Being a Beatles baby: Julian Lennon reflects on big Beatles anniversary
By Leora Arnowitz
Published February 05, 2014
NEW YORK – Fifty years, ago, when Julian Lennon was just a baby, his father, John, and the rest of the Beatles— Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr—packed their bags and boarded a plane headed for the U.S. There, on Feb. 9, 1964, they would grace the stage of “The Ed Sullivan Show,” making them an international music phenomenon.
Growing up, young Julian didn’t understand anything about his father’s massive success and the time that would become known as Beatlemania.
“I mean, [during the height of Beatlemania] I was 3, 4, 5 [years old],” Lennon told FOX411. “Anyone must remember that dad left when I was 3 years old. Mom and I lived out of the limelight. We lived a totally different life.
“People seem to forget that. In many respects, as much as I’m tied in [with Beatles history] I am also quite distant from it.”
Still, on the phone, Lennon sounds exactly as you’d expect him to, with a perfect English accent and a slow, steady tone. In photos, the resemblance between Julian and John is undeniable.
Julian has said in the past that he thinks he looks more like his mother’s brother than any other relative. But he’s not blind to the fact that on some days you’d have to do a double take to distinguish him from his famous father, who was murdered in 1980.
“For the most part, one would hope to look like one’s parents, and if one didn’t, you’d be worried wouldn’t you?” he said with a laugh.
As throngs of Beatles fans, TV shows and rock and roll aficionados rush to commemorate the Beatles golden anniversary with extravagant musical tributes and TV specials, Lennon will quietly ring in the milestone with a photo exhibit that he curated for the Morrison Hotel Gallery, which will be shown in New York City and West Hollywood, Calif.
A performer himself, it may surprise some that Lennon—who certainly has the musical chops to out-shine some of the acts involved in various Beatles 50th anniversary shows—isn’t celebrating the occasion with song.
“I just felt that [the photo exhibit] was really appropriate for me because I decided not to really partake or be tied in with the whole musical aspect with the Beatles 50th…with the Grammys [tribute]... It was all a bit of a mess… about who was performing what, when, where,” he explained.
Since Lennon resides primarily in Europe, a big U.S.-based performance just wasn’t in the cards.
“Listen, I appreciate the Beatles as much as everybody else, but the last thing I wanted to do—because it didn’t look like there was going to be an opportunity to perform, really— was stand in the audience clapping along to other people singing Beatles songs,” Lennon said.
“For me, it would be like a Beatles karaoke night. I’d just feel like a bit of an idiot, and I’ve never been a major fan of awards shows. It’s just not my cup of tea.”
Photography. That’s the younger Lennon’s cup of tea.
“My passion these days is photography, and I just thought what a great opportunity to look through hundreds of photographs, some of which had been seen before and many of which I’d never seen before,” he enthused. “What a great opportunity to do a photographic tribute to the boys...”
Lennon, an accomplished photographer, hand-picked the images for the celebratory exhibit.
“This, for me, was a perfect, perfect way to [commemorate the occasion]… to embrace these great photographs, it just seemed the right way to go… emotionally the right way to go. It was a way of doing something special and unique.”
Another way Lennon has celebrated the Fab Four through the years is by building his own collection of Beatles memorabilia. In 2010, he released a photography book, “Beatles Memorabilia: The John Lennon Collection,” which features pictures he’d taken of his personal Beatles stockpile.
“All of those bits and bops [that I own] are important. They’re all personal items,” he explained. And though the book is long-finished and in its second printing, the collecting continues.
“It’s not something I go searching for,” he said. “If things are brought to my attention…every once in a while friends keep an eye out… and if something is outstanding or if it’s something that is personal to me I will try and get it,” he explained.
Lennon’s music ventures always keep him busy, too. He’s popped in and out of the spotlight since his first hit climbed the charts in 1984. His most recent album was “Everything Changes,” released in 2011. A new documentary about the making of the record, “Through the Picture Window,” can be found -- along with new music and photography -- on Julian’s new app, which launched in Dec. 2013.
And if he’s not busy enough, Lennon revealed that ahead of the Beatles 50th anniversary, he was in the midst of embarking on a life-changing trip.
Lennon spoke to FOX411 from Monaco, with an aching arm, sore from getting shots for Typhoid, Hepatitis A and Yellow Fever. While the U.S. celebrates the Beatles in early February, Lennon will be in Kenya and Ethiopia to see first-hand the hard work his White Feather Foundation has been doing in the region.
Lennon takes on a serious tone when talking about his foundation, which focuses on environmental and humanitarian issues, such as getting clean water to countries in need.
“It was probably only literally last year that I realized that I’ve got to make much more of a stance with [the White Feather Foundation]. I certainly wanted to have much more of a deeper involvement, and that came about from doing our first-ever charity event last year in Monaco, which enabled us to go on and do all these water projects that I am going to see.”
Like many things in Lennon’s life, his foundation has a connection to his famous father. Its name comes from a conversation the two once had, according to the foundation’s official website.
“Dad once said to me, that should he pass away, if there was some way of letting me know he was going to be OK -- that we were all going to be OK -- the message would come to me in the form of a white feather… One thing for sure is that the White Feather has always represented peace to me...”
The Beatles are shown alongside Julian Lennon.AP/ DEBORAH ANDERSON
Julian Lennon, left, is shown next to his father John Lennon.DEBORAH ANDERSON/ AP