Peace was said to have broken out in the extended Lennon family last year. After a lifetime scarred by a bitter feud with his stepmother Yoko Ono, Julian Lennon arranged a most unlikely reunion.
Not only was his mother, Cynthia Lennon, in attendance at Julian’s first photographic show at a New York gallery, but he was also publicly reconciled with Yoko and her son — his half-brother — Sean Lennon.
In an accompanying television interview, he insisted that, while he still believed Yoko to be ‘manipulative’, he was determined to be friends with her for the sake of her son.
‘The key point is Sean,’ he said. ‘I don’t want to hurt him.’
It had taken Julian a lifetime of therapy to get to this point.
And yet, earlier this week, his calm attitude appeared to come crashing down.
After a series of perceived snubs, Julian wrote on his Facebook page: ‘Wow . . . Snubbed at Macca’s Wedding, Snubbed at the Anniversary of ‘LOVE’ in Vegas! (A Beatles Cirque de Soleil-themed show) Snubbed at Macca’s wedding reception in NYC, last night Snubbed at George Harrison’s Film Premiere . . . What have I done to be ignored in such a way? I was not invited to ANY of these events . . . I thought WE had a relationship . . . Obviously not . . . Gimme some truth . . . Maybe now it’s time to tell the Truth . . . I & My Mother will NOT be eradicated from History . . . How dare they.’
Yoko was present at almost all the events while Sean, 36, was at two of them; Sir Paul’s New York wedding reception and the Love anniversary.
George Harrison’s widow, Olivia, and their son Dhani attended the London premiere of the documentary about Harrison’s life and the London wedding reception; as did Ringo Starr and his wife Barbara Bach.
Sources close to Paul McCartney claim Julian’s lack of invitation to his two wedding parties was an ‘oversight’ — for, certainly, McCartney has always been closer to Julian than his own father was.
‘Julian is regarded as part of the family, but everyone just assumed he was in Italy (where Julian lives),’ insisted a McCartney source.
As for Beatles activities, such as the Love anniversary in Vegas, they were organised by the Beatles’ holding company Apple — and Yoko, who Julian once accused of wanting to ‘deny Dad’s English family’, serves as the sole Lennon representative for it.
But it is little wonder that John’s Lennon’s 48-year-old oldest son sees darker forces behind the snub.
The truth is, Julian has fought to be part of the Beatles story since his birth in 1963.
He and his mother were the band’s dirty little secret; manager Brian Epstein was so determined to make the foursome appear single and available that — even as reporters knocked on the door of Liverpool home where Julian was being nursed by Cynthia — he ordered flunkies to deny their existence.
Once the story was out, Julian remained out of sight; his father was either on tour or carousing with other women.
And when Yoko Ono came onto the scene in 1967, precipitating the break-up of his parents’ marriage when Julian was just five, he was firmly ousted from his father’s life. They didn’t see one another for months, even years, at a time.
Ever since, Julian has been fighting to be acknowledged. He is asked about his father wherever he goes and his own musical talent — he is a songwriter, guitarist and singer — has been overshadowed by the awe in which John is held.
Little wonder he occasionally struggles to maintain his composure: ‘I have a short temper. However, getting angry, negative and aggressive; it does no good. Dad used to shout in your face and scream. I recognised traits I had that were the same as his, so I stopped.’
Or, at least, he’s attempting to improve his temper. Shortly after venting his fury on the internet this week, he took the message off Facebook and replaced it with another, which said: ‘Rising above . . . Always have, Always will . . . And better for it . . . I Luv you Mum . . . Thank You.’
Cynthia, who married three times after John but kept the Lennon name as it helped her find work as an artist, has had to pick up the pieces.
Even before he left Liverpool for New York with Yoko in 1968, John was never much of a father. It took him three days to meet his son and then he immediately went back on tour. Often, postcards were his only communication for weeks on end.
Paul McCartney felt so sorry for the young boy that he wrote Hey Jude to cheer him up soon after Cynthia and John divorced.
From then on, despite the millions John was making, he kept Cynthia and Julian on a financially-tight leash — they got an allowance of £2,400 a year in maintenance until his death.
Things got worse when John was murdered and Julian was just 17.
