Thursday, November 3, 2011
Choosing a Preschool: What to Consider
The moment has arrived. Your little baby has sprouted wings and is ready to leave the nest – at least for a few hours. Preschool looms on the horizon.
So how important is this? It turns out, very. Those crayons and pipe cleaners may look innocent enough, but how and where they're introduced can have long-reaching ramifications.
According to the U.S. Department of Education, preschool plays a large role in later academic success. "Children in high quality preschools display better language, cognitive, and social skills than children who attended low quality programs." They have longer attention spans, stronger social abilities, and better language and math skills well into their elementary school careers. In fact, 20 or 30 odd years after they've put down their wooden blocks and stepped away from the sand table, they're still reaping the benefits – they're more likely to graduate from high school, more likely to hold high paying jobs, even more likely to own their own house.
While most schools offer some amount of circle time and fingerpaint, they are not all the same. Here's how to sort through the preschool mumbo jumbo, and pick the right place for your child.
What to Consider
1.Credentials. Currently, only Georgia and Oklahoma offer free preschool to all the kids in their state. Most preschools are privately run. That means they make their own rules. Make sure the schools you are considering employ teachers that have earned early childhood education degrees. Ask if the school itself is accredited. For more information, go to www.naeyc.org, the website for the National Association for the Education of Young Children.
2.Hours. There's a difference between day care and preschool. Day care often offers more hours for kids of working parents, in a less scheduled environment. Preschool programs tend to be shorter, and more structured. Decide your needs and look for a program that correlates.
3.Discipline. We all hope to raise perfect angels, but let's get real – a major part of young development is testing boundaries. Ask how the school deals with behavior such as hitting or biting. Ask how they deal with conflict – do they believe children should work things out themselves? Do they believe in "time outs"? It's important that you agree with a school's disciplinary approach and trust their judgement – small children have a hard time with mixed messages.
4.Nutrition. One of the great things about preschool is that children are positively influenced by their peers – they may not touch fruit at home, but if everyone else is eating apples, they might be coerced to try them. Of course, they may also be negatively influenced. Does the school provide lunch and/or snacks or will you pack them from home? If they supply the goods, ask what they serve. Pretzels and cheese cubes, or cookies and milk? Don't choose a school with a teacher who loves to bake if you don't want your kids eating sweets. If your child has food allergies, make sure they can ensure their safety.
5.Look at the Art. A picture is worth a thousand words, so look at what's hanging on the walls. Does everything look the same? Is all the crayon within the lines? Some schools emphasize facts: "Trees are green." Others encourage imagination: "Interesting. I've never seen a baby growing on a tree before!"
6.Visiting. Does the school have an open door policy? Can parents visit at any time, or are there set days for observation?
7.Safety. How does the school ensure student safety? How do they keep track of pickups at the end of the day?
8.Philosophy. More brain development occurs in the first five years of life than at any point thereafter. Educators have different views and approaches, even as early as the preschool years. Some schools are completely "play based," others have kids as young as three or four tracing numbers and letters to prepare them for kindergarten. It all comes down to learning style.
Saturday, October 29, 2011
Advantages of Public Schools
When comparing homeschools, private schools, and public schools, it is important to look at the pros and cons of all of them. This article reviews the advantages of public schools compared to private schools or homeschools.
When talking about the advantages of private schools, it is important to know what the public schools are being compared to. In this article, we will look at the advantages of public schools compared to homeschools and private schools, both sectarian and secular. Of course, it is possible to also look at things the other way and consider the advantages of homeschools or private schools.
Advantages of Public Schools Compared to Homeschools
•Public schools generally have a range of children from the whole gamut of socioeconomic classes and a wide variety of backgrounds. This is the type of community that most people occupy as adults, and public school is an opportunity to meet it and learn to negotiate with other points of view an understand people with diverse backgrounds and values.
•Public schools generally have students with a range of abilities and disabilities. As with ethnic, cultural, and socioeconomic backgrounds, the diversity introduces students to the communication issues and interpersonal issues that rubbing elbows with people who are different from oneself provides.
