John Lennon On The Birth of Sean: "I feel higher than the Empire State Building!"
Sean Ono Lennon was born at 2AM on October 9, 1975. On that same day, his Dad, John Ono Lennon turned 35. The two would be inseparable for five years, until John Lennon's death at the hands of a gunman outside the Lennons' apartment building in New York City on December 8, 1980.
Yoko had a history of troubled pregnancies. But John and Yoko were determined to have a child together. John told the story to David Sheff in the famous Playboy interview: "We worked hard for that child. We went through all hell together - through many miscarriages and terrible, terrible times. So this is what they call a love child in truth. We were told by doctors in England that we could never have a child...We'd almost given up." He went on: "...what happened to us was a Chinese acupuncturist...said, 'Heck, you have a child. Just behave yourself. No drugs, no drink, eat well. You have a child in 18 months.'...So we had Sean and I sent him a Polaroid of the baby just before he died. He died right after Sean was born."
Sean was John and Yoko's pride and joy. While John stayed in the upstairs apartment taking care of his son, Yoko went back to work downstairs, taking care of business in the Studio One office in the Dakota Apartment building. Sean says he remembers watching t.v. with John and wrestling on the bed ("Dad always came out on top"). In a "Goldmine" piece on John (December 7, 1984), a neighbor was quoted as saying, that once "...when she was leaving the Dakota courtyard (she estimates that Sean was one or two at the time)..she was struck by Lennon's tenderness, warmth and sense of fun as he played with his son, and she watched them for awhile without their noticing."
John was a recording fanatic, and taped long stretches of conversations with Yoko and Sean at home. There are poignant recordings of John teaching Sean to play the guitar. An approximately 4-year-old Sean sings an Elvis song while wildly strumming a tiny electric guitar, with the proud Dad heard in the background expressing his approval and praise. Many of these recordings were heard on the Elliot Mintz-hosted "The Lost Lennon Tapes" which aired on radio's Westwood One.
In the months following his Father's death, Sean was seen by fans for the first time. Yoko had decided that she would prefer that Sean be used to the media/public attention, since getting public attention would obviously be a reality for the son of two famous parents. While other celebrities' children threw their hands up in front of their faces, put coats over their heads and ran from the cameras like criminals, Sean waved, smiled and seemed at ease with the attention. He gave his first interview to the New York Daily News when he was 7-years-old. Sean made public appearances with his Mom, with Elliot Mintz, half-brother Julian Lennon and others throughout the 80's..showing up at benefits, openings, the Grammy Awards, two Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductions: one for the Beatles and one for his Dad and other highly public events - always handling himself with grace, confidence and self-deprecating humor. For example, at the Hall of Fame ceremony for the Beatles, Sean appeared onstage with George, Ringo, Julian and Yoko. Sean's comment was: "I'm pretty proud to be up here for doing nothing."
What follows is an issue-by-issue account of Sean's official public appearances, recordings and events. If anyone can think of anything we missed, please e-mail us with the info!
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------- (Instant Karma! Issue #1-December, 1981) October 1,1981, Issue #353 of Rolling Stone Magazine. Yoko on the cover; photos of Yoko and Sean inside. Yoko told Barbara Graustark: "John's death made Sean and me very strong. Sean won't just be all right, but beautiful." Yoko also told Graustark: (After John's death): "(Sean) was being a tough guy to protect me. He would come into the room and say, 'Don't cry, Mommy. Daddy's not the only man around.' And he'd start clowning. Later, my assistants would tell me that when he went back to his room he would start crying."
At the age of six, Sean was photographed riding his bicycle in Central Park with two armed bodyguards. These photos appeared in our centerfold.
Sean appeared on his Mom's album, "Season of Glass", telling "a little story" to his Mommy.
(Instant Karma! Issue #2-February/March, 1982)
December 7, 1981 edition of the Daily Express. Yoko granted an interview to Ray Coleman and answered the question, Does Sean know your music and is he musical? "Yes, he knows most of John's songs, and he memorizes lines, and to mine too, interestingly. He's very artistic. I'm not trying to push him to do anything in that direction. He just does things on his own. We'll see the way it goes."
