds.
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