•The number of students in a public school classroom provides opportunities that don’t exist in most homeschools, from large-cale projects to team sports.
•The number of students and funding allows public schools to have facilities (such as a skating rink or pool) and/or purchase equipment, such as laboratory equipment and technology that would be prohibitive for most homesechool families.
•The number of students and funding often allows public schools, particularly at the high school level, to offer an array of advanced classes in the arts, technology studies, and the sciences, any and all of which might be difficult to conduct for homeschooling parents who do not happen to have specialized training.
•Public schools expose students to a variety of teachers: even in situations with one main classroom teacher, students may have additional instructors for foreign language, home economics, shop, physical education, drama, music, art, etc. This gives them an opportunity to learn with diverse pedagogies.
•Public schools often offer a wide variety of extracurricular activities, ranging from intramural sports to a range of clubs and other opportunities.
Advantages of Public Schools Compared to Private Schools
•Public schools don’t charge tuition, while private schools do. Even scholarships an other aid may not cover the difference.
•Public schools usually provide transportation for students who live more than a few blocks away, whereas private schools usually do not.
•With ninety percent of all American children in public school, public education is a uniting element and can be seen as an important factor in our democratic way of life.
•Because public school education now includes magnet schools and charter schools, as well as traditional public schools, there are - right within the public education system - choices that have many of the features of education that used only to be attainable in private schools.
•As a result of receiving Federal funds, public schools must follow strict teacher certification rules, which do not apply in many private schools. As a result, public school teachers may, in some cases, be better qualified than private school teachers.
•Researchers at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana found, when examining data from a standardized math exam taken by fourth and eighth graders, that if they excluded the influence of family background and socioeconomic factors, public school students did slightly better than private school students.
•Public schools often have more robust services than generalist private schools (i.e., those that are not focused on a specialty population with a particular disability) for assisting students with disabilities, both in terms of staff and funding.
•Pay for public school teachers is overall better than pay for private school teachers, though this differs by school.
Thursday, October 27, 2011
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Deals For Deeds
Tuesday, October 25, 2011
We get this question a lot!
Is it OK to switch instruments after they have been taking another for 6 months to 18 months?
The answer - of course! It all depends on what your goal and expectations are how you look at this. Is your overall goal that of musical enjoyment? Then the exploration of more than one instrument is completely understandable. Many times parents and the students themselves sometimes, place unrealistic expectations upon themselves as to where they should be and at what time, what the lessons "should be like" or how they "should go". These are usually based on minimal information and a lot of what they have created in their heads. Lessons should be enjoyable and can take many forms. The days of the piano teacher slapping your wrists when you make a mistake are gone. Here are the days of the modern music educator which teaches to the strengths and desires of each individual student.
Often, when choosing an instrument for their child to start, accessibility to an instrument plays a larger part than possibly necessary sometimes. Specifically, siblings want to differentiate themselves from their peers so it is very common after all 4 children have been playing piano for 6 months there are a few defectors saying, "...I want to try drums...I want to try guitar...etc." What they are really saying is I want to be different from my brother's a sister's and have my "own thing". Not that the cost factor of already having a piano sitting in the living room, or Uncle Joey's Guitar in the closet isn't important, etc. but it may not be the proper fit for each child in the family and may not be, in the case of the guitar, the proper size even.
When it comes to music education, be flexible. The student should be enjoying themselves in the lessons and if that takes exploration of a secondary instrument so they can find their "voice" than explore on!
The Music Momma
Thursday, October 20, 2011
By Paul Zollo
From "Portrait - The Music of Dan Fogelberg from 1972-1997" (4 CD box set)
It's one of his earliest memories: He's four years old, standing up on a box in front of his father's big band, baton in hand, conducting. Though his dad stood behind him, doing the real work, for Dan it was a foreshadowing of what his life would be -- following in his father's footsteps to become the leader of the band. "It was an amazing feeling," he declared decades later during a series of discussions for these notes. "To be immersed in music. It felt both very magical and powerful. And I was fearless."