Yoko directed a special video that was sent to the ASCAP awards dinner in London. In the picture from that video, Yoko is reading to Sean the telegram announcing that John was an ASCAP awards recipient along with Paul McCartney for "Fool on The Hill".
(Instant Karma! Issue #3-April/May 1982)
Sean & Yoko With Grammy Award/IK Cover->->
The 1982 Grammy Awards had special meaning for Lenono fans. John and Yoko won a Grammy for "Double Fantasy" and Yoko and Sean appeared in person to accept. IK's coverage began: "They arrived and left in a procession of limousines, six security guards at their sides - three for Yoko, three for Sean. Yoko and Sean rode in one limousine, the security guards rode in two more, one in front, one behind the Lennon limo. According to most reports, Yoko and Sean were in the audience during most of the Grammy broadcast - only a few people in the orchestra section of the Shrine Auditorium were aware of their presence. Not until they went up on stage did the audience realize that Yoko and Sean had been sitting in their midst. According to one Grammy official, Yoko had asked that the roving cameras not be focused on her and Sean.
From Reuters News Agency: "...it was the widow of ex-Beatle John Lennon who stole the show Wednesday night at the National Academy of Arts and Sciences awards ceremonies. Yoko Ono, struggling to hold back tears, was given a standing ovation when she and her late husband won a Grammy for their record album, 'Double Fantasy'. 'I think John is with us here,' Ono told the cheering audience of recording stars and producers. Her small son, by her side, peeped over the rostrum."
From Associated Press: "A tearful Yoko Ono brought the audience to its feet at the 24th annual Grammy Awards as she accepted the album of the year award she shared with her slain husband, John Lennon. Miss Ono's appearance on stage with the couple's six-year-old son Sean, all but eclipsed the rest of the winners and capped an evening of recording glory."
Sean and Yoko appeared on the front page of the Herald-Examiner..Sean with Grammy in hand.
Also in the April/May '82 issue..Sean appeared in Walter Scott's Personality Parade in the Sunday newspaper. Martha Low from Newark, NJ asked if six-year-old Sean really did have ten security guards to escort him to and from his school. Scott answered: Sean Lennon has two bodyguards and sometimes a governess who escort him to school in Manhattan. He is well-guarded, but not obsessively so. IK knows that on occasion, Sean's Mom would meet him outside his school and walk him home. IK carried a photo of Yoko taken by a fan on one such occasion.
Click picture to see Bigger--(80K)
Our centerfold was a large photo of Yoko and Sean from a New York newspaper.. Sean was wearing a Mickey Mouse sweatshirt. Yoko had issued a statement that spring which said: "In celebrating the arrival of spring, Sean and I would like to thank you for thinking of us and taking your time in sending a part of you in the past trying year. Your words came to us sometimes like a soft breeze, sometimes like a strong wind, all helping both of us to grow happier and wiser. Thank you, thank you, thank you. We wish you a happy spring. Love, Yoko & Sean. March 20, 1982, NYC."
(Instant Karma! Issue #5 -August/September 1982)
Sean appeared with Yoko at the BMI Awards Dinner at the Plaza Hotel in June of 1982. They received a special cumulative award pin recognizing John's 62 BMI awards over the past two decades. A picture of Yoko and Sean at the dinner appeared in the NY Daily News and Billboard.
(Instant Karma! Issue #6-October/November 1982)
Sean appeared with Yoko onstage at an Elton John concert at Madison Square Garden in August. From IK #6: "The highlight of the evening for the first night's performance was when Yoko and Sean surprised Elton by walking onto the stage as the final notes of 'Empty Garden' were fading out. The Post's Ira Mayer described it this way: 'The concert reached its emotional peak about a third of the way through, when Yoko Ono and son Sean strode out on stage to thank John for his performance of Empty Garden. Teary-eyed, John pushed on at a pitch several notches more intense than the show had been up until then."
