Julian Lennon, John Lennon’s oldest son and the original inspiration for the Beatles song “Hey Jude,” writes tree-hugging, earth-loving children’s books when he’s not performing for live audiences.
Lennon concluded his world-peace-focused children’s book trilogy on April 22nd with the publication of Love the Earth. Before the third installment hit the shelves, Heal the Earthand Touch the Earth had already graced The New York Times‘ bestseller list. The White Flier Advent trilogy details the adventures of children who travel the globe in an airplane called the White Feather Flier, delivering supplies and aid to people and animals in need. The books are co-authored by Bart Davis and illustrated by Smiljana Coh.
Lennon might be known in the public sphere for his problematic relationship with his father, who divorced Lennon’s mother when he was a child, but the core of his work lies in supporting global access to education and the conservation of natural resources and ecosystems. In 2007, Lennon created The White Feather Foundation, an environmental and humanitarian charity — in fact, much of the proceeds from The White Flier Advent trilogy and Lennon’s other projects go straight to the charity. Lennon has said multiple times that the name of the charity, and the trilogy, came from his father, who often said that should he pass away, he would send Julian a message from the afterlife in the form of a white feather.
The White Feather Foundation collaborates with similar humanitarian groups to raise funds for specific community projects or environmental initiatives. A recent news item on the group’s website highlights an independent film on disability education to which Lennon contributed music and lyrics, and which The White Feather Foundation promotes.
Lennon does not expect a children’s trilogy or an ever-expanding charity to retroactively resolve the effects of a toxic relationship with an absent father, but he does hope his work can shine a light into the darkness for future generations, readers, and listeners. His vision of a perfect world is not one where larger-than-life musicians return from the dead to forgive their loyal sons, but one where people of all backgrounds understand how to work together, help each other, and fight for their home planet.
Coming April 23rd is singer and songwriter Devendra Banhart’s third book, and according to Pitchfork , this time it’s a collection of poetry. Entitled Weeping Gang Bliss Void Yab-Yum, it’s sure to be something to feast your eyes on.
After all, his last two books, both collaborations with Adam Tullie, I Left My Noodle on Ramen Street and Unburdened by Meaning, sounded just as crazy, and they don’t disappoint. Trust me, I’ve seen some crazy things. Much like In His Own Write by John Lennon. He also was a singer and songwriter and – is this the second of third comparison to Devandra? – also wrote a book while touring. Published in 1964 while still in The Beatles, Lennon made the reader work to understand this Lewis Caroll-esque book filled with bizarre imagery, creative misspellings, and many meanings. He later released A Spaniard in the Works, which is also a pun.
But those two aren’t the only musicians who turned their songwriting abilities to old fashion writing. So come hither children and let me knowledge you on five more musicians who wrote books (in no particular order).
Back in 1993, the English rock band Sleeper were formed and two years later debuted with their studio album Smart. Their second album, The It Girl, was released in 1996 and earned the praise of music critic Jack Rabid from AllMusic who wrote:
“…though nothing is quite the total knockout of Smart’s Inbetweener, The It Girl is more consistently accomplished, with a broader palette of influences…and every song makes you feel something.”
Their third studio album, Pleased to Meet You, came in 1997 and quickly peaked at #7 on the UK Album chart. Sadly, in 1998 the band broke up.
Fortunately, the lead singer of Sleeper, Louise Wener, continued writing, forming a prolific career, spanning from an article about motherhood published in The Guardian to several novels. Her first book is Goodnight Steve McQueenabout a twenty-nine-year-old guitarist in a tragically unsuccessful rock band. That novel hit book shelves on March 15th, 2005 and later that same year on October 4th, her second novel The Perfect Play was released. A little over a year later her third novel, The Half Life of Starsabout a British lawyer who disappears soon after the destruction of the space shuttle Columbia in 2003, hit book shelves on October 24th, 2006.
That’s funny, because Sleeper reunited in 2017 and the next year went on to headline an eleven-date tour in England and, according to NME, have a fourth album in the works. So I guess Louise Wener’s books and music are going to be on even ground.
We all know who Madonna is, right?
Well, you might know some of these songs: “Like a Virgin”, “Like a Prayer”, “Vogue”, “Take a Bow,” and/or “4 Minutes”.
She wrote those. She produced those. She SANG those. She’s the queen of pop. And she’s richer than you (If you’re richer than Madonna then please reach out, we have much to discuss).
You might not know it, but this entertainment star actually authored children’s books after signing a five-book contract with Callaway Arts & Entertainment. This started with 2003’s The English Roses, illustrated by Jeffrey Fulvimari, and in their review The Guardian commented that they were “most intrigued by its aspirational wistfulness”.
So am I.
3. Gloria Estefan
Ever heard the song “Conga”? You should. Straight from Miami Sound Machine’s ninth album – but only second English speaking album – Primitive Love, that music first graced our ears first in 1985 (Well, not my ears, I wasn’t born yet).
Seriously, go listen to it now and come back.