That fearlessness has led him far, as he developed into one of popular music's most gifted and successful singer-songwriters. With an early genius for both melody and harmony, a soulfully angelic singing voice, and a natural gift for romantic expression, Dan Fogelberg has created songs that have become so embedded in our collective consciousness that they still resound with authentic magic and beauty years after they first emerged.
I was raised by a river
Weaned upon the sky
And in the mirror of the waters
I saw myself learn to cry
from The River
His story starts in Illinois. In Peoria, specifically, a little town that in the words of Charles Kurault, is in the middle of the state, in the middle of the country, in the middle of the world. Born the youngest of three sons, he was raised in a musical home. His father, Lawrence Fogelberg, was a "legitimate musician" as Dan refers to him, a bandleader who led the big bands long before Dan was born. His mother, Margaret Irvine, was born in Scotland and came to Illinois with her parents at the age of three. A gifted singer, she studied operatic singing throughout college, and it's she who Dan points to as the source of his innate vocal prowess.
Daniel Grayling Fogelberg was born in Peoria on August 13, 1951. His father taught music in local high schools and colleges, gave private lessons, and conducted school bands. Dan's early creativity surfaced in imaginative ways to avoid piano practice. " I used to fake injuries," he said proudly, "even taping up my finger and saying I jammed it playing baseball. But it wasn't a trick you could use a lot." Though he didn't like lessons, he loved the instrument itself, and would spend endless happy hours at the keys, sounding out the hits of the day.
In church, he loved the music but grew restless during the sermons. To keep him occupied, his folks provided pen and paper, thus fueling his love for drawing and painting that has extended throughout his life. He was a constructive kid quick to create his own fun -- At a cub scout jamboree where boys hurled baseballs at old records as a kind of carnival sport, he collected all the unbroken ones, a great bounty of old obscure fifties pop and college fight songs.
His maternal grandfather, a steelworker from Scotland who worked at a foundry in Peoria, gave him an old Hawaiian slide guitar. It had pictures of dancing hula girls engraved on it, as well as steel strings about a half-inch from the neck, tough for anyone, but nearly impossible for an eleven year old beginner. Yet he took to it naturally, forcing him to acquire a strong left hand as he taught himself chords from his Mel Bay guitar book.
In 1963, he heard the Beatles for the first time, triggering the realization that songs are written, they don't simply just exist. He started writing his own then, entirely in the Beatles' pervasive thrall, while also assimilating the rock and roll riffs of Chuck Berry and Carl Perkins, as well as the delicate melodic leads of George Harrison. He started performing by lip-synching with friends to Beatles records at a variety show before forming his first real band, the Clan, who played all Beatles songs at backyard parties and street dances. Their reign extended through Dan's junior year in high school, when the others fell away from music to get involved in the social matrix of school. While their connection with music diminished, his became more intense than ever, as did his need to express himself in other ways, from drawing and painting to acting.
By now the music that inspired him the most was the West Coast rock of bands such as the Byrds and the Buffalo Springfield, as well as the contemporary folk of Paul Simon, Joni Mitchell and Gordon Lightfoot. Having abandoned the matching black velour pullovers favored by the Clan, his attire now included moccasins, fringe and silver in the style of Neil Young. When he joined a new band, the Coachmen, he did so only on the condition that they abandon the Paul Revere & the Raiders outfits they still wore. He was a valuable asset to the group, bringing his repertoire of folk-rock to their mix of R & B and soul standards, as well as possessing a great ear, a miraculous voice, and like his father, an impressive versatility on a variety of instruments. "We would be doing 'Bluebird' by Stephen Stills," he remembered, "and I'd play 12-string for the whole song until the end and then launch into banjo. Pretty adventurous for kids from Illinois."
These were his river years, as he withdrew daily to a sacred spot between two ancient pines overlooking the Illinois River. "I was not feeling like a part of Peoria anymore. I was off in my own trip, deep inside myself. At the same time, I was terribly excited because I was discovering this whole person I never knew could exist, and this music and this creativity. It was an incredible awakening, the beginning of a great journey. And I knew the river was a conscious metaphor for my escape from Peoria. I was just waiting to leap on its back and ride it, down to St. Louis and New Orleans and out to the Gulf and on to the world." A Leo with Cancer rising, he understood even then the opposing astrological forces at work that left him feeling conflicted -- the extroverted entertainer who exists to perform, and the introverted artist who requires solitude.