People Magazine described it this way: "The first hint that something extraordinary was afoot came when security guards at Madison Square Garden cleared the backstage area on one of the final nights of Elton John's two-month U.S. concert tour. Elton sang his recent hit tribute (to John Lennon) 'Empty Garden' as a reverant crowd of 20,000 lit candles and matches in Lennon's memory. As the song's final bars were still echoing, a slight woman with a boy in tow walked onstage, and the murmer of recognition greeting them turned to a steady roar as the audience realized it was Yoko Ono and six-year-old son Sean." The audience cheered for five minutes after Elton and Ono embraced and kissed.
An IK member in attendance said Elton hugged and kissed Yoko repeatedly and then picked Sean up.
Yoko & Sean Spring Message Video (Photo by M.Ewing)-->
Another IKer, David Stein, described it this way: "Yoko and Sean came from stage left. The crowd went beyond berserk. My ears were in pain from the crowd noise. We were screaming, waving and clapping. The adrenalin was blowing me away. (Yoko) hugged Elton and he picked up his godson and put him on his shoulder. It was one of the greatest concerts I've ever seen and to see Yoko and Sean on top of that!! Words are not possible."
The NY Post carried photos of the event. Sean was wearing a t-shirt with the words "Working Class Hero" on the front and jeans. Yoko was wearing a light-colored blazer with jeans and black t-shirt with French writing on the front.
Quotable Quote: Sean to Mom in the dressing room at Madison Square Garden: "You mean that man in the silly suit playing the piano is Elton?" (Elton was dressed in a Prussian soldier costume which was described by a friend as looking like Catherine the Great in drag.)
Also in the NYPost, August 25, 1982 edition, Sean was pictured watching as Charlotte Moorman performed Yoko's cut piece.
Sean was photographed with bodyguards outside the Dakota on the second anniversary of his Dad's murder, greeting the fans who had gathered there. The NYPost wrote: "Little Sean Lennon last night retraced the fatal steps his father John took when he was slain outside the Dakota apartment. Sean ventured out to thank supporters who held an all-night vigil...In the secure arms of his bodyguards, 7-year-old Sean handed out commemorative t-shirts to dozens of Lennon fans.
Yoko and Sean appeared on the cover of "People" magazine, December 13, 1982. Yoko was wearing a fuzzy white sweater, her arms around Sean who was standing in front of her wearing a red jacket. The title: "Yoko & Sean: Two years later,a poignant look at the lives of Lennon's widow and son" Inside, a photo of Yoko and Sean at their dining room table, a photo of Sean playing a video game on his bed, a large toy giraffe leaning against the wall. The interviewer was David Sheff, who had done the John and Yoko Playboy interview just two years before. Sean was 7 at the time of the article. Yoko described the situation after John's death, as Sean tried to comfort her. "Don't cry, Mommy, everything's going to be all right." He told her his Dad was in heaven and he would point to a crack on the ceiling and say, "That's Daddy. He's watching over us." Other times, though, Yoko said she could hear Sean crying in his room, "I want my Daddy, I want my Daddy here."
Yoko and Sean's springtime message to the fans aired on ABC's "The Last Word" following an interview with Elliot Mintz and Jon Wiener. Later that morning, the video was aired on "The Today Show" and "CBS Morning".
Sean gave his first interview to the NY Daily News. See details elsewhere in Sean's Main Menu.
Sean finally got to take his long-awaited trip to England in November of 1982. Yoko was reportedly headed to Europe to try to organize an International Day of Peace for John's birthday. A friend of Yoko's was quoted in the Sun newspaper: "Yoko is very careful about security, so she hasn't even told us about her exact plans. But I do know she is very excited about Sean coming to Britain and, if she gets the chance, she will take him north to show him his father's roots."
In the NYPost, Yoko was quoted: "I still can't feel that I'm lucky that I survived (the shooting). Sean saved me. He's a blessing. He kept me from losing my sanity. He made me stronger because whenever I felt a little bit low, I looked at him and thought, 'I have to survive." Yoko also revealed that Sean's toy ray gun was used on the title track of her album "It's Alright" because one time, Sean startled her awake with it. Yoko borrowed the ray gun along with a vocal sequence of Sean waking her up, also on the title track. "My little angel waking me up, thank you. Maybe John is putting him up to it," Yoko was quoted as saying.