For Julian wasn’t named in John’s will and it took him 16 years — and the threat of a prolonged court case — to persuade Yoko to hand over any of the Beatles’s millions.
So, while Sean and Yoko enjoy an inheritance of £200 million, Julian is believed to have received £20 million in 1996.
But he has always said the thing that hurt most was Yoko did not allow him to keep any of his father’s possessions. He has since bought back items from auction houses, including the postcards his father sent him from around the world.
‘The irony isn’t lost on me that I am using his money to buy back his things,’ he said, when he exhibited some of the memorabilia he collected.
‘The postcards meant the most to me, as they showed he was thinking about me when he wasn’t around.’
Julian has even admitted the way his father treated him made him decide against becoming a dad.
‘The reason I decided not to have kids in the past was because I didn’t want to fall into the same pattern.’
He would like to have children now, but while he has been engaged twice — to socialite Lucy Bayliss and actress Olivia d’Abo — he has never married and is currently single.
Home is a small house near Lake Como in Italy, which he once dreamed he would share with a wife and family.
Although he has lived in many places — Wales, Majorca, Monte Carlo, and New York — Italy has always felt most like home, as it was where he would spend summers with the only man who ever acted like a father, his mother’s second husband, restaurateur Roberto Bassanini.
One former friend says he wonders whether Julian will ever find happiness.
‘He loves his mum, but that is the only relationship he has ever had that sticks,’ says the friend.
‘He can never relax and open up; he thinks everyone’s out to use him because his dad was John Lennon the legend.
One of the few people who can understand him is his half-brother, Sean.
The son of Yoko Ono and John, Sean had everything Julian didn’t.
John announced he was retiring from the music industry while Yoko was pregnant with Sean, quitting work to look after his ‘beautiful boy’. Sean, subsequently, grew up in a New York apartment worth millions.
‘Sean had it all,’ Julian later recalled. ‘And I just thought: “Hmmm, I see. I see where the love’s going with this.” And there are Mum and I scraping by.’
Yet, just as John deserted Julian when he was five years old, Sean was also just five when the Beatle was brutally shot down by Mark Chapman.
And, despite their mutual animosity, Yoko turned to Julian to help Sean in the aftermath. She did not know how to tell him his father had died and asked for his advice.
She encouraged a friendship of sorts between the two; just as John had given Julian his first guitar, Julian bought one for Sean and taught him how to play it.
There was a brief time in the Nineties when the two did not talk, mainly because of the ongoing court case over Julian’s financial settlement.
But Julian forged some kind of private reconciliation in 2007 when he turned up unannounced on his brother’s tour of Eastern Europe and ended up staying for two weeks.
Some of the photographs he took on that tour formed the centrepieces of his New York exhibition, which both his mother and his stepmother attended last September.
Although he has been seen with Yoko and Sean before at Beatles events (usually scowling from separate sides of the room), it was the first time they have appeared to be supportive of him.
As Julian launched the show, he announced he was finally comfortable with himself.
‘I have turned everything around,’ he said. ‘I am starting to have a winning streak.’
To that end, last month he brought out his first album in 13 years. He had some success as a solo musician in the late Eighties, but quit the music business when, immediately after writing one album, his record label demanded another.
The latest album, perhaps aptly titled Everything Changes, has garnered some positive reviews — although it’s failed to make it into the top 20 in Britain. He is still hoping to release it in America next month.
‘Julian is a perfectionist and that is partly because he wants to live up to his father’s talent,’ says a record source who has worked with Julian.
‘Although he constantly talks about what a terrible father John was, Julian is still the archetypal child who was deprived of his father’s love and still wants to win his approval.’
Tellingly, he often carries a white feather in memory of his father and he has named his charity — which funds everything from environmental projects to spiritual healers in London cancer wards — The White Feather Foundation.
It’s a habit that stems from a rather eccentric story his father once told him; that when John died he would return to Julian as a white feather.
‘I realise that hate wastes a lot of time and energy and I would rather re-direct any energy I have to good and positive use,’ he insisted when he launched his charity.
‘It’s a connection. It’s a bloodline. It’s a love line — you can’t just ignore that.’
And who can blame him for still desperately wanting that bloodline to be acknowledged — after all the pain it has caused him?Last Updated: 11/05/11 10:01