Former wives of John Lennon and George Harrison in Yerevan
Published: Saturday November 14, 2009 in Cafesjian Center for the Arts
Yerevan – John Lennon and George Harrison were two of the four Beatles, one of the most iconic rock groups in history. Their former wives, Cynthia Lennon and Pattie Boyd, were in Yerevan for the grand opening of the Cafesjian Center for the Arts last week. They took part in a live interview with Michael De Marsche, the museum’s executive director, in the brand-new and beautifully appointed Special Events Auditorium, located at the top floor of the complex.
The first-time-ever joint appearance of Cynthia Lennon and Pattie Boyd, took place in Yerevan. Arranging for that to happen was no small feat, according to De Marsche, who recounted the many telephone calls and arrangements that the museum made to ensure their participation at the opening. Watching the interaction of these two phenomenal women on stage was like taking a trip down memory lane.
Those in attendance at the live interview at the Cafesjian Center for the Arts cut across a large swath of Armenian society, including Armenia’s deputy foreign minister Arman Kirakossian who was there with his family. Their nostalgia for the Beatles has a deeper meaning.
The music of the Beatles was repressed during the Soviet era but an underground culture was able to smuggle in and disseminate their music in innovative ways. Their influence was immense; some like the last Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, would say that the cultural, social, and musical revolution they inspired manifested itself years down the road. “More than any ideology, more than any religion, more than Vietnam or any war or nuclear bomb, the single most important reason for the diffusion of the Cold War was the Beatles,” Mr. Gorbachev has said.
For over an hour, Cynthia and Pattie disclosed intimate moments they shared with their husbands and each other, from fame to drug abuse, to alcoholism, and eventually to break-ups both marital and musical. Those turbulent early years when the Beatles were on the road to becoming one of the most legendary music groups of all times, the wives were along for the ride. However, as they recounted, the ride wasn’t always smooth. Pattie Boyd was very honest when recalling that tumultuous time of her life, “With a lot of help from a psychotherapist I have learned and am a much stronger person now. I am thankful to be free.”
“We have survived,” Cynthia Lennon said. “We have lost so many people along the way.” Indeed, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr are the sole surviving members of the Beatles. John Lennon was shot and killed in front of his apartment building on December 8, 1980, by Mark David Chapman. George Harrison died of lung cancer in his Hollywood Hills mansion on November 29, 2001.
Cynthia Lennon, nee Powell, met John Lennon at the Liverpool Art College in 1957. “We were young and very much in love,” she recalled. The two married in 1962, after Cynthia became pregnant with their son, Julian. Lennon left her shortly after their return from India in 1968 to be with Yoko Ono. In 1978, Cynthia wrote A Twist of Lennon, which included her own illustrations and poetry, and a later biography on the famous Beatle titled simply, John in 2005.
Pattie Boyd was a model and photographer. In the 60s she modeled in London, New York, and Paris and appeared on the UK and Italian covers of Vogue. She met George Harrison in 1964 when she was cast in The Beatles film “A Hard Day’s Night.” She said at the time that Harrison was “the most beautiful man I had ever seen.” They were married in 1966; Paul McCartney was the best man. They divorced in 1974, after which Boyd married Eric Clapton. One of the audience members asked her how she came to be with Clapton. “Eric kept coming over [to the house she shared with Harrison] and began declaring his love and passion for me,” she said. “Because I was being ignored by my husband and being young, I found it irresistible. Maybe if we weren’t so young, maybe we could have made it work.”
Boyd’s book, Wonderful Today: George Harrison, Eric Clapton and Me, which came out in 2007, was on the New York Times bestseller list.
For both Cynthia and Pattie, their fondest memories go back to the time they were all in India in 1968, after the Beatles renounced drugs and became followers of Indian mystic Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. “It was an idyllic, positive situation at the foothills of the Himalayas,” said Ms. Boyd. “I loved it there.”
“The holidays, the times we went away together” is what Cynthia Lennon remembers as the best times.
“When George, John, Cynthia, and I went to Tahiti and sailed on a boat” is what Pattie Boyd said was her fondest memory.
They were hard-pressed to reveal which Beatle song they liked most. “They’re all so different. It’s here, there, and everywhere,” said Cynthia. “But I think that Sergeant Pepper was the most unbelievable album.”
Pressed to say which Beatles song she liked most, Boyd – who is known to be the inspiration for some of George Harrison’s songs – said, “It’s difficult to say which one is my favorite, but ‘All You Need is Love,’ is so strong and profound.”
Someone from the audience wanted to know if there were any hidden messages in the Beatles’ songs. “No, people wanted there to be messages, but there weren’t any,” Cynthia assured the audience.
Questions were asked about what Cynthia’s son, Julian Lennon, was doing musically. Cynthia explained that he completed an album about a year ago, but is still trying to get the best deal, “hopefully by next year.”
Following the live interview, the two women were available for book signings and Pattie’s exhibition of photographs was opened to the public. Ms. Boyd spent a few minutes speaking with the Armenian Reporter, in between signing her books.
She said that this was her first visit to Armenia and to the region in general. “After this book signing, I can’t wait to go out and explore the city,” she smiled. “I want to go to Vernissage and the museum at Republic Square.”
About the Cafesjian Center for the Arts, she said: “I am so blown away; I think this is the most exciting building I have ever seen architecturally; it is so wonderful. I want to bring my friends from London here next year.” She went on to explain that the design of the museum, the different installations on each floor and the gardens were “absolutely beautiful. It’s so beautifully done and the attention to detail is exquisite.”
Cynthia Lennon and Pattie Boyd both seem to have have found peace and happiness. “I am very, very happy,” Cynthia explained. “The one person who has given me strength and hope is my son and my new husband…. It’s important to still have a sense of humor.”
(c) 2009 Armenian Reporter
I remember you were the one who introduced everyone to the Maharishi. Tell me about that, and do you still do some kind of spiritual practice now?
Yeah, I still meditate. I was meditating. Along with a girlfriend I learned Transcendental Meditation and I told George about it. Then the Maharishi was coming to England and I wanted to see him. And I wanted George to meet him. At that time, Paul wanted to meet him as well. That’s why we all went and listened to his lecture, and he was obviously very happy when he heard that they were in the audience, and he wanted to meet them. When he did he suggested that we all go to Wales for a few days to learn more about meditation: he wanted to initiate them. It was really awful because while we were up there, their manager Brian Epstein died. It was just awful. One can think how extraordinary that the one person who had been guiding them throughout their career, from the beginning of their career, died, just as this spiritual leader is taking over.
Did it feel like a baton had been passed?
Yes. Well, no, it didn’t last for very long for some of them, but it did for George, for the rest of his life.
Also see Prudence Farrow — subject of the Beatles song Dear Prudence — visits India’s Kumbh Mela and The former Beatles Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr reunion for David Lynch’s benefit concert airs on New York’s THIRTEEN, Sunday, April 29
In this Prime Time Russia Today news spot, uploaded on Jul 17, 2011, a reporter asks Pattie Boyd about her trip to India with the Beatles in the context of a her photography exhibit.
Q: A section of this exhibit is dedicated to the Beatles and your trip with them to India, particularly George Harrison. How important was that time spent in India for you?
A: It was a very very special time. I loved being in India and I loved everything that we learned from Maharishi, which was an extended course on meditation. And it was very, it was wonderful being there at that time because the Beatles were particularly prolific. They wrote most of the songs for the White Album while we were in India.