Yoko and Sean were photographed buzzing around the Bahamas in a speedboat, Sean at the wheel. He was 7 at the time and Yoko looked amazingly calm!
Yoko and Sean appeared onstage at the WNEW holiday show at Radio City Music Hall..to wish one and all a Merry Christmas. A photo appeared in one of the New York City newspapers (and in IK!)
About "It's Alright": Yoko gave several interviews in this time period and she spoke of Sean's involvement in the recording of her album. "Sean was always in the studio. He was digging it and enjoying the fact that he was slumming a bit. At home he has a nice bed and a nice room and all that, but at the studio, if it got late, somebody would just put down a quilt on the floor for him. He was part of it all, and I was inspired by him in many ways."
"..I was aware of the fact that making music for me is very therapeutic and relaxing. It's home, it's family. It is like knitting might be for some women. Some depressing things have been happening, and this year has been very difficult for Sean and me. I am talking about security threats, things like that. There have been real problems. But when I was making the music, I literally felt that the music uplifted my spirits and Sean's, which was very nice."
"The day I finished making my album, (Sean) came into my room and gave me a box with a little jade heart in it. He said: 'This is to thank you for making a beautiful album.' I knew then he cared for me and that I had not just a little boy but a very wise son. He said to me the other day, 'Mummy, you must stop smoking.' Really, he has become the man in this family."
(Instant Karma! Issue #11-August/September 1983)
Yoko and Sean were photographed leaving the recording studio after working on "Every Man Has a Woman"..the collection of Yoko songs recorded by other artists. The photo showed up in the NYPost on August 15, 1983 with the heading, "Singing for their Supper." Early reports had Sean doing a version of "Now or Never", but when the collection was released, Sean had contributed the track, "It's Alright". It was reported that Sean helped quite a bit on the album - even working on final mixing.
With Sean "seven-and-a-half going on 50" as Yoko called him, the family made a temporary move to San Francisco in the summer of 1983. In a newspaper article dated September 13, 1983, Yoko said, "It was time to get out of New York. Much too hard on Sean. We have been looking at various places, but this is it. Sean fell in love with San Francisco immediately."
(Instant Karma! Issue #14-February/March 1984)
Sean finally gets to visit Liverpool! Hot on the heels of a trip to Japan, Yoko and Sean visit France, followed by a spur of the moment trip to Liverpool. It all started with a phone call from Yoko to Polydor promotions exec, Joe Beddington on January 23, 1984. "She just felt the time was right for Sean to see the place, and that was it." The complete story of that trip, culled from various newspaper articles from 1984 can be seen by clicking here..or get to it from Sean's Menu page.
Yoko and Sean took a whirlwind tour of the city of his dad's birth, followed everywhere by photographers and reporters. Finally, after being besieged by the British press to comment on his trip, Sean displayed a bit of that Lennon style by declaring, "You'll see it in the news, but I might as well say for the 100th time - I love it!"
Click Picture to see Bigger-->(37K)
In February, Sean attended Michael Jackson's $250,000 black tie bash put on by CBS Records at the Museum of Natural History in New York. The party was to celebrate Jackson's entry into the Guinness World Book of Records for his "Thriller" album. Detroit Free Press columnist, Shirley Eder reported: "..except for Michael, it was 8-year-old Sean Lennon who received the most attention and hounding from photographers. Sean was there without his mother, but with a bodyguard. Sean was among the very few to get a personal audience with Michael in the VIP room where the star spent most of the evening."
Sean On a Visit To Japan in the 80's---->
Also in February, Yoko and Sean sent over a video for the Entertainment Tonight program, which was very entertaining, to say the least. Yoko talked about the Beatles, but was interrupted by one mischevious Lennon sitting next to her, who asked if he could "show something to everyone watching." Yoko said yes, apparently unaware that Sean was going to show the world that his big toe was sticking out the end of a very holey sock. Yoko rolled her eyes as Sean beamed.
