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Julian Lennon

Julian Lennon achieved stardom with "Valotte" and "Too Late for Goodbyes," a pair of Billboard Top Ten hits from the mid-'80s. At that point, the tragic death of Julian's father John was still fresh in public consciousness and, from a certain angle, the son resembled the parent: the piano ballad recalled such John classics as "Imagine." As Julian Lennon's career progressed, such Beatles comparisons didn't disappear but they did fade, as Lennon built a career as a classicist pop/rocker, capable of evoking David Bowie on a rocker like "Now You're in Heaven" or nodding to "Strawberry Fields Forever" on the stately "Saltwater," a U.K. Top Ten from 1991. Lennon's recordings slowed after Photograph Smile, the parent record to "Saltwater," as he pursued other artistic and activist interests, including photography, writing children's books, and launching the pro-environment foundation the White Feather. He'd still return to the studio every decade or so, releasing such handsomely crafted albums as 2022's Jude. John Charles Julian Lennon was born in Liverpool on April 8, 1963, a matter of weeks after the release of Please Please Me, the first album by the Beatles. As a child, Julian played a key inspirational role in two Beatles classics: John wrote "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" after seeing a painting of Julian's, while Paul McCartney wrote "Hey Jude" for him while his parents were separating. After the divorce, Julian lived with his mother Cynthia. He didn't reestablish contact with his father until 1973, when John was living in Los Angeles during a separation from Yoko Ono. John encouraged Julian's musical side, teaching him a few chords and buying him instruments, even having him play drums on "Ya Ya," the closing track of his 1974 album Walls and Bridges. Around the time the album was released, John returned to Yoko Ono and had sporadic contact with his first-born son during the final years of his life. Julian was 17 when his father was assassinated on December 8, 1980. John wound up not leaving anything to Julian in his will; the son later sued the estate, coming to an undisclosed settlement in 1996. Julian Lennon signed a record contract with Atlantic in 1984. Impressed with Billy Joel's Beatlesque The Nylon Curtain, Lennon hired Phil Ramone as producer and cut his debut album Valotte. Thanks to the jaunty single "Too Late for Goodbyes," Valotte first became a hit in the U.K. in September 1984. The following month, Valotte appeared in both the U.S. and the U.K., supported by the release of its title track in America. "Valotte" cracked the Billboard Top Ten, as did "Too Late for Goodbye," establishing Lennon as a recording star in his own right. "Say You're Wrong" performed well on both the Billboard Rock and Adult Contemporary charts, extending Valotte's run on the charts into 1985 and helping Lennon land a Grammy nomination for Best New Artist. Lennon quickly delivered The Secret Value of Daydreaming in 1986. While its lead single "Stick Around'' reached number one on the Billboard Rock Charts and eventually earned a Gold certification, the album ultimately was a stiff, failing to generate a second hit single. Produced by Patrick Leonard, the harder-edged 1989 album Mr. Jordan didn't fare as well on the Billboard charts but its single "Now You're in Heaven" also topped the Billboard Rock Chart on its way to a Gold certification. Released in August 1991 and bearing a Bob Ezrin production, Help Yourself gave Lennon his first British hit since 1994 when the stately, psychedelic "Saltwater" peaked at number six. After Help Yourself, Lennon entered a prolonged period of quiet, occasionally appearing on a soundtrack, such as 1995's Mr. Holland's Opus, but preferring to concentrate on philanthropic causes. He re-emerged in 1998 with Photograph Smile, a record initially released in Europe but earning an American release in 1999. After its release, he pursued a variety of interests, ranging from photography and internet businesses to charity work. He established the White Feather Foundation -- an environmental and humanitarian endeavor -- in 2009 and in 2010, he held an exhibition of photography at the Morrison Hotel Gallery. He returned to music in 2011, releasing Everything Changes. Another prolonged period of quiet followed, one where he focused on photography and published a series of young adult books. Lennon returned to music in 2022 with the meditative Jude, an album named after the McCartney song that introduced Julian to the world.
© Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo


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