Portrait of John Lennon as a child, circa 1948.
Portrait of John Lennon as a child, circa 1948.Pictorial Press—Getty Images
Portrait of John Lennon as a child, circa 1948.
John And Julia Lennon
John Lennon at home in Liverpool during his schooldays, circa 1950.
John Lennon, Pre-Beatles, circa 1960/1961.
The Beatles standing outside Paul's Liverpool home (left to right) George Harrison (1943 - 2001), John Lennon (1940 - 1980), Paul McCartney. Ringo Starr was not to join the band for another two years. Circa 1960.
John Lennon playing guitar, circa 1960.
John Lennon performing with The Beatles at the Star Club, Hamburg, April-May 1962.
John Lennon, of The Beatles, posed, on set, holding a cigarette at Alpha Television Studios, Aston, Birmingham
The Beatles posing in a small backyard in London with their instruments, 1963.
John Lennon sitting on bed in sunglasses signing a book.
John Lennon playing a Gibson guitar, circa 1964.
John Lennon poses for a photo in the snow in March 1965 in Obertauern, Austria during a break from filming their second movie HELP!.
John Lennon in character as Musketeer Gripweed during the filming of the Dick Lester film 'How I Won The War' in September 1966 in Germany.
John Lennon of the Beatles, after making a formal apology for his controversial statement that the group were 'more popular than Jesus'. August 16, 1966.
John Lennon filming Magical Mystery Tour, 1967.
John Lennon wearing a frilly shirt and a sporran at the press launch for the Beatles' new album 'Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band', held at Brian Epstein's house at 24 Chapel Street, London, May 19, 1967.
Yoko Ono and John Lennon, December 1968.
John Lennon with his son, Julian Lennon, circa 1968.
John Lennon and his wife Yoko Ono holding a press conference in their bed at Amsterdam Hilton Hotel, during their honeymoon. March 26, 1969.
Former Beatle John Lennon with his wife Yoko Ono at his home, Tittenhurst Park, near Ascot, Berkshire, July 1971.
John Lennon and Yoko Ono (extreme left) as they attend a rally in Hyde Park, London, England, 1975.
John Lennon and Yoko Ono in New york, 1980.
Portrait of John Lennon as a child, circa 1948.
Pictorial Press—Getty Images
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See Photos of John Lennon Through the Decades

Oct 09, 2015

This Friday, John Lennon would have celebrated a major milestone: his 75th birthday. In honor of that day, take a look back at how Lennon grew from a young boy into a superstar and eventually a peace activist. As TIME's Jay Cocks wrote after Lennon's death in 1980, the experiences of his youth would stay with Lennon throughout his musical career:

John Lennon grew up on Penny Lane, and after a time he moved to a house outside Liverpool , hard by a boys' reformatory. There was another house in the neighborhood where John and his pals would go to a party and sell lemonade bottles for a penny. The house was called Strawberry Fields. His boyhood was neither as roughly working-class as early Beatles P.R. indicated, nor quite as benign as the magical association of those place names might suggest. But John's adolescence in the suburbs, the garden outside the back door and the warm ministrations of his Auntie Mimi did not diminish either the pain or the sense of separateness that was already stirring.

His father, a seaman named Alfred, left home shortly after John was born, and his mother Julia sent him to her sister Mimi because, it was said, she could not support her child. John was 4 1/2 when he was farmed out to the suburbs. All the sorrow, rage and confusion of this early boyhood were taken up again and again in songs like Julia and Mother. These early years were not an unhealed wound for Lennon, but more nearly a root, a deep psychic wellspring from which he could draw reserves of hard truth.

Read more from 1980, here in the TIME Vault: When the Music Died

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Musicians on the Cover of TIME

The Dixie Chicks (May 29, 2006)JILL GREENBERG FOR TIME
The Dixie Chicks (May 29, 2006)
JILL GREENBERG FOR TIME
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