After graduation, he felt he could have gone in many directions, and eventually decided to pursue acting at the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana. Finding the college acting scene to be more political than theatrical, he switched majors to study art, with aspirations of becoming a serious painter.
Yet music kept calling, this time in the form of a kindred soul, musician Peter Berkow, who ran a little folk music club called The Red Herring. Berkow invited him to perform, and before long Fogelberg was a cherished part of the burgeoning coffee house scene. "I started meeting like-minded people, musicians who were bright and well read, and I realized that I was finally free of the provincialism of high school." He started playing his own songs, and the spirit of the scene shifted from politics to music: "The Red Herring went from being a hide-out for pinko leftists who were plotting the overthrow of the government to a really creative musical scene. And it started packing people in."
Anyone back then who heard the sophistication of his songs, and the power with which they were rendered, knew that it was only a matter of time before his break would come. That break arrived late one night when a former high school sweetheart knocked on his door, urgently awakening him from a sound sleep to say that an important music agent wanted to hear him play. Though half-asleep, Dan followed her to a frat party at a funky little bar to meet Irving Azoff, a U. of I. grad now running a local booking agency. Azoff, who had already landed the regional band REO Speedwagon a record deal with Epic, was on the look-out for new artists. Onstage was a raucous rock band playing to a mostly drunken crowd, their songs punctuated by the rhythm of beer bottles crashing against the back wall. Azoff ignored the clamor which continued when Dan took the stage alone. Though the bar brawls failed to subside, in the soulful beauty of Fogelberg's songs, Azoff saw his own future. "Yeah," Irving said to him after his set. "You're the one. I'm ready for the big time. And I think you're ready for the big time, too."
Dan dropped out of school. Shocking his parents by showing up at home at midday in mid-semester, he told them his plans. His father, silent for a long time, finally said quietly, "Okay, I don't agree with this, but if this is really what you want, you go try it for a year. If it doesn't work out, you come back and go back to school." This support was the greatest gift his father could give him, inspiring Dan years later to write "Thank you for the freedom when it came my time to go" in his famous tribute to his father, "Leader Of The Band".
Azoff moved to Hollywood, setting up an office on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood directly across the street from David Geffen, who was in the first stages of establishing his own Asylum Records, and signing singer-songwriters such as Jackson Browne and Joni Mitchell.
Receiving $200 in traveling money from Irving, Dan rented a pickup truck in Chicago, and headed west. Running out of money in Estes Park, Colorado, he found what he felt was the most stunning place in the world. Remaining happily stranded there for a week, he befriended a local hotel owner who gave him free lodging. He spent his days hiking in the mountains, and writing such songs as the beautiful "Song From Half Mountain". Azoff soon wired him enough money to move on, but he never forgot the spirit of pure inspiration he felt in those mountains, touching him as deeply as his connection with the Illinois River.
Arriving in L.A., a few days later, Dan headed directly to Sunset Boulevard to meet Azoff in front of the famous Whiskey-A-Go-Go, where his idols from Buffalo Springfield first met. Azoff drove him to a little San Fernando Valley apartment dubbed "The Alley in the Valley" because of its alley entrance. They lived there together for months as Azoff shopped his tape around town. As Dan recalled, "Irving would come home one day and say 'Okay, the deal's done -- we're signing with Asylum!' Then three days later he'd come back and say, 'It's A & M. I got a better deal.' This went on for months. Then he'd come home and say, 'No, it's Capitol!" They eventually signed with Columbia Records, persuaded by Clive Davis in a Hollywood ritual held at a bungalow at the Beverly Hills Hotel: "Clive had everything laid out --caviar, canapés, the whole deal. He played me Paul Simon's first solo record, which had yet to come out, and kept talking about a kid named Springsteen and a guy named Billy Joel who he had signed. Clive said, 'I'm signing singer-songwriters, and I think you belong here too.' He talked us into it, gave us a nice check and we signed with Columbia." It was 1971.
