Lennon’s relationship with partner Paul McCartney crackled with synergy. Even though (contrary to popular belief) they actually wrote largely on their own, they each tempered the other, leavening the pretty and sweet with the edgy and rough, each serving as yin to the other’s yang and vice to his versa. As such, though, they came across as an iconic John/Paul blur. So it was not until The Beatles’ lamented dissolution that John Lennon, the man, began to emerge.

That man revealed himself to be very much a reactor, his creative energy leading to widely varying ends, depending on a catalytic reaction with his collaborators. Avant-garde sound collages and primal scream confessionals with wife-to-be Yoko Ono, leftist political polemics with New York hippie band Elephant’s Memory, musical debauchery with Elton John when his marriage was on the rocks and he was partying 24-7 in El Lay, the mirror had many faces.

But who looked back out when Lennon was by himself? His classic album Imagine gave us a glimpse of a shy, poetic idealist; his 1973 release Mind Games showed us a frustrated expatriate caught in the gears of an uncaring system. It wasn’t until he had reconciled with Ono, however, and after four years of retirement as a house-husband and stay at home Daddy to little Sean, that he re-emerged with the most honest self-portrayal to date, the critically acclaimed Double Fantasy.

Unfortunately, it was already November of 1980. The clock ran out scant weeks later, on December 8, when Lennon was murdered by a deranged fan. As to what further glimpses might have revealed of the loving, playful, caring, emotional man who was John Lennon, we can only imagine.