Jeff Lynne facts: The songs, sunglasses, and musical history of ELO's mastermind

5 April 2024, 10:44

Jeff Lynne led Electric Light Orchestra to global superstardom.
Jeff Lynne led Electric Light Orchestra to global superstardom. Picture: Alamy

By Thomas Curtis-Horsfall

Listen to this article

Loading audio...

Jeff Lynne transformed Electric Light Orchestra into a global musical force.

An indefinable one at that. ELO are one of the most difficult bands to pin down in terms of their sound - are they rock, disco, orchestral pop, or progressive?

It's safe to say the Electric Light Orchestra sound like no other band that came before them or has come since.

Whichever way you wish to think of them, it doesn't alter the impact that the band and their mastermind Jeff Lynne made on popular music during the seventies and eighties.

Throughout that era, ELO were ever-present in charts all over the world, notably in the UK where they achieved a total of 27 top 40 songs, as well as 15 top 20 songs in the US.

Lynne's unique vision propelled the outfit to commercial and critical success, selling 50 million records worldwide, and later being honoured with an induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

ELO wasn't the only string to Lynne's bow however - after disbanding in 1986 citing "boredom", he formed supergroup the Traveling Wilburys with heroes and peers in Bob Dylan, George Harrison, Roy Orbison, and Tom Petty, later becoming involved in The Beatles' brief comeback.

But what are his biggest songs? How did he get his start in music? Why does he always wear sunglasses? Here's a look back at Jeff Lynne's life.

How old is Jeff Lynne and where did he grow up?

Jeff Lynne aged 19. (Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)
Jeff Lynne aged 19. (Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images). Picture: Getty

Jeff Lynne was born on 30th December 1947 in Erdington, Birmingham. In 2024, he will turn 77 years old.

His father Phillip was a foreman and his mother Nancy worked at ATV Television. Jeff is one of three children and studied at Alderlea Boys' Secondary School after the family relocated to Shard End in Birmingham.

Though the Lynne's weren't necessarily from a musical background, Phillip was a lover of classical music which left a lasting impression on Jeff.

Jeff's father bought him his first acoustic guitar, an instrument he said he still played until 2012. Whilst his mother wanted him to pursue a career in media, Jeff chose music instead.

How did Jeff Lynne get his start in music?

Jeff Lynne, Roy Wood, and Bev Bevan in The Move, 1970. (Photo by Chris Walter/WireImage)
Jeff Lynne, Roy Wood, and Bev Bevan in The Move, 1970. (Photo by Chris Walter/WireImage). Picture: Getty

Inspired by The Beatles' 'Please Please Me', Jeff Lynne formed his first band in 1963 called the Rockin' Hellcats.

After several lineup changes, the band became Andicap, before Lynne jumped ship to The Chads, later moving on to The Nightriders who later changed their name to the Idle Race after Jeff was appointed their primary songwriter.

His first album as an artist came with the Idle Race, though after their 1968 debut The Birthday Party failed to crack the charts, Lynne was convinced by fellow Birmingham musician Roy Wood to join his band The Move.

The merry-go-round didn't end there - Lynne and Wood left The Move to form their own band, Electric Light Orchestra, to "pick up where The Beatles left off...".

But after their 1971 debut album, The Electric Light Orchestra, which featured tracks such as '10538 Overture', Roy Wood departed to form yet another band, who became Wizzard, with Lynne becoming the band's creative force.

Fun fact: ELO's debut album was released in the US in 1972 under the name, No Answer, due to an executive at United Artists Records wrote down "no answer" in his notes after failing to reach the band's manager, and later getting confused.

What are Electric Light Orchestra's biggest songs?

Electric Light Orchestra - Evil Woman • TopPop

- 'Mr. Blue Sky'

- 'Evil Woman'

- 'Strange Magic'

- 'Showdown'

- 'Livin' Thing'

- 'Don't Bring Me Down'

- 'Telephone Line'

- 'Sweet Talkin' Woman'

- 'Shine a Little Love'

- 'Last Train To London'

- 'Xanadu' feat. Olivia Newton-John

- 'Hold On Tight'

- 'All Over The World'

- 'The Diary Of Horace Wimp'

- '10538 Overture'

What was Jeff Lynne's involvement with The Beatles?

