Few events in John Lennon’s brief life were as traumatic and painful than the death of his mother, Julia, when he was 17. Although Julia had abandoned John to be brought up by her sister, Mimi, the event proved important in cementing his close working partnership with Paul McCartney, whose mother had died from an embolism when he was 14.
The road accident that killed Julia -- with an off-duty policeman at the wheel -- confirmed Lennon in his distrust of anyone in authority. Lennon’s first son, Julian, is named after his mother. But most of all Julia’s death was a musical inspiration. Both his gentle ballad to his absent mother on the White Album (1968) -- “Half of what I say is meaningless,/ but I say it just to please you, Julia” -- and “Mother,” his anguished recollection of her death that opened his first single album, John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band (1970) -- “Mother, You had me. I never had you./ I wanted you but you didn't want me” -- prove pivotal in understanding the pain that lies just beneath the surface of a Lennon song. Julia was often at Mimi’s. Their original relationship had been rekindled since John began shuttling between them. Her visit on Tuesday, July 15 1958, had a purpose, though. The summer term at Liverpool College of Art had ended on Friday the 4th, three days after Julia’s lover Bobby Dykins lost his driving license and his job and had been fined the equivalent of about three weeks’ wages, cash they may not have had.
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