Okay, you know who sang that song? That was Cuban-American singer Gloria Estefan, and she’s no one-hit wonder. In fact, she’s won 3 Grammy Awards.
Oh yeah, she and her husband, Emilio, wrote a cookbook called Estefan Kitchenwhich has over sixty delicious dishes. Yum!
Some people have it all. Good music, a good book, good food and a good dog!
2. Bob Dylan
He won a Noble Prize for literature, he wrote a bunch of songs, he introduced the Beatles to many different things, he’s Bob Dylan, the man with two first names. Okay, his real name is Robert Zimmerman.
He’s also written several books. The second book he wrote was a collection of lyrics and personal drawings called Writings and Drawings. It’s out of print. His third book a memoir called Chronicles, Volume One. There is no Volume Two, yet.
His first book is legendary.
Written between 1965 and 1966, Tarantula never saw the light of day until 1971 because of an unfortunate motorcycle accident and, well, as from the mouth of Dylan, “Things were running wild at that point. It never was my intention to write a book”.
It’s a steam of consciousness book, something in the vein of William S Burroughs or Allen Ginsburg, and was given the spotlight in a 2003 Spin magazine article called the “Top Five Unintelligible Sentences from Books Written by Rock Stars” with the number one spot, specifically with this line:
“Now’s not the time to get silly, so wear your big boots and jump on the garbage clowns.”
1. Ringo Starr
His name is Sir Richard Starkey and Family Guy needs to stop making fun of him. He was a member of Rory Storm and the Hurricanes, a little band called The Beatles, played drums for the Plastic Ono Band when Lennon was in charge and when Yoko Ono was in charge, and starred in the Ringo Star and the All Star Band.
He wrote the “No-No Song,” which is catchy, he sang “Goodnight,” which is beautiful, and he sang and wrote “Octopus’s Garden”.
Published in 2013 and illustrated by Ben Cort, it’s basically the song lyrics with pictures. But you know what? That shows just how many mediums writing can be spread across because, when all is said and done, this book is delightful even on the rainiest of days.
I’ll go out on a thin limb here and say we are all familiar with John Lennon. If you don’t know him from his star-making career as one of the core members of The Beatles— most of whose songs were written by the Lennon-McCartney (as in Paul McCartney) songwriting duo— you might know him from his stellar post-Beatles career, or from his work with his partner, Yoko Ono. However, there is another creative medium in John Lennon’s repertoire that has not received quite as much attention as his music.
Image Via Gifer
In honor of what would have been Lennon’s 78th birthday, we here at Bookstr would like to draw some attention to his less-regarded creative output: his writing— not songwriting, but creative writing, in the form of his books, In His Own Write, A Spaniard in the Works, and Skywriting by Word of Mouth.
In His Own Write was Lennon’s first book, published in 1964 by Simon & Schuster. The book is made up of short stories and Lennon’s drawings. It is written in a nonsensical style that is characterized by intentional misspellings, surrealism, free association, and abrupt shifts in thought. The book also happened to be the first solo project by any of The Beatles.
Image Via 13th Dimension
An example of the book’s unique style can be found in the “About the Author” page:
About The Awful
I was bored on the 9th of Octover 1940 when, I believe, the Nasties were still booming us led by Madolf Heatlump (who only had one). Anyway they didn’t get me. I attended to varicous schools in Liddypol. And still didn’t pass — much to my Aunties supplies. As a member of the most publified Beatles my (P, G, and R’s) records might seem funnier to some of you than this book, but as far as I’m conceived this correction of short writty is the most wonderfoul larf I’ve every ready.
God help and breed you all.
A Spaniard in the Works was Lennon’s second book, published only a year after In His Own Write. The style is very similar to In His Own Write, featuring the same intentional misspellings, short stories accompanied by drawings, and absurdism.
Image Via The Hand of Count Petofi
The book’s table of contents offers a clue as to what you can expect from a read-through of it:
A Spaniard in the Works
The Fat Budgie
Snore Wife and some Several Dwarts
The Singularge Experience of Miss Anne Duffield
The Faulty Bagnose
We must not forget the General Erection
The Wumberlog (or The Magic Dog)
The National Health Cow
Mr. Boris Morris
Last Will and Testicle
I Believe, Boot . . .
This was Lennon’s final book, posthumously published in 1986, a whole twenty-one years after his last book, and six years after his death. This book is rather different from his others; for one thing, it abides by typical spelling convention. The book is also a sort of autobiography, rather than a collection of surrealist stories.
Image Via Beatles Blog
Written in its author’s much-imitated, never-duplicated voice, populated with his own illustrations, full of the wit and honesty that helped make him one of the most iconic, polarizing figures of the 20th Century, Skywriting by Word of Mouth is the lost and recovered, posthumously published autobiography of John Lennon.
Image Via The Hand of Count Petofi
Featured Image Via Billboard, Saleroom, AbeBooks, and Ultimate Classic Rock. Excerpts and Synopses Via Amazon