A Beatles Journey: Bob Gruen & John Lennon

In a previous blog about my Beatles Journey, I reviewed the book ‘Lennon Revealed’ by Larry Kane, which I didn’t realize would be so… ‘revealing.’

Kane’s book led me to Bob Gruen, the next step in my journey to discovery.  After I had completed writing my blog about Mr. Kane’s book, I shot a raw and unedited copy of it off to Bob Gruen in an email, asking his permission to use a photo.  One might say that Mr. Gruen was the Lennon’s (John & Yoko’s) personal photographer, who knew John Lennon and his entourage personally.  I have to admit I’m still in shock that I got a response, and even more surprised that it was a yes.

Once again, into the car and off to the bookstore… this time for Bob Gruen’s book ‘John Lennon, The New York Years.’

It took me three reads.  The first read, I tried to be thorough, but the pictures were so captivating that I was distracted and just flipped through for the images.  The second read I stayed the course, and though I thought Larry Kane’s book was touching, as the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words.   My third read was a deeper look at the pictures, with a better understanding of their meaning, and Bob’s personal experiences that went along with them.

Bob Gruen is an amazing photographer.  I’ve looked at his website, checked out a lot of his work and let me just say this guy is the real deal.   More importantly, I really get the impression that Bob Gruen is a good man. With each page I turned I felt the love through his lens.

Sure, when presented with the opportunity to photograph John Lennon in his most intimate moments, a photographer would have to be a fool to pass it up.  Even for no pay, we’re talking about John Lennon here, a Beatle. How good would that look in a photographer’s portfolio? Bob Gruen was one lucky guy.

But was he the luckiest?  I think not.

In looking at the photos, and reading Mr. Gruen’s tale, I believe John was the lucky one, or perhaps he just had a gift.  You see, in choosing Bob Gruen as a photographer and chronicler,  John chose wisely… Very wisely.  Perhaps it was luck that put these two together, but whatever it was, Bob Gruen’s book is filled with love.  Each photo, each word, each page tells its own story.

I really didn’t get the impression that this book was about John Lennon the superstar, or John Lennon the musician.  For me it was much more John Lennon the person, and the many faces of that person within a decade’s time.   One cannot read this book – pictures and words – without coming out of it feeling like they know John a little better.

I wonder if John knew that when he and Yoko offered to let Bob Gruen take so many personal and intimate photos that he was again bringing someone into the fold who would do justice to his legacy when he was gone.  To tell the story the right way, the way John – or anyone for that matter – would have wanted their story told.

So yeah, I really love this book.  So much so that it wasn’t enough for me to just say how much I loved it or to write about it in a blog, I had to go a few steps further… I went out and bought twenty-five copies.  Not only do my friends and family get to hear me talking about The Beatles on a daily basis, but now they get a book as well.  It’s just that good.

-Craig Sumsky

P.S.  Thank you Sarah for all of your help and patience.






Photos by Kevin York





7 Responses

  1. Sam Fisher

    Well put. A friend gave me a copy of the book years ago and it has been a coffee table favorite ever since. I never saw it as a book
    about love and friendship, but reading this has given me a fresh perspective on an old favorite. Thank you, Craig

  2. Mike B

    Great blog. First off Bob Gruen is da man. I’m so tired of the overrated rock photographers like Annie Liebovitz. I know Gruen’s work but don’t have this book. I’ll order it on Amazon tonight and check it out though.

  3. Pat Y

    I haven’t read the book yet but I’m pretty excited to now. I think John is one of the most interesting people of the 20th century and I’m looking forward to seeing how that is manifested through photographs. Is it out of line to say that I’m less excited to see any pictures of Yoko? No disrespect, she is just not my cup of tea.

  4. Kristin

    I think the book is a photo essay of an era. I checked it out after reading this post and it really captures this one man, John, after he split from the most amazing group of all time. Craig is right about the love. That famous shot of John in his New York shirt, stretched out on his balcony makes this rebel finally look at home. It takes a real eye for the craft and care for the subject to make look calm the most raucous of Beatles.

  5. What a load of information. I am a fan even though they were before my time lol.
    There is an imgage i do with my bridal parties from the Abbey Road Album. I will show it to you.

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