(Instant Karma! Issue #15-April/May 1984)
Sean and Julian joined Yoko in Central Park on March 21, 1984 as Strawberry Fields was dedicated in John's memory. The 2.5-acre plot of land across from the Dakota where John, Yoko and Sean all lived together was officially named Strawberry Fields; the Lenonos each took a shovel as part of the ceremony, turning the soil to officially begin the landscaping work which would include new plants and trees donated by countries around the world. About 300 friends and media people watched as speeches were made. Sean was wearing a large scarf and Sherlock Holmes-style cap. Julian was wearing a leather jacket, while Yoko wore a white fur coat on the chilly Spring day.
(Instant Karma! Issue #18-October/November 1984)
Sean's 9th! (See Big, 59K)
On October 9, 1984, Sean celebrated his birthday in a most unusual way. Yoko and 9-year-old Sean celebrated a double birthday for John and Sean on radio station WNEW-FM in New York. DJ Scott Muni and Yoko had been talking prior to the birthday about the day in 1975 when Sean and Muni's daughter were both born. The idea for a joint live birthday celebration was brought up and at 11PM EST Yoko, Sean, Scott Muni, Roberta Flack, Harry Nilsson, Walter Cronkite and others got together at the Dakota and an audience of up to 10-million people nationwide listened to "Every Man Has a Woman Who Loves Him: A Live Birthday Party for John and Sean Lennon." At the beginning of the program, Yoko talked, then Muni asked Sean about his gifts.
Sean's kids' party - planned entirely by Sean - was held the following day. Hosted by Tavern on the Green, the party included dozens of children, a few grown-ups including Yoko and Andy Warhol, plus a break dancing troupe and a huge birthday cake. The New York Daily News gave the event extensive coverage,including the whole centerfold of their October 11 edition.
Sean was interviewed for ABC Rock radio by Danny Schechter. Asked how he felt about celebrating the dual birthday with his Dad, Sean said, "I never really thought of it as something strange, I just thought of it as really fun. There'd be...one table with a gold crown and the other table with a gold crown. One was for my Dad, which had all the grown-ups..and the other gold crown..it was paper, it wasn't really gold..for the kids to sit at. And me and my Dad would take pictures together, me and my Dad both wearing crowns, and it's fun. We always used to have my birthday party and my Dad's birthday party at Tavern on the Green, which is a nice restaurant, and it just happens to be that my best friend, his father designed Tavern on the Green, so I get to go there a lot and I get a lot of things free there."
Asked about what other kids think of him, Sean told Schechter: "They say, 'Just because you're rich, you think you can do anything you want' which I don't really think that, but they think that, right? Actually, I'm not rich, my Mom's rich."
Yoko was asked by Record Magazine how she felt about Sean receiving publicity: "I was first frightened about what exposure would do to him. But then I realized, you can't keep him in a box. He's a living person. His friends all want to go to these rock concerts, so whenever there's a concert he says, 'Mommy, I want to go." 'Well, you can't go, Sean, 'cause it's dangerous for you. It's not dangerous for the others.' Then I started thinking, you mean this child has to stay at home? What is this? So it's a little exposure each year. Just a tiny bit."
Asked about Sean as her new partner, Yoko said in 1984: "He's a very exciting sort of partner. He's my partner now. I realize that's a very good move. He's a partner with the future. He's kind of a measure of health for me. I have to keep up with him." (From the Sunday Dispatch, Moline, Illinois)
Sean appeared on MTV to introduce his video for "It's Alright" from "Every Man Has A Woman". Sean talked about the video, how it was made, who was in it with him, and how much fun it was actually recording in the studio. Then the video was shown..which features Sean and his friend Max LeRoy jumping around, wearing strange hats, etc.
When MTV VJ Martha Quinn mentioned to Sean about being named one of People Magazine's Best Dressed Celebrities..Sean seemed embarassed. Regarding the picture that was run along with the story, Sean said: "That's a weird picture." (The picture was taken when Yoko and Sean were in Paris - Sean was wearing Elton John-style flashy shades)
Sean appeared in several scenes in the "Yoko Ono: Then & Now" video.
Sean has appeared in advertisements in Japan. Below he can be seen on a sidewalk ad at a camera store.