The Beatles‘ legacy has not faltered in the 50 years since their split, with their cultural impact continuing to grow long after the break up. Ten years after the band parted ways in 1970, John Lennon was murdered by Mark David Chapman in New York. This October the singer-songwriter would have been celebrating his 80th birthday alongside his wife Yoko Ono and his two sons Sean and Julian – and to commemorate the star, Paul McCartney and Sean caught up to reminisce about his life.
The pair chatted on Radio 2 over the weekend, prompting Sean to ask about John’s feelings over not being a professionally trained musician.
He said: “I always got the impression that dad felt, and it may be expressed in different ways over the years, that somehow he wasn’t officially a true musician or something and that everyone else was.
“I mean, was there that kind of feeling that he thought, you know, ‘I’m not a real musician’?”
But John wasn’t alone in that feeling, Paul said, adding everyone in The Beatles during the early days had a similar level of experience with music.
Paul explained: “I don’t think any of us were [musicians], tell you the truth. And I think that was a very good, strong thing about us actually, funnily enough.
“We all had to learn together. The nearest to John feeling like he wasn’t a true musician could have been that in the skiffle craze, when everyone else is playing guitar chords, he only knew a couple of banjo chords, but that only lasted a week or two.
“And I would just show him chords I knew which were very basic, but it was great bonding just learning chords off each other.”
After John had mastered these chords, he was just as good as the rest of them – if not better, Paul said.
“I think the minute he knew those chords, he was as good as anyone, and he might have had a little bit of a hang up about not being sort of musically trained, but none of us were,” he said.
“And I think that was one of the strengths of The Beatles, that none of us knew what we were doing so we had to discover the root for ourselves and each of us discovered it together at the same time so that was lovely.
“It meant that when we came to record or play live we all were new at it and so we all learned at the same speed… which I think when we came to record with George Martin later on meant that John and I could bring in a song and just play it, [sings] ‘If there’s anything that you want,’ and then George and Ringo would immediately pick it up.
“There was no kind of, ‘Oh, wait a minute, show me, let me take those chords down.’ It was like, no, no, no, no, we’d grown up together so we just read each other.”
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Later in the John Lennon birthday special, Sean spoke to Elton John – another close friend of his father’s.
During that chat Elton praised John, and their special relationship together, saying: “It was just, for me, it was a dream come true.
“We laughed so much because we talked about the 50s and 60s and where we grew up, you know, Round the Horne in England, the radio shows we liked, the songs we liked, we didn’t like, and your dad was just a fountain of knowledge.
“It was a hand in glove thing and I never thought that would ever happen.”
Elton added: “There was no attitude. I hate posers and I hate attitude and your dad didn’t have any of it.”
The Rocketman singer went on to tell Sean about how he met John at the video shoot for the late Beatles’ album Mind Games.
Elton recalled: “I was a little bit, obviously I was in awe, I was meeting any of The Beatles and they all treated me so brilliantly, but your dad had that edge that none of the other Beatles had kind of because he wasn’t afraid to say what he thought.
“Your dad was as kind and as generous and sweet and we just hit it off immediately. He was so funny. That’s what I loved about him. And we talked about music, we talked about records we loved.”