Yesterday marked the 39th anniversary of the murder of John Lennon, celebrated member of the Beatles, activist, musician, and all-around pretty all right Brit.
While John’s wife, Yoko, usually makes note of his birthday, their son Sean chose to share a photo marking the day of his dad’s death.
In a photo that Sean left captionless, his 5-year-old self is seen smiling with both his parents, who are equally thrilled. John wears a bright blue hat and a patchwork shirt and leans in toward his wife and son. John Lennon’s fans were thrilled to see a photo of their favorite Beatle as he should be remembered: glowing with happiness and light.
Several celebrities also left comments on the photo, including Lindsay Lohan, Mark Ronson, and presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard. Last year Sean shared a photo of himself and his dad celebrating their joint birthday — October 9 — together. Each year on the anniversary of his death, fans around the world continue to collectively celebrate and grieve the life of the singer.
Sean was only 5 years old when his dad was killed in New York City. He has been open about what it’s been like to grow up in the shadow of a famous parent that he’ll never get to spend time with. He told Rolling Stone, “When you’ve never experienced anything else, it’s not weird – it’s simply your life.”
He went on to say, “I never knew that doing interviews and having press was weird. You take it as it comes. You don’t choose your name, you don’t choose your parents. You’re hurled into this earth, and life hits you like a slap on the ass. Boom, you’re born. Now deal with it.”
In the same interview, Sean also shared that he absolutely believes his dad is still here. “People ask me, ‘Do you feel like he’s still around?’ And he is, man. He’s alive in his music, in my life. Sometimes I walk into a store and hear him singing – ‘Instant Karma’ is playing – and I feel like that’s him talking to me.”
After Sean was born, John decided to become a stay-at-home-dad and spent most of the next five years deeply invested in Sean’s care. John had just begun recording new music for his return when he was murdered outside the apartment where the family lived. Sean said, “People gathering outside the Dakota every day, on my birthday every year – I knew it was because of the music. And because, from a very early age, people said to me, ‘When’s your first album?'”
After John’s death, Yoko and Sean became a team. Sean read a story on his mother’s 1981 album Season of Glass and collaborated with her throughout his childhood and teen years. When he was 16, he cowrote a song with Lenny Kravitz, and he had formed his first band by 1995.
Sean also grabbed the attention of other musicians. Adam Yauch of the Beastie Boys signed Lennon to his label, which thrilled Sean. At the time he said, “I think I found the only label on the planet who doesn’t care who my parents are and what my name is. It’s a good feeling to know that I wouldn’t have gotten the offer if they wouldn’t have liked my songs. That’s pretty rare in the music business!”
He released his first solo record a few years later, and he’s worked in the music industry steadily since. After spending the early 2000s working behind the scenes as a producer, he released a new song, “Dead Meat,” in 2006. The song was from his critically celebrated album Friendly Fire.
Sean has been in a relationship with model Charlotte Kemp Muhl since 2006. The two met at a music festival and have remained together since. Sean didn’t realize she was musically inclined until they had been dating for a year, and the two have worked on quite a lot of music together since then.
John and Yoko were married on March 20, 1960. In this photo that Yoko shared to her Instagram account to mark their 46th anniversary, she said, “When somebody told us that we actually got married on the first day of Spring, we just looked at each other and went Wow!”
Yoko was with John the night he was killed. They had spent several hours in the recording studio that December 8 and were thinking of going out for dinner, but John wanted to get home in time to tuck Sean into bed. Yoko spent several years in seclusion after her husband was killed.
Eventually, Yoko returned to her work. In addition to authoring books and creating art, she kept working in peace activism as well. She established a Strawberry Fields memorial in Central Park, right across from the building where John was shot. She also established the John Lennon Museum in Saitama, Japan.
In the 2010s, Yoko revived the Plastic Ono Band with Eric Clapton stepping in for John. Though she has been through the wringer in terms of her public image, in general, she is valued and appreciated for her work and contributions to art in general. One can only imagine what a power couple the two would be if they were both still alive today.