With his career now soundly on track, Dan got his first advance check and moved to Lookout Mountain, in the heart of Laurel Canyon, where his neighbors included the Eagles, and Mark Volman of the Turtles. He lived there for a year and a half, during which time the sunny inspiration that had touched so many of his fellow canyon dwellers began to bring forth a torrent of beautiful new songs in him. He rented a grand piano and entranced nearby neighbors, such a famed photographer Henry Diltz, who heard Dan playing til dawn. " I remember hearing this incredibly beautiful music echoing through the trees," Henry recalled, "and I said to my wife, 'Who is this guy?'" They all soon became fast friends, with Henry taking famous portraits of Dan for many of his album covers.
Now it was time to record his debut album, and Azoff went off in search of the perfect producer for the project. They found him in Nashville. Norbert Putnam was the force behind Area Code 615, a group Dan loved. With Azoff, Dan flew to Nashville to meet Norbert, and instantly fell in love with the town itself: its green trees, lakes and river, and what was then a peaceful laid-back music community, worlds away from the showbiz glitz of Hollywood.
It was one of the happiest times in his life. Norbert found him a place to stay in town "up in the trees," and the future looked bright. Thanks to Norbert, he got a profusion of session work as a guitarist and singer, perfection then the dazzling studio chops which he's brought to all his albums since. "I was only 21 years old and I was part of the band, these maniacs who were amazingly good players. These guys were much better than me, and they pulled me up to their level." Often working from nine a.m. to midnight, four sessions a day, he acquired a fast and comprehensive foundation in the art of record making. "I learned that it's not what you play, it's what you don't play. That has formed the core of my guitar playing ever since. It's melodic, it's sparse."
The recording of Home Free for him was an easy, non-pressurized time. He and Norbert met every day at the studio, cut all the tracks live, and overdubbed the vocals. "It was great fun. There was no pressure. It wasn't New York or L.A." The resulting album was stunningly beautiful, opening with the now classic "To The Morning", a paean to nature that still stands as one of the most timelessly inspirational songs ever written. The album immediately established that he was not only a master tunesmith, but also a purveyor of harmonies so sweetly conveyed that they seemed miraculous, a soulful blend of perfectly tuned, heartfelt vocal harmonies.
Despite its abundant appeal, Home Free failed to generate any hit singles, a setback that Clive attributed to Norbert's Nashville production job, which he deemed "too country" for Dan's music. So for the next album, Joe Walsh, the hard-rocking guitar slinger from the James Gang, was enlisted. Though feeling initially that Walsh was the wrong man for the job, Dan was eventually convinced when he heard a solo album Walsh had recently recorded at Caribou Ranch in Colorado with members of Stephen Stills' band Manassas.
Dan came to Walsh with a handful of songs he'd written in Los Angeles, as well as a new one that emerged in Nashville called "Part Of The Plan". To choose players for the album, Walsh told him to write down a wish list of dream musicians. The first name he wrote down was that of the legendary Russ Kunkel, whose drumming he'd heard on James Taylor's records. When Walsh quickly enlisted Kunkel as well as other luminaries including percussionist Joe Lala, bassist Kenny Passarelli, the Eagles' Don Henley, Glenn Frey and Randy Meisner, and Graham Nash, Dan knew he'd arrived.
The making of Souvenirs in Hollywood was unrestrained fun as the spirit of sunny California combined with Dan's natural Leo radiance left him feeling fearless. In the studio he always felt at home, rising easily to the level of the L.A. studio cats as he did with the pickers in Nashville. Even when Walsh was on the road, Dan continued to craft the record, adding the guitar solo on "Part Of The Plan" on his own. When Joe heard what Dan had done, he loved it, and quickly convinced Graham Nash to drive over and sing harmonies. The resulting record went to the top of the charts. "That broke the whole thing open. In an instant I went from being an opening act to being a headliner." Souvenirs, with Walsh at the helm, radiated with Dan's melodic brilliance as well as proving, on burning tracks like "As The Raven Flies", that the man also knows how to rock.
