Though the phrase “John Lennon beats his wife,” or variations of it, has been said colloquially for years, memes referencing the concept appeared online as early as 2014. One of the earliest posts to call attention to this was posted on Tumblr when a debate about known domestic abusers was brought up on the platform. In the post, Tumblr user grrspt listed off a group of people who were guilty of domestic abuse but are not known for it, with John Lennon being one of the first listed. This exchange was screenshotted and uploaded to Know Your Meme on September 28th, 2014, by user ChinRakka, where it received over 4,100 views in seven years (shown below, click to expand).
One of the first direct call-out memes about Lennon’s domestic abuse came from the subreddit /r/OkBuddyRetard where it was uploaded by Redditor boi_pucci on January 25th, 2020, receiving 275 upvotes in two years (shown below).