John Lennon Would Have ‘Ended Up a Bum’ Without Paul McCartney, Said His Wife Cynthia

John Lennon didn’t think he needed Paul McCartney to be a success. The people close to him thought he was completely wrong about this.

John Lennon and Paul McCartney played key roles in each others’ songwriting and creative processes. In The Beatles’ early years, they wrote closely together, and as they began writing more individually, they still helped bring the other’s songs to fruition. While they were important to one another, Lennon’s first wife, Cynthia, thought he needed McCartney far more than McCartney needed him.

John Lennon needed Paul McCartney for success, said his wife

Lennon had always liked music, forming bands in school and writing songs in his notebooks. Cynthia didn’t think he had much drive, though.

“I don’t think that at nineteen John had the faintest idea he would be rich or successful, or even hoped for it in the same way that some people hope to win the football pools,” Cynthia said in the book Lennon: The Definitive Biography by Ray Coleman. “Paul was a keen schoolboy but John wasn’t like that. He was just happy doing what he wanted. He was carefree.”

McCartney had a focus that helped lead The Beatles to success. Even when the band was famous, he was the only one rounding up his bandmates to get them in the studio. Cynthia believed that Lennon wouldn’t have been able to make it big without this sort of person in his life.

“He would have ended up a bum … It’s hard to say that now, after what happened, but he wouldn’t have cared that much,” she said. “I’d have gone out to work, he wouldn’t have any qualifications whatsoever because he was falling foul of the art college, and Mimi would have pushed him in all sorts of directions. He would have needed to learn a trade, or go back to school again, and I can’t see him concentrating. He’d have gone downhill.”

Beatles producer George Martin agreed with her assessment of the musicians

George Martin, who worked with The Beatles for years, agreed with Cynthia. While he believed Lennon pushed McCartney’s songwriting and helped shape The Beatles into a successful group, he wouldn’t have done this without McCartney’s motivation.

“Paul needs an audience, but John doesn’t,” he explained in The Beatles: The Authorized Biography by Hunter Davies. “John is very lazy, unlike Paul. Without Paul he would often give up. John writes for his own amusement. He would be content to play his tunes to [his wife, Cynthia].”

John Lennon didn’t think he needed Paul McCartney

Lennon disagreed. He said that when he stopped writing with McCartney, he didn’t feel a loss. He thought he gave McCartney more than McCartney gave him.

“I never actually felt a loss,” he said in the book All We Are Saying: The Last Major Interview with John Lennon and Yoko Ono by David Sheff. “I don’t want it to sound negative, like I didn’t need Paul, because when he was there, obviously, it worked. But I can’t — it’s easier to say what my contribution was to him than what he gave to me. And he’d say the same.”

One can’t deny that Lennon was talented. But, given the fact that many of his loved ones described him as lazy and undriven, McCartney helped him much more than he may have realized. If they hadn’t met, it seems likely that his name never would have reached music charts or history books.

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