Tuesday, October 18, 2011
Music Education Improves Academic Performance
Music educators have always believed that a child’s cognitive, motivational, and communication skills are more highly developed when exposed to music training. Now, study after study proves that music instruction is essential to children’s overall education because it improves their academic performance. The positive effects of music education are finally being recognized by science, verifying what music teachers have always suspected.
Music enters the brain through the ears. Pitch, melody, and intensity of notes are processed in several areas of the brain such as the cerebral cortex, the brain stem, and the frontal lobes. Both the right-brain and left-brain auditory cortex interprets sound. Feza Sancar (1999) writes that the right-brain auditory cortex specializes in determining hierarchies of harmonic relations and rich overtones and the left-brain auditory cortex deciphers the sequencing of sound and perception of rhythm.
Many studies have been performed to examine the affect of musical instruction on the brain. For example, researchers at the University of Munster, Germany, (1998) reported that music lessons in childhood actually enlarge the brain. The auditory cortex is enlarged by 25% in musicians compared to those who have never played an instrument. According to the study by Frances Rauscher of the University of California, Irvine, (1997) links between neurons in the brain are strengthened with music lessons. Dr. Frank Wilson’s study (1989) involving instrumental music instruction and the brain reveal that learning to play an instrument refines the development of the brain and the entire neurological system.
Curriculum areas that music instruction affects most include language development, reading, mathematics, and science. Music itself is a kind of language full of patterns that can be used to form notes, chords, and rhythms. Exposure to music helps a child analyze the harmonic vowel sounds of language as well as sequence words and ideas. Another curriculum area enhanced by music participation is reading. A child who participates in music activities experiences sensory integration, a crucial factor in reading readiness. Wilson’s study (1989) reveals that music instruction enhances a student’s ability to perform skills necessary for reading including listening, anticipating, forecasting, memory training, recall skills, and concentration techniques.
Mathematics is the academic subject most closely connected with music. Music helps students count, recognize geometric shapes, understand ratios and proportions, and the frameworks of time. Researcher Gordon Shaw (1993) found that piano instruction enhances the brain’s ability for spatial-temporal reasoning, or the ability to visualize and transform objects in space and time. This translates into a student’s heightened ability to understand fractions, geometric puzzles, math problems, and math puzzles. T. Armstrong (1988) reports that music educator, Grace Nash, found that by incorporating music into her math lessons, her students were able to learn multiplication tables and math formulas more easily. Teacher Eli Moar (1999) believes that arithmetic progressions in music correspond to geometric progressions in mathematics and that the relation between the two subjects is logarithmic.
At every age, exposure to music training effects academic performance. Susan Black (1997) reports that newborn babies have mechanisms in their brains devoted exclusively to music. These mechanisms help the newborns organize and develop their brains. Rauscher’s study (1997) indicates that just fifteen minutes a week of keyboard instruction, along with group singing, dramatically improved the kind of intelligence that is needed for pre-school students to understand higher levels of math and science. Her test results showed a 46% improvement in the spatial IQs for the young musician compared to only 6% for non-musicians.
Grade school music students also show increased learning in math and reading. The Public Schools of Albuquerque, NM, conducted a study (n.d.) which found that instrumental music students, with two or more years of study, scored significantly higher in the California Test of Basic Skills, (CTBS), than did non-music students. High school students also achieve greater academic excellence when exposed to music training. A study by Mission Veijo High School in Southern California (1981) shows that the overall grade point average of music students is consistently higher than the grade point average of their non-music peers. The music students achieved a 3.59 average while the non-music students achieved a lower 2.91 average.
Almost every college bound high school student must take the SAT college entrance exam. The College Entrance Examination Board at Princeton, NJ, (1999) reports that music students continue to out perform their non-arts peers on the SAT. The students with coursework in music study or music appreciation scored 61 points higher on the verbal portion of the test and 42 points higher on the math portion than students with no reported music coursework. Additionally, music majors have the highest SAT scores in all areas.
