Jewelry designer and ex girlfriend of John Lennon: biography of May Pang, born in Manhattan

May Fung Yee Pang is a multi-talented individual from Manhattan. Throughout her life, she has worked as a music manager, personal assistant, and coordinator, working with British musician John Lennon and Japanese-American artist and musician Yoko Ono. When they (John Lennon and Yoko Ono) split in 1973, a romance began between Lennon and May Pang, which lasted for 18 months. Lennon himself referred to this period as the “Lost Weekend”. Read more at manhattanka.

Her relationship with John Lennon greatly influenced Pang’s views and feelings. During her time with the British musician, she wrote memoirs, which were published as the collection “Loving John” by Warner in 1983, and the book of joint photographs “Instamatic Karma” by St. Martin’s Press in 2008. In 2022, a documentary film called “The Lost Weekend: A Love Story” premiered, chronicling the 18 months she spent with John Lennon.

Childhood spent in Manhattan

May Fung Yee Pang was born on October 24, 1950, in Manhattan, in a family of Chinese immigrants who moved to New York. The future jewelry designer spent her childhood in the New York borough of East Harlem, where her family lived. She grew up with her older sister and adopted brother. Her mother worked as a supervisor at a local laundry in East Harlem until the family had to move to another house due to the planned demolition of their previous home.


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After that, the family decided to move to a house located near 97th Street and 3rd Avenue in Manhattan. While living in the new borough, she enrolled at the Saint Michael Academy, which she successfully completed. After finishing her studies at the academy, she decided to attend New York City Community College. Perhaps during this period, the girl realized herself and her path: she wanted to become a professional model. However, famous modeling agencies in Manhattan and New York rejected her application because they considered her too “ethnic”.

The first steps in management and assistantship

May Fung Yee Pang began to take her first steps in building her career at the age of approximately 20. She began working as a producer of singles and songs, encouraging local artists to record compositions and develop in this direction. In 1970, she became a secretary at a local New York label called “ABKCO Records” (at that time, this label represented “Apple Records”). The label where May Pang worked represented three former members of the legendary British rock band The Beatles: John Lennon, George Harrison and Ringo Starr. Later, the future jewelry designer became a coordinator and personal assistant to the first of them and his future wife. 

In December of the same year, John Lennon and Yoko Ono invited May Pang to help them with experimental projects, the films Up Your Legs Forever and Fly. Later, she was invited to work as a secretary and factotum, a trusted person who performs any assigned tasks, in New York and in Britain. In 1971, May Pang became a full-fledged personal assistant to the couple. She managed the process of creating compositions, organizing and coordinating art exhibitions (including Yoko Ono’s exhibition “This Is Not Here” at the Everson Museum in Syracuse).


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One of the important chapters of May Pang’s career was the period of her relationship with John Lennon. Memories of their time together, which Lennon called “The Lost Weekend”, became the basis for the creation of a film and a novel of the same name (the aforementioned film The Lost Weekend: A Love Story). While living in the new city of Los Angeles for a while, the couple worked on two new projects. These projects were albums in the style of old rock and roll, with Phil Spector assisting in the recording.

The process of creating the album “Rock’n’Roll” was quite scandalous due to incidents where Lennon was either drunk or could start drinking during the process. Additionally, during the recording sessions of this album, Lennon exhibited fairly unstable behavior (sometimes even resulting in gunfire in the studio). Moreover, despite a large number of artists expressing interest in participating in this album, it came out in a rather unconventional form: it doesn’t contain any songs written by John. 

Returning to Life in Manhattan

In June of 1974, John Lennon and May Pang returned to the latter’s hometown of Manhattan. After the notorious events they experienced in Los Angeles, Lennon decided to completely give up alcohol and focus more on his music career. It is known that immediately after returning home, the couple adopted two cats whom they named Minor and Major, after the harmonious tones. During the summer of 1974, John worked on his new album “Walls and Bridges”, with assistance from May Pang. They lived in a penthouse located at 434 East 52nd Street. 

An interesting story happened to May Pang and Lennon in the summer of the same year. One night, Lennon called his official photographer Bob Gruen and told him that he saw an unknown object from his balcony, which he called an “UFO”. During the phone call, Lennon asked the photographer to report the circumstances to the local police station, but he refused, explaining the absurdity of the request. As it turned out later, the Daily News newspaper revealed this event in one of its articles. The musician referred to this incident in the song “Nobody Told Me”.

However, later the relationship between May Pang and John Lennon came to an end, and he returned to Yoko Ono. After these circumstances, the designer decided to continue her work, but in the position of a public relations manager at “United Artists Records” and “Island Records”. During her time at these labels, May Pang worked on albums by artists such as Bob Marley and Robert Palmer. 


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May Pang’s Memories: Memoirs and Photo Book

In 1983, May Pang tried her hand at writing memoirs, or as they are also called, memories. Her first published work was Loving John, which she periodically supplemented, and later renamed to John Lennon: The Lost Weekend. The book of May Pang’s memories consisted of 500 pages, mainly chronicling the events of Lennon’s album creations, where the jewelry designer played a leading role. Later, she condensed the content to 300 pages, leaving only the memories that became sensational aspects of their relationship.

In 2008, May Pang released a new “book of memories”, but unlike John Lennon: The Lost Weekend, it contained personal photographs. The title of this collection is Instamatic Karma. The book contains unique images, such as John Lennon’s signature regarding the official dissolution of his partnership with The Beatles, or the well-known photo of Lennon and McCartney (the famous British singer) together. Lennon’s first wife, Cynthia, responded positively to the content of this book.

May Pang’s Jewelry Designs

During one of her interviews, May Pang revealed that she was not just a professional music producer, assistant and coordinator. It was also known that she has been designing and making jewelry independently for some time. Along with event organization and autograph sessions, she enjoys creating and designing jewelry.


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When asked “How did you become interested in designing jewelry?” she replied that her mother, an elderly woman from China who loved creating her own jewelry, passed away at the age of 97. May Pang decided to try her hand at it in honor of her mother, who had spent her whole life doing jewelry work. May’s first attempt was like this: she bought all the necessary materials and tools to start designing jewelry, and her hands seemed to move on their own in the right sequence. May Pang’s mother had amazing eyes for jewelry work, and she inherited vintage Swarovski beads from her.

The Manhattan native periodically updates all of her mother’s works to reflect the style of the 2000s. May remains confident that her mother sees it all from heaven. She also works on some photographs from her personal book Instamatic Karma, which has been released in limited edition.