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John Lennon's Complicated Relationship with His First Wife Cynthia

Jaimie-lee Prince
Jul 12, 2020
04:30 P.M.
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Cynthia Lennon has been deemed as the glue that held The Beatles together in some circles. In others, she's a mere footnote in the life of the legend. In all cases, her and Lennon's relationship has been complicated.

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John Lennon's first wife Cynthia, is often overshadowed by his subsequent relationship with Yoko Ono. However, the pair's innocent love story, followed by their complicated lives together, is quite gripping.

Cynthia Lennon, nee Cynthia Powell, was born on September 10, 1939, in Blackpool. Her mother, Lillian, lived in Hoylake on the Wirral peninsula and was evacuated to Blackpool, where she welcomed her daughter.

John Lennon sits on the beach at Cannes, France on May 21, 1971 | Photo: Getty Images

John Lennon sits on the beach at Cannes, France on May 21, 1971 | Photo: Getty Images

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HOW THEY MET

Her father, Charles, was a traveling salesman for electrical items. He passed away from lung cancer in 1956. Cynthia would attend the Liverpool College of Art.

That's where she met Lennon in 1957. The two were in a calligraphy class. Cynthia was fresh off an engagement breakup from a Hoylake window-cleaner named Barry.

One day in class, everyone had gone off for lunch, and John and Cynthia remained in class. Cynthia recalled how John played "Ain't She Sweet." She looked over and thought, "That's for me."

John Lennon attends a press conference at Heathrow airport on April 2, 1969 | Photo: Getty Images

John Lennon attends a press conference at Heathrow airport on April 2, 1969 | Photo: Getty Images

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A ROCKY BEGINNING

The two later attended a party, and John asked her out. Despite being aware of his violent tendencies, Cynthia took him up on it. She would feel the effect when, one day, John hit her in the face.

They broke up for a while then got back together after three months. John was extremely apologetic. Still, he would display controlling, possessive traits throughout their relationship. And he was almost always angry.

Nonetheless, the Beatles rose to fame for their musical talents. In 1962, Cynthia, an illustrator, learned she was pregnant with the couple's first child. John insisted they get married as a result.

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John Lennon with first wife Cynthia Lennon at Heathrow Airport in London on November 2, 1966 | Photo: Getty Images

John Lennon with first wife Cynthia Lennon at Heathrow Airport in London on November 2, 1966 | Photo: Getty Images

HIDDEN IN PLAIN SIGHT

The pair had a marriage that appeared more like a funeral at Mount Pleasant registry office in Liverpool. Just then, Beatlemania — the year the band was the most popular on a global scale — took off.

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Cynthia was encouraged by the Beatles management to keep her marriage and pregnancy a secret. She would deny claims she was John's wife and stayed at John's Aunt Mimi's home for some time.

When they moved to London, she dealt with fans besieging the home at all hours. Eventually, the pair got a mansion in Surrey. Her husband's career, however, meant that he was rarely home.

John Lennon poses for a photo in New York circa 1973 | Photo: Getty Images

John Lennon poses for a photo in New York circa 1973 | Photo: Getty Images

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JOHN ADMITS TO INFIDELITY

Cynthia was left to raise their son, mostly on her own. In addition, John began to do an excessive amount of drugs. Cynthia mostly stayed away from touring until she didn't.

When she finally saw the environment her husband worked in, she became privy to the endless women that surrounded the band. They would throw themselves at the men.

Cynthia chose to ignore the implications of such circumstances for a long time — until it hit her in the face. When she traveled with the band to India in 1967, John was inspired to come clean after visiting Maharishi's ashram.

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On the flight back, he told his wife of the many instances of infidelity he'd engaged in. By that time, the Beatles were on the verge of dissolving. Playwright Mike Howl credits Cynthia for their successful years.

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BEING THROWN ASIDE

"I want to get across how important she was in John's life, and not just because of their son Julian," he said. "John used to write to her every single day while he was out in Hamburg, playing in the night clubs of the Reeperbahn."

He added: "Her friends told me they saw some of these letters. I do think that without Cynthia's love, John would have gone completely off the rails."

For reasons Cynthia would never understand, John sued for divorce by alleging that Cynthia cheated on him with Roberto Bassanini, a hotelier she met while on vacation in Italy.

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THE FINAL STRAW

One day, Cynthia returned home to find John sitting on the floor with artist Yoko Ono. She walked away from John for good after that. When Ono became pregnant, Cynthia countersued in court.

She received a settlement of $124,840 for herself and another $124,840 for her son, Julian's trust fund. The pair were officially divorced by 1968. In 1978, Cynthia wrote "A Twist of Lennon."

She wrote a more serious memoir called "John" in 2005. Cynthia remarried thrice after the first time. In 1970, she tied the knot with Bassanini, but they divorced three years later.

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CYNTHIA'S LIFE POST-LENNON

She remarried to John Twist in 1976 and divorced in 1983. She married again in 2002 to Noel Charles and remained with him until he died in 2013. Two years later, Cynthia died at 75 due to cancer.

As for John, he broke off from the band and took up more experimental sounds with his music, thanks to Ono's inspiration. Most of them fell flat with his fans. "Imagine," released in 1971, was a winner.

In 1980, the world was shocked when a man named Mark Chapman killed the icon. Chapman was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and is currently incarcerated.

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