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Riley releases Lennon biography

Emerson Associate Professor of Journalism Tim Riley released his latest book Lennon: The Man, the Myth, the Music—The Definitive Life on September 20. Riley is a noted Beatles scholar and NPR music critic.

Lennon, published by Hyperion Books, explores music icon John Lennon in all his contradictions: the British art student who universalized an American style, the anarchic rock ’n’ roller with the moral spine, the anti-jazz snob who posed naked with his avant-garde lover, and the misogynist who became a househusband, according to the publisher.

Tim Riley

Associate Professor Tim Riley's released latest book Lennon: The Man, the Myth, the Music—The Definitive Life has received praise from Publishers Weekly, Kirkus Reviews, USA Today, and The Times of London.

In his research for the book, Riley culled the most reliable information from hundreds of books, and tracked down even more insightful sources—many of which are new and exclusive to this book—among Lennon’s friends, enemies, confidantes, and associates. He incorporated lost memoirs written by relatives and friends into the book, as well as previously undiscovered City of Liverpool records.

“I wanted to harness everything that was meaningful and factual about all the stray celebrity profiles and family memoirs into a larger narrative that told the story of rock ’n’ roll history through Lennon’s ears,” Riley said. “He means something so much different to Americans than he does to his British audience, and his persona has changed so much since his death. There was clearly a new story to be told. And many new sources to be tapped.”

The book has already received rave reviews. Publisher’s Weekly named it one of the “Top 10 Music Books This Fall” and called it an “…insightful, page-turning examination of Lennon’s roots, his Beatle fame, his art, his manic personality and relationship with Yoko Ono…” Kirkus Reviews said the book is “essential for Lennon fans, and one of the most thorough yet accessible rock biographies to appear in recent years.”

Besides this latest book, Riley has authored four previous books about popular music, including Tell Me Why: A Beatles Commentary. He reviews pop and classical music for WBUR-FM’s Here & Now, and has written for The Washington Post, Slate, Salon, The Huffington Post, and many other publications. Trained as a classical pianist at Oberlin and Eastman, he lectures widely on censorship and the arts, rock history, the British Invasion, and rock criticism. Online, Riley edits the music metaportal, and blogs at For more information about his books, visit his author site at

Emerson’s Journalism Department will host a lecture and book signing by Riley at the College’s Barnes & Noble at 114 Boylston Street on October 11 at 4:00 pm.

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