Cynthia Lennon reached the age of 75, and in writing about her leaving us yesterday I remarked that she was the latest in a long line of deaths of those closely associated with The Beatles, reminding myself of how so many Beatle people are no more and how so many of them left us tragically early. John heads the list, of course, callously murdered in 1980, with George following, a victim of cancer in 2001, but there are many others, both from The Beatles’ inner circle and from its outer fringes, who died too young, an unusually large number in fact.
The first, tragically in view of his potential as a painter, was John’s friend Stuart Sutcliffe who died from a cerebral haemorrhage in Hamburg in 1962. His value to The Beatles as a musician may have been questionable but his influence on the way they presented themselves is incalculable.
Then there was their manager Brian Epstein who in 1967 succumbed to what is believed to have been an accidental overdose of sleeping pills, and whose death seems to have presaged the slow and agonising separation of the group. Even more mysterious was the suicide by hanging a year later of Epstein and The Beatles’ lawyer David Jacobs who was at the heart of the Seltaeb fiasco in which countless millions were squandered over The Beatles’ merchandising rights.
Their roadie and general assistant Mal Evans was next to fall, killed by a policeman in a bizarre shoot-out in Los Angeles in 1976. Two other pillars of The Beatles’ support mechanism, Derek Taylor and Neil Aspinall, died in 1997 and 2008 respectively, both from cancer. Brian’s brother Clive, who had inherited Brain’s interests in The Beatles but all too quickly divested them, died in 1988, two years after their music publisher Dick James, the initiator of Northern Songs, succumbed to a heart attack. Allen Klein, who took over the helm of the good ship Apple for a while but then fell out with everyone, died in 2009.
Within The Beatles’ own families there was John’s mother Julia, the victim of a road accident in 1958, two years after Paul’s mother Mary died from cancer. The same illness took Linda McCartney, Paul’s first wife, in 1998, and Maureen Starkey, Ringo’s ex-wife who went on to marry Hard Rock Café founder Isaac Tigrett, died from leukaemia in 1994.
On the outer fringes of The Beatles’ circle we have mourned Rory Storm (1972), Pete Ham (1975) and Tommy Evans (1983) of Badfinger, their childhood friend Ivan Vaughan (1993) and Dezo Hoffman (1986), the photographer who in 1963 created the lasting image of the Fab Four in their matching grey suits with collarless jackets. John’s great friend and ally Harry Nilsson died in 1994.
There may be others that I’ve overlooked but all these played a role, some great and some less so, in creating the magic of The Beatles, and as yet another of this extended family – Cynthia – goes to her rest I mourn them all and give thanks for what they did.