Jeff Lynne On His Relationship With The Beatles

After disbanding Electric Light Orchestra in 1986, Lynne focused on producing, which later led to forming the Traveling Wilburys.

He established a close bond with George Harrison after his time in the Wilburys, as well as producing his 1987 album Cloud Nine.

"I was great pals with George for ten years," Lynne revealed in a 2019 interview. "He asked me if I'd work on his album Cloud Nine but he said, 'Fancy going on holiday first?'. So, we went to Australia to watch the Grand Prix in Adelaide. It was quite a trip."

When all members of 'the Threatles' were convinced to reunite without John Lennon in 1994, George Martin was first approached about producing the demos for 'Free As a Bird' and 'Real Love'.

He declined, citing the demos poor quality, so Harrison insisted Jeff Lynne join the three remaining members of The Beatles in the studio alongside the band's original engineer Geoff Emerick.

Though Jeff produced both of the records and provided backing vocals, he knew his place, given the emotional heft of getting the band back together without the late John Lennon.

Lennon himself was a major fan of ELO, referring to them as the "sons of The Beatles" at one point, so Lynne was a fitting appointment.

"We just pretended that John had gone on holiday or out for tea and had left us the tape to play with," Ringo Starr recalled. "That was the only way we could deal with it, and get over the hurdle, because it was really very emotional."

Why does Jeff Lynne always wear sunglasses?

Wearing sunglasses has been Jeff Lynne's trademark since the early days of Electric Light Orchestra. (Photo by Michael Putland/Getty Images)
Wearing sunglasses has been Jeff Lynne's trademark since the early days of Electric Light Orchestra. (Photo by Michael Putland/Getty Images). Picture: Getty

Despite rumours, Jeff Lynne has no medical requirements to wear sunglasses. Though they've become his trademark, given he wears them almost always.

Defiantly private and self-effacing, Lynne has said that sunglasses give him "something to hide behind, mirroring his musical hero and one-time bandmate Roy Orbison.

Whilst he does in glasses in his old age, there's nothing inherently wrong with his eyes.

"I suppose it is sort of a 'hiding-behind' mechanism," Lynne confessed in a 2019 interview. 'But I'm not so bad as I used to be. And I actually need glasses now. I can't be doing without them."

Is Jeff Lynne married and does he have children?

Jeff Lynne married Camelia in 2017. (Photo by ANGELA WEISS / AFP) (Photo by ANGELA WEISS/AFP via Getty Images)
Jeff Lynne married Camelia in 2017. (Photo by ANGELA WEISS / AFP) (Photo by ANGELA WEISS/AFP via Getty Images). Picture: Getty

Jeff Lynne is married to Camelia Kath, who wed in 2017. He was married twice previously, firstly to Rosemary Adams from 1972 to 1977, and secondly to Sandi Kapelson from 1979 to 2017.

Lynne had two daughters with Kapelson, Stephanie and Laura, the latter of whom he invited on stage to sing alongside him at a concert in 2016.

Are there any other facts we should know about Jeff Lynne?

Strange Magic - ELO | The Midnight Special

Jeff Lynne is a lifelong Birmingham City Football Club fan, and still maintains his Brummie accent to this day.

Even though The Beatles became his primary musical inspiration, Lynne detested them at first after hearing 'Love Me Do'.

It was in fact Roy Orbison that sparked his love affair with rock music, after hearing 'Only The Lonely' on the radio.

In 2014, Jeff Lynne sealed his status as a hometown legend after being awarded a star on the Birmingham Walk of Stars, and a year later being inducted into the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

After over fifty years since they first formed, Jeff Lynne announced the Electric Light Orchestra would finally come to an end with a final ever tour starting in 2024.