High SAT scores are necessary for acceptance into college, but according to Nancy Biernat’s study (1989), those scores do not necessarily predict collegiate success. Success in college can be more accurately predicted by individual levels of achievement in student activities such as drama, debate, and music. Also, the students with the least amount of participation in school activities such as music have the highest drop out rates.
The scientific evidence is abundant, obvious, and compelling; there are strong connections between music instruction and greater student achievement. Regardless of age, exposure to music helps to develop and fine-tune the workings of the brain. Music training, whether instrumental, vocal, or music appreciation, helps develop a child’s cognitive and communication skills. Music education is linked to higher test scores, grade point averages, and success in college. Franz Roehman (1988) tells of one researcher, Dr. Jean Houston, who goes so far as to say that children without access to arts programs, such as music education, are actually damaging their brains. After reviewing the scientific evidence, it is clear that music instruction is essential to children’s education because it improves their academic performance.
Monday, October 10, 2011
John Lennon biography
Pop star, composer, and songwriter John Lennon was born October 9, 1940, in Liverpool, England. Lennon met McCartney in 1957 and invited Paul to join his music group. They eventually formed the most successful songwriting partnership in musical history. Lennon left The Beatles in 1969 and later released albums with his wife Yoko Ono, and others. In 1980 he was killed by a crazed fan.
"The thing the sixties did was to show us the possibilities and the responsibility that we all had. It wasn’t the answer. It just gave us a glimpse of the possibility."
– John Lennon
Pop star, composer, songwriter, and recording artist. John Winston Lennon was born October 9, 1940, in Liverpool, Merseyside, NW England, UK, during a German air raid in World War II.
When he was four years old, Lennon's parents separated and he ended up living with his Aunt Mimi. John's father was a merchant seaman. He was not present at his son's birth and did not see a lot of his son when he was small.
Lennon's mother, Julia, remarried, but visited John and Mimi regularly. She taught John how to play the banjo and the piano and purchased his first guitar. John was devastated when Julia was fatally struck by a car driven by an off-duty police officer in July 1958. Her death was one of the most traumatic events in his life.
As a child, John was a prankster and he enjoyed getting in trouble. As a boy and young adult, John enjoyed drawing grotesque figures and cripples. John's school master thought that he could go to an art school for college, since he did not get good grades in school, but had artistic talent.
Forming the Beatles
At sixteen, Elvis Presley's explosion onto the rock music scene inspired John to create the skiffle band called the "Quarry Men," named after his school. Lennon met Paul McCartney at a church fete on July 6, 1957. John soon invited Paul to join the group and they eventually formed the most successful songwriting partnership in musical history.
McCartney introduced George Harrison to Lennon the following year and he and art college buddy Stuart Sutcliffe also joined Lennon's band. Always in need of a drummer, the group finally settled on Pete Best in 1960.
The first recording they made was Buddy Holly's That'll be the Day in mid-1958. In fact, it was Holly's group, the Crickets, that inspired the band to change its name. John would later joke that he had a vision when he was 12 years old—a man appeared on a flaming pie and said unto them "from this day on you are Beatles with an 'A.'"
The Beatles were discovered by Brian Epstein in 1961 at the Cavern Club, where they were performing on a regular basis. As their new manager, Epstein secured a record contract with EMI. With a new drummer, Ringo Starr (Richard Starkey), and George Martin as producer, the group released their first single, Love Me Do in October 1962. It peaked on the British charts at number 17.
Lennon wrote the group's follow-up single, Please Please Me, inspired primarily by Roy Orbison but also fed by John's infatuation with the pun in Bing Crosby's famous "Please, lend your little ears to my please." The song topped the charts in Britain. The Beatles went on to become the most popular band in Britain with the release mega-hits like She Loves You and I Want To Hold Your Hand.
In 1964, The Beatles became the first band to break out big in the United States, beginning with their appearance on TV's The Ed Sullivan Show on February 9, 1964. Beatlemania launched a "British Invasion"' of rock bands into the U.S., which included The Rolling Stones and The Kinks. After 'Sullivan,' The Beatles returned to Britain to film their first movie, A Hard Day's Night and prepare for their first world tour.
