John Lennon's name is heavily associated with peace, love, and togetherness. However, the man behind warmhearted classics like "Imagine" was an entirely different person behind the scenes. John Lennon's dark side often took the form of adultery, drugs, and even spousal aggression. The man who is thought of as an icon for the positive energy of the 1960s was reportedly cruel and callous to those he loved the most.
In some ways, it's not entirely surprising. The lyrics of many of Lennon's classic songs are dark enough to leave listeners wondering, "Did John Lennon hurt his wives?" Many of the lyrics were autobiographical and those closest to Lennon have confirmed that domestic cruelty occurred. Lennon had a legendarily aggressive temper and admitted to some pretty disturbing deeds in interviews throughout his career. Learning a little about John Lennon's history will leave you rethinking your notions of the esteemed Beatle.
Before the Beatles shot into worldwide popularity, John Lennon almost slayed someone. Beatles manager Brian Epstein was openly homosexual and traveled with Lennon to Spain shortly after Lennon's son Julian was born. This led to rumors that Lennon and Epstein were romantically involved.
At the famous Cavern Club, where the Beatles used to perform, a DJ made a snide comment insinuating Lennon and Epstein had hooked up during their trip. Lennon did not take kindly to this: He then beat the DJ, who repeatedly begged Lennon to stop. The DJ nearly perished from what Lennon had done. Lennon refused to apologize. Epstein had to forge Lennon’s signature on an apology sent via telegram. Lennon would later claim he was too high to realize what he was doing during the incident.
Lennon dropped a disturbing bombshell in a 1979 confession. Lennon openly admitted to harboring feelings for his own mother. He once described lying down next to her when he was an adolescent and accidentally touching her breast. He considered taking the interaction further and still regretted not having done so. On the tape, he said, “I always think I should have done it. Presumably, she would have allowed it.”
The song "Getting Better" contains the unexpectedly dark line, “I used to be cruel to my woman, I [hurt] her and kept apart from the things that she loved.” In a 1980 Playboy interview, Lennon admitted outright the line was autobiographical. He said he frequently hit women, both his wife and other lovers, throughout his youth. He also didn’t seem particularly apologetic, noting:
I am not a [ruthless] man who has learned not to be [this way] and regrets his [aggressions]. I will have to be a lot older before I can face in public how I treated women as a youngster.
According to Lennon’s housekeeper, Lennon's son Julian Lennon had pretty decent table manners for a young child. But apparently, John did not agree with this assessment and did not hesitate to harshly punish his son for any indiscretions at the dinner table. If he felt Julian was misbehaving, it was not uncommon for John to strike his son.