Many abusive men have hidden behind their charm, talent, and money, and it took years for people to call them out.
When someone is famous and charming, it's easy for them to hide behind that veneer. It's also easy for the audiences to forget that there is a very real person, who is more than an icon, behind that mask. Many cruel men have hidden behind their charm, talent, and money, and it took years for people to call them out. There are others who were never questioned about their lack of integrity before they passed away. John Lennon's message of love and peace became so popular that nobody saw the person he was beneath it, except those close to him. To others, he was only an icon of the times.
Lennon, who was shot to death in December 1980, was also a husband and a father. He met Cynthia Powell in 1958 when they were studying at the Liverpool College of Art. "He was a real scruff, a real teddy boy. He looked as if he would punch you as soon as look at you,” Powell remembered during an interview with journalist Alex Belfield. “He ended up in my calligraphy class and he didn’t want to be there," she said, as per Ultimate classic rock.
They started dating soon after even though there were red flags, like his temper, which was chalked up to a bad relationship with his estranged dad. While in college, Lennon struck Powell in the face, and she dumped him. However, they got back together three months later.
"He was desperately sorry,” Powell remembered. “It was just an instant and he couldn’t help himself. He didn’t do it again, and I wouldn’t have been with him if he had. It was the first and last time he lifted a finger to me."
The Imagine singer also acknowledged that he was violent towards women. "I used to be cruel to my woman, and physically — any woman,” he said in 1981 to Playboy. "I was a hitter. I couldn't express myself and I hit. I fought men and I hit women," he added.
Even though he didn't hit her again, as she says, he would undermine her in other ways, even after they got married in 1962 when she got pregnant with Julian. She even had to deny being Lennon's wife since Beatlemania was just taking off then.
"If the main man in the group, John, was found to be married, then it might take away from that particular success," she told NPR in 1985. "So I walked around pregnant for quite a long time, hiding it. I'd wear very big, blousy clothes. In fact, I was asked many times if I was John's wife, and I had to refuse and say, 'No, no. I'm somebody else.'"
He barely spent any time with his son and in 1968 he told Powell that he had been cheating on her with multiple women. They started their divorce proceedings after that. Their housekeeper told the lawyers that Lennon was a drug abuser, a lying and cheating husband. He was also cruel to Julian. He used to hit the boy, who was around 5 years old, for the smallest things like table manners.
The housekeeper had said, "Julian's table manners were, if anything, better than average." There were also "drugs lying around the house."
Years later, even Julian opened up on his dad. As per Rolling Stone, Julian doesn't remember the divorce. "It was weird to think that the man singing those songs was my father," Julian said. "Sometimes it’s still hard to understand," he added.
In 1998, he told The Telegraph, "I have to say that, from my point of view, I felt he was a hypocrite. Dad could talk about peace and love out loud to the world but he could never show it to the people who supposedly meant the most to him: his wife and son."
"How can you talk about peace and love and have a family in bits and pieces - no communication, adultery, divorce? You can't do it, not if you're being true and honest with yourself," Julian said. "If you bring a child into this world, whether it's planned or an accident, you'd better make sure you can care for it. You have to be around. You make time. It's as simple as that," he added.
They had tried to rekindle their relationship on Powell's urging but unfortunately, it was around that time that the global star was shot.
Cover image source: Getty Images | Photo by (L)Keystone Features (R)Hulton Archive