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Cynthia Lennon: In her own write

First wife of late Beatle attempts to set the record straight

By CNN's Gordon Isfeld

Cynthia Lennon says "the time is right" to set the record straight.


John Lennon
The Beatles

LONDON, England (CNN) -- Long before anyone was called "the fifth Beatle," Cynthia Powell could rightfully have claimed the title for her own.

It wasn't Stu Sutcliffe -- the Liverpool artist and best friend of John Lennon -- who died shortly after leaving the group, nor George Martin, though his talent as a producer helped open the door to the group's creativity.

Nor was it Yoko Ono -- seemingly attached to John at the hip during the group's twilight years. And not Billy Preston, whose keyboard talents can be heard on The Beatles' later recordings and in their last live performance.

Instead, it was a quiet-spoken, middle-class woman from a northern England suburb. It was there, as a teenager attending art school, that she met and fell in love with an equally young student who was destined to become one of the most famous pop artists in history.

Cynthia was in the mix long before she became Mrs. Lennon, when the Beatles were not even a concept. And she was with John through the group's delirious ride through fame -- drugs, meditation and all.

And now, more than 35 years after her painful divorce from John and 25 years after his death, Cynthia Lennon has published "John" -- a book she says needed to be written to erase the misconceptions left by other books about John, their 1962-1969 marriage and the Beatles.

"The only way you can get the truth is from the inside, not the outside," she said. "I feel the time is right."

The 66-year-old Lennon -- speaking Wednesday at the Foreign Press Association in London -- said she also wrote the book for their son, Julian, who she maintains has been "very scarred by life."

"I was trying to give him some more of a sense of being John's son." Asked for Julian's reaction to the book, she replied: "I'm still waiting for it."

Lennon, who now lives in Spain with her fourth husband, said she was prepared to continue waiting until Julian's ready to talk. The comment goes a long way to explaining the character of a woman often portrayed as weak and victimized.

"I'm not passive, I'm patient," said Lennon when asked why she put up with John's verbal abuse, heavy drug use and long absences from the family home.

"But I would not put up with physical abuse," she said, a reference to the new book's description -- absent from her 1978 book, "A Twist of Lennon" -- of John striking her in a fit of jealousy after he saw Cynthia and Sutcliffe dancing.

"John was always insecure," she said, having come from a broken family and losing his mother at a young age.

He was brought up by his aunt Mimi, described as insensitive and overbearing, who took John into her home even before his mother's death. "Mimi had a lot to answer for ... She stopped John from being with his natural mother."
The cover of a new book on Lennon by his first wife

Cynthia also felt the wrath of Mimi, who is now dead. "It was a very difficult relationship," she told reporters. "What little love she had for John, she had even less for me."

"John" goes beyond her first book, adding details of John's post-divorce relationship with Julian, and her son's relationship with Ono. It also talks about the impact of John's murder by a deranged fan in 1980.

Paul McCartney comes in for some rare praise from someone once in the Beatles' inner circle. Lennon's former songwriting partner paid Cynthia an unexpected visit shortly after the divorce, offering his support for her and a song for Julian, "Hey Jude."

For only the second time during Wednesday's news conference, Cynthia's eyes watered over as she described the joy she still feels each time she hears "what has become a Beatles' anthem" that was written for her son.

The first sign of tears came earlier on as she acknowledged the up-coming 25th anniversary of John's death on December 8. (The singer would have been 65 on October 9.)

Asked later if she has forgiven John for the pain he had caused, she simply offered "of course."

Then she added: "There are worse things in life than divorce."

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