John Winston Ono Lennon, MBE (9 October 1940 – 8 December 1980) was an English rock musician, singer-songwriter, author, and peace activist who gained worldwide fame as one of the founding members of The Beatles. With Paul McCartney, Lennon formed one of the most influential and successful songwriting partnerships of the 20th century and "wrote some of the most popular music in rock and roll history". Billboard ranks him as the second most successful songwriter in singles chart history after McCartney.
Lennon revealed a rebellious nature and an acerbic wit in his music, his writing, on film and at press conferences and interviews. He was controversial through his work as a peace activist and visual artist, along with his wife Yoko Ono. After The Beatles broke up in 1970, Lennon enjoyed a commercially successful and critically acclaimed solo career, selling 14 million RIAA certified albums in the US alone, with albums such as John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band and Imagine and iconic songs such as "Give Peace a Chance" and "Imagine".
After a self-imposed "retirement" in 1975 to raise his son Sean, Lennon reemerged in 1980 with a comeback album, Double Fantasy, but was murdered less than one month after its release. The album won the 1981 Grammy Award for Album of the Year and is Lennon's best-selling studio album at three million shipments in the US.
In 2002, respondents to a BBC poll on the 100 Greatest Britons voted Lennon eighth. In 2004, Rolling Stone ranked Lennon #38 on its list of "The Immortals: The Fifty Greatest Artists of All Time" (The Beatles were ranked number one). He was also ranked fifth greatest singer of all time by Rolling Stone in 2008. He was posthumously inducted into both the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1987 and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1994.
Lennon and Ono used their honeymoon at the Amsterdam Hilton, in March 1969, as a "Bed-in for Peace" that attracted worldwide media coverage. At the second "Bed-in" in Montreal, in June 1969, they recorded "Give Peace a Chance" in their hotel room at The Queen Elizabeth. The song was sung by a quarter million demonstrators in Washington, D.C. at the second Vietnam Moratorium Day, on 15 October 1969. When Lennon and Ono moved to New York City in August 1971, they befriended peace activists Jerry Rubin and Abbie Hoffman. Lennon performed at the "Free John Sinclair" concert in Ann Arbor, Michigan, on 10 December 1971. Sinclair was an anti-war activist, co-founder of the White Panther Party and poet who was serving ten years in state prison for selling two joints of marijuana to an undercover policeman after a series of previous convictions for possession of marijuana. Lennon and Ono appeared on stage with David Peel, Phil Ochs, Stevie Wonder and other musicians, plus anti-war radical and Yippie member, Jerry Rubin, and Bobby Seale of the Black Panthers. Lennon performed the song, "John Sinclair", which he had just written, calling on the authorities to "Let him be, set him free, let him be like you and me". Some 20,000 people attended the rally, and three days after the concert the State of Michigan released Sinclair from prison. This performance was released on the two-CD John Lennon Anthology (1998) and the album Acoustic (2004). Lennon later performed the song on The David Frost Show accompanied by Ono and Jerry Rubin. According to former MI5 intelligence officer David Shayler, Lennon gave financial aid to the Irish Republican Army, a claim which Sinn Féin have neither substantiated or denied. The "financial aid" was likely in the form of Lennon's paying for the funerals of the Bloody Sunday casualties, as mentioned in A&E Biography's program about him.
In 1972, the Nixon Administration tried to have Lennon deported from the US, as Richard Nixon believed that Lennon's proactive anti-war activities and support for George McGovern could cost him re-election. Republican Senator Strom Thurmond suggested, in a February 1972 memo, that "deportation would be a strategic counter-measure" against Lennon. The next month the Immigration and Naturalization Service began deportation proceedings against Lennon, arguing that his 1968 misdemeanor conviction for cannabis possession in London had made him ineligible for admission to the US. Lennon spent the next four years in deportation hearings. While his deportation battle continued, Lennon appeared at rallies in New York City and on TV shows, including a week hosting the Mike Douglas Show in February 1972, where Jerry Rubin and Bobby Seale appeared as his guests.
On 23 March 1973, Lennon was ordered to leave the US within 60 days, while Ono was granted permanent residence. In response, Lennon and Ono held a press conference at the New York chapter of the American Bar Association on 1 April 1973 to announce the formation of the conceptual state of "Nutopia"; a place with "no land, no boundaries, no passports, only people", and all of its inhabitants would be ambassadors. The Lennons asked for political asylum in the US while waving the white flag of Nutopia; two white handkerchiefs. The entire press conference can be seen in the 2006 documentary released by Lions Gate, The U.S. vs. John Lennon. In June 1973, Lennon and Ono made their last political statement by attending the Watergate hearings in Washington, D.C.
Lennon's order of deportation was overturned in 1975. In 1976, Lennon's US immigration status was finally resolved favourably, and he received his green card. Nixon's successor, Gerald Ford, showed little interest in continuing the battle. When Jimmy Carter was inaugurated as president on 19 January 1977, Lennon and Ono attended the Inaugural Ball.