The Beatles followed up with their second movie Help! in 1965. In June, the Queen of England had announced that the Beatles would be awarded the MBE (Member of the Order of the British Empire). In August, they performed to 55,600 fans at New York's Shea Stadium, setting a record for largest concert audience. When they returned to England, they recorded the breakthrough album Rubber Soul, which extended beyond love songs and pop formulas.
The magic of Beatlemania had started to lose its appeal by 1966. The group's lives were put in danger when they were accused of snubbing the presidential family in the Philippines. Then, Lennon's remark that "we're more popular than Jesus now" incited denunciations and Beatles record bonfires in the U.S. bible belt. The Beatles gave up touring after an August 29, 1966, concert at San Francisco's Candlestick Park.
After an extended break, the band returned to the studio to expand their experimental with drug-influenced exotic instrumentation/lyrics and tape abstractions. The first sample was the single Penny Lane/Strawberry Fields Forever, followed up by Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, still considered by many to be the greatest rock album ever.
The Band Breaks Up
The Beatles then suffered a huge blow when Epstein died of an accidental overdose of sleeping pills on August 27, 1967. Shaken by Epstein's death, the Beatles retrenched under McCartney's leadership in the fall and filmed Magical Mystery Tour. While the film was panned by critics, the soundtrack album contained Lennon's I Am The Walrus, their most cryptic work yet.
After the Magical Mystery Tour film failed, the Beatles retreated into Transcendental Meditation and the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, which took them to India for two months in early 1968. Their next effort, Apple Corps Ltd. was plagued by mismanagement. In July, the group faced its last hysterical crowds at the premiere of their film Yellow Submarine. In November, their double-album The Beatles (frequently called the White Album) showed their divergent directions.
Lennon had married Cynthia Powell in August 1962 and they had a son together who they called Julian, named after John's mother. Cynthia had to keep a very low profile during Beatlemania. They divorced in 1968 and he re-married Japanese avant-garde artist Yoko Ono, whom he had met at the Indica Gallery in November 1966.
John and Yoko's artist partnership began to cause further tensions within the group. Together they invented a form of peace protest by staying in bed while being filmed and interviewed, and the single recorded under the name of The Plastic Ono Band, Give Peace a Chance (1969), became the national anthem for pacifists.
Lennon left The Beatles in September 1969, just after the group completed recording Abbey Road. The news of the breakup was kept secret until McCartney announced his departure in April 1970, a month before the band released Let It Be, recorded just before Abbey Road.
After the Beatles broke up, Lennon released Plastic Ono Band, with a raw, minimalist sound that followed "primal-scream" therapy. In 1971, he followed up with Imagine, the most commercially successful and critically acclaimed of all John Lennon's post-Beatles efforts. The title track was later listed as the third all-time best song by Rolling Stone magazine.
Peace and love, however, was not always on Lennon's agenda. Imagine also included the track How Do You Sleep?, a nasty response to veiled messages at Lennon in some of McCartney's solo recordings. Later, the former songwriting duo buried the hatchet, but never formally worked together again.
Lennon and Ono moved to the U.S. in September 1971, but were constantly threatened with deportation by the Nixon administration. Lennon was told he was being kicked out of the country because of his 1968 marijuana conviction in Britain. But Lennon believed the true reason was his activism against the unpopular Vietnam War. Documents later proved him correct. Two years after Nixon resigned, Lennon was granted permanent U.S. residency in 1976.
In 1972, Lennon performed at Madison Square Garden to benefit mentally handicapped children and continued to promote peace while battling to stay in the U.S. That immigration battle took a toll on the Lennon's marriage and in the fall of 1973, they separated. John went to Los Angeles, where he partied and took a mistress, May Pang. He still managed to release hit albums, such as Mind Games, Walls and Bridges and Rock and Roll and collaborate with David Bowie and Elton John.
In the end, Lennon realized he really loved Yoko and he could not live without her. They reconciled and she gave birth to their only child, Sean, on Lennon's 35th birthday. John decided to leave the music business to raise his son