Julian Lennon

Singer/songwriter Julian Lennon returned to the U.S. music scene this year with his first

LP since the early '90s, Photograph Smile.

After hitting it big with his 1984 debut, Valotte, the eldest son of late Beatle John

Lennon had diminishing success with his follow-up LPs and eventually took a long

hiatus from recording.

John Charles Julian Lennon was born 36 years ago today in Liverpool, England, to John

and his first wife, Cynthia Twist. He spent most of his early years with his mother while

John toured with the Beatles, but still managed to inspire two Beatle classics.

Julian's drawing of a classmate reportedly influenced John to write "Lucy in the Sky with

Diamonds." In addition, Paul McCartney's feelings for Julian in the midst of the

dissolution John's marriage to Twist resulted in the song "Hey Jude," which began life as

"Hey Jules."

Julian played guitar and drums as a child and eventually learned the piano. Snippets of

his drumming can be heard on the cut "Ya Ya" from his father's Walls and Bridges

(1974).

After his father's murder, Julian embarked on a quest to become a recording artist. At first

he reportedly signed a contract to record an unreleased song stolen from the vaults of

John's widow, Yoko Ono; he later decided against it.

Julian eventually worked with veteran producer Phil Ramone and issued Valotte,

named for the French chateau where it was recorded. He quickly had a top-10 hit with

the title track and a top-five hit with "Too Late for Goodbyes." Julian was both embraced

and criticized because his voice and music sounded so much like his legendary father's.

The album sold well and raised expectations for the follow-up, 1986's The Secret

Value of Daydreaming, which received largely unkind reviews and didn't sell as well,

despite some MTV airplay.

Mr. Jordan (1989), which fared even worse, was darker in tone and spawned the

minor hit "Now You're in Heaven." When Help Yourself stiffed two years later,

Lennon quit the music business. He was largely silent for most of the decade, though he

appeared as a bartender in "Leaving Las Vegas," the movie that won Nicolas Cage an

Oscar.

"I just felt it wasn't going the way I had hoped," Lennon said recently about his hiatus. "I

made a very clear and distinct decision ... which turned out to be a blessing in disguise ...

to get out of that."

Last year Lennon released Photograph Smile (RealAudio excerpt of

HREF="http://media.addict.com/atn-bin/get-

music/Lennon,_Julian/Photogragh_Smile.ram">title track) in Europe and

Japan. The CD includes the single, "Day After Day," and the ballad "I Should Have

Known." The album, which hit #1 in Japan, also features guitar by Lennon's childhood

friend Justin Clayton.

Lennon, who lives in Italy, plans to tour the United States in the summer. He was recently

spotted at this year's Rock and Roll Hall of Fame ceremony, during which his father's

songwriting collaborator, McCartney, was inducted as a solo artist. Lennon was mobbed

by fans attending the festivities at New York City's Waldorf Astoria.

Other birthdays:

Steve Howe (Yes), 52; Izzy Stradlin (ex-Guns n' Roses), 37; and Donita Sparks (L7), 36.