UPDATE: Yoko Ono released a statement on the death of Cynthia Lennon, writing on her website: “I’m very saddened by Cynthia’s death. She was a great person and a wonderful mother to Julian. She had such a strong zest for life and I felt proud how we two women stood firm in the Beatles family. Please join me in sending love and support to Julian at this very sad time.”
Julian, who reported the news of her death on his website, also created a video tribute to his mother, showing black-and-white pictures of her throughout her life and set to Julian’s 2011 song “Beautiful.” The website also included the song’s lyrics.
Born Cynthia Powell in 1939, she met the Beatle in a lettering class at the Liverpool College of Art in 1957. Lennon teased her, yet she found him attractive. When she found out what he found attractive, she grew her blonde hair long like Brigitte Bardot. She had a fiancé at the time, but broke it off to date Lennon.
“It was just an instant attraction…something about him that was for me,” she once told interviewer Gary James. “I was fascinated to the point where I wanted to know who he was, what he was, where he’d come from and what had made him into who he was at that time, which we all found out later on. That was it really. It was an attraction that I couldn’t help.”
Upon learning she was pregnant, John insisted they marry. They were wed on August 23rd, 1962 at a London register’s office. The witnesses were Paul McCartney, George Harrison, manager Brian Epstein and her brother Tony and his wife. The couple later had lunch with Harrison and McCartney at a nearby restaurant. Later that night, Lennon played a gig with the Beatles and spent most of his time in the months that followed touring, according to U.S. News & World Report and The Ultimate Beatles Encyclopedia.
The couple’s son, Julian, was born on April 8th of the following year.
The Beatles’ manager, Brian Epstein, urged the Lennons to keep their marriage secret as the group began blowing up, since he felt it would affect the group’s image, though it hit the newspapers after Julian’s birth. Lennon reportedly had multiple affairs during the course of their marriage, and they divorced in November 1968 after Cynthia discovered Lennon’s relationship with Yoko Ono.
A little over a year later, she married Italian hotelier Roberto Bessanini – Julian was a page boy at the wedding, and model Twiggy was in attendance – but they divorced in 1973. She later married a businessman named John Twist, but they ended their marriage in 1983.
During her marriage to Twist, John Lennon was murdered. “Ringo phoned from New York, because he heard the news [of John’s death] first, he’d phoned Maureen,” Cynthia said in 1995 – referring to Ringo’s ex, Maureen Cox, with whom she was staying. “And Maureen came up to my room to tell me in the middle of the night, and then all hell let loose after that. It was horrible.”
In 2002, she married a nightclub owner named Noel Charles and stayed with him until his death.
Cynthia worked as a painter, following her divorce from John, and was involved in the London restaurant Lennon’s. She auctioned off much of her personal, John Lennon–related memorabilia in 1991. Four years later, she made her first recording, covering Mary Hopkin’s “Those Were the Days.”
She wrote two books about her life, 1978’s A Twist of Lennon and John, a book about the Beatle that came out in 2005.
“To survive in life, there are so many different areas,” she said in 1995. “There’s the tragic side, and there’s the positive side. And I always hopefully look on the positive side of it. I enjoy and probably have had one of the most fantastic lives that you could choose.”