Stuart Fergusson Victor Sutcliffe was born in Edinburgh, on June 23rd 1940.
As a youngster Sutcliffe’s father moved the family to Liverpool, where Stuart grew up.He attended Park View Primary School, Huyton, and Prescot Grammar School where he developed a love and aptitude for art.
While earning money as a bin man, he attended the Liverpool College of Art and was regarded as one of the best painters in his class, working mainly in an abstract expressionist style.
It was at college that he met fellow student John Lennon, who became his flatmate. After one of Sutcliffe’s paintings sold for the then-massive sum of £65, Lennon convinced him to buy a bass guitar — which he could barely play — and join the band Lennon had formed with his friends Paul McCartney and George Harrison.
The band’s name had already changed numerous times. Upon joining, Sutcliffe and Lennon lit upon the idea of “beetles” as a nod to Buddy Holly and the Crickets. Over the next few months, that name evolved into the Silver Beetles, then the Silver Beatles, and finally to the Beatles.
Along with hastily recruited drummer Pete Best, Sutcliffe and the Beatles traveled to Hamburg, Germany to play clubs and hone their skills. There, Sutcliffe fell in love with photographer Astrid Kirchherr, who became his fiancee just two months after meeting him. She gave him the mop-top haircut the rest of the band would soon adopt.
In 1961, Sutcliffe left the Beatles to focus on his painting and life with Astrid. He won a postgraduate scholarship to attend the Hamburg College of Art, eager to study under Edinburgh sculptor Eduardo Paolozzi.
His artistic career was cut short, however, when after a series of increasingly severe headaches, he died of a sudden cerebral hemorrhage on April 10, 1962, at the age of 21.
His fiancee and former bandmates were devastated. Sutcliffe’s face can still be seen on the far left side of the album cover of the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.