In 1963, while Sonnie was married to photographer Robert Freeman (who had recently begun his professional relationship with the Beatles), John Lennon was looking for a home to rent in London for himself, his wife Cynthia and baby son Julian. Freeman suggested that the couple take a flat in the same building in the South Kensington area of London where he lived in Emporer’s Gate, just off Cromwell Road. Freeman had become a good friend of the Beatles and socialized with them. Author Philip Norman wrote that Sonnie also joined her husband in socializing with John and Cynthia. Sonnie became personally close to John Lennon and they would often stay up late together talking “about things like life death, the way you do when you’re young.”
Philip Norman wrote that Sonnie Freeman conducted a clandestine affair with John Lennon for over a year. The Freemans’ flat was fashionably wood-panelled. When Robert was out and Cynthia upstairs, John would slip downstairs to see Sonnie and they did, indeed, have an affair. He writes that the lyrics of the song “Norwegian Wood” are an implicit reference by Lennon to his alleged affair with Sonnie Freeman.
John stated in a 1970 interview with Rolling Stone:
“Norwegian Wood was about an affair I was having. I was very careful and paranoid because I didn’t want my wife, Cyn, to know that there really was something going on outside the household. I’d always had some kind of affairs going, so I was trying to be sophisticated in writing about an affair, but in such a smokescreen way that you couldn’t tell. I can’t remember any specific woman it had to do with.”
John began writing Norwegian Wood in Switzerland while on holiday with Cynthia and his record producer friend George Martin and his fiancee Judy Lockhart-Smith in late January 1965. In mid March 1965 Robert and Sonnie Freeman travelled together with the Beatles and their womenfolk to the Austrian Alps for location shooting for Help!. Robert Freeman was the color consultant on the film and the couples socialized while staying at the Edelweiss Hotel in Obertauern. Sonnie joined Cynthia Lennon, Maureen Starkey and Pattie Boyd everyday while the men were working on the film. They’d sunbake together, walk around the village, ski, or just sit and talk in the hotel.
John collaborated with Paul McCartney to finish Norwegian Wood and it was recorded in October 1965 and released on the Rubber Soul album (with cover photographs by Robert Freeman) in December 1965.
Robert Freeman eventually became aware of his wife’s affair with John Lennon. Cynthia Lennon wrote in her 2005 book, John:
One evening, not long after we moved to Kenwood, there was a knock at the door. John answered and I stood not far behind him. Bob and Sonnie, the Beatle’s photographer and his wife who had lived below is in Emperor’s Gate, were on the doorstep. Bob looked furious and Sonnie, a stunning Swede (sic), was in tears, cowering behind him. Bob ignored me and said he wanted to talk to John. They all disappeared into the living room. Half an hour later Bob and Sonnie left. When John came back into the kitchen I asked him what had been going on, but he shrugged and disappeared upstairs to this music room. It was never mentioned between us again, but not long afterward I heard that Bob and Sonnie were divorcing. I couldn’t escape the conclusion that she’d had an affair with John, although I never had any proof.
Sonnie Freeman is described by writer Philip Norman as having been an early 1960s model “with impish looks and a rangy physique that perfectly set off the new 'fun’ fashions of young designers like Mary Quant. She was photographed in Majorca by her first husband Robert Freeman and his images of her were prominently featured in the inaugural 1964 Pirelli Calendar for the months of February, March, May, July, September and October.
Sonnie was born in Berlin, Germany and grew up in Great Britain during the post World War II years. Her father was the Mayor of Wroclaw when it was still a part of Germany. He was firmly anti-Hitler, resulting in a Nazi Party gauleiter shooting him dead. Although she was German-born, in the 1960s Sonnie used to tell people that she was Norwegian.
In the 1970s, Robert Freeman divorced her and she subsequently remarried John Drane, taking his last name as her own. She is still married to Drane and is a mother to Janine, Dean, Leah, Lucian and Suki; and grandmother to Cassius, Evie, Sonny and Owain. In recent years she has become an artist and poet.
Source information from: Wikipedia, and John, by Cynthia Lennon.