John Lennon’s Second Thoughts

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Big Hollywood Editor-in-Chief John Nolte noted a compelling piece at The American Conservative by Jordan Michael Smith published more than a year ago which fisked Lennon’s final interview with Playboy. Smith quotes Lennon from the interview, rejecting the idea that a Beatles reunion concert for charity would make any substantive effect toward improving the world:

“You know, America has poured billions into places like that. It doesn’t mean a damn thing. After they’ve eaten that meal, then what? It lasts for only a day. After the $200,000,000 is gone, then what? It goes round and round in circles.”

Other statements in the interview are more explicit, with Lennon confessing that his famous anti-war political activism was largely driven by his own guilt from his financial success with the Beatles. Thomas Sowell argued in his book Compassion Versus Guilt that such feelings in response to good fortune and wealth can often motivate good-intentioned but ultimately destructive public policies.

That this was the case with Lennon is further enforced by his earlier political transformation while he was still in the Beatles. Recall the song “Revolution” in which Lennon dismissed the revolutionary dream and rebuked the neo-communist Left: “But if you go carrying pictures of chairman Mao/You ain’t going to make it with anyone anyhow.” The seeds of Lennon’s escape from the Left were planted. Lennon was not a very serious leftist. He was just an artist too heavily influenced by some of the other dominant personalities of his age – the ones most skilled at manipulating talented people into becoming their political pawns, their useful idiots.

One need not speculate what kind of music Lennon might have recorded someday with a more grounded political understanding. Home recordings from 1980 exist and have been widely available for years.

Consider the 1980 song “Serve Yourself,” available in the John Lennon anthology and the Wonsaponatime album. The song features a cynical, somewhat combative Lennon urging his listeners to take responsibility for their own lives instead of submitting to a religious or political dogma. This is not the upbeat tone and message of “Give Peace a Chance.”

It’s impossible to know the number of people over the last 40 years who jumped into lives of progressive activism because of Lennon’s music. What’s much easier to anticipate is that like the Rosenbergs, Lennon and “Imagine” are not symbols the Left will give up without a fight.

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  • Chezwick_mac

    As a song-writer who derived great inspiration from Lennon over the years, I have to admit that as I grew older and became more conservative politically, I began to see John as a real fruitcake…and re-evaluated the song 'Imagine' as not the enlightened anthem I once thought it was, but as an incredibly naive treatise advocating communism.

    I always recognized two different Johns…the Ono-influenced radical of the late-sixties/early-seventies…and the regular guy both before and after that period who seemed so real and honest in interviews. I'm not ready to concede that Seamans' assertions are fact; in his book, the man justified his pilfering of Lennon's property by claiming he did it altruistically, to get the material to Julian whom he felt deserved to have it…which I thought was not just disingenuous, but an outright lie.

    Having said that, it wouldn't surprise me if John finally grew up by the time he rounded 40. I think he was a tormented soul who was incredibly weak-willed, but was also intelligent, witty, honest, open and accessible.

    I also happen to believe in separating a man from his art and judging each independently. Songs like 'In My Life', 'Strawberry Fields Forever', 'Happiness is a Warm Gun', 'Julia', 'Working Class Hero', 'I Found Out', 'Steal and Glass', 'Watching the Wheels' and many others all attest to the depth of the man…and his remarkable talent.

    • tarleton

      Who cares what singer/song writers or trashy celebs think about politics…many of these creeps are highschool dropouts

      • Questions

        Who cares what untalented rock-haters think about politics? They're just jealous.

        • tagalog

          What is there to be jealous of about rock music? It's been in the toilet for about 20 years, if not since disco.

          • Questions

            Listen to "Little Steven's Underground Garage," the coolest spot on the FM dial, before you rush to judgment.

      • Chiggles

        What's wrong with being a successful dropout? As long as they keep their opinions to themselves…

  • theleastthreat

    While I would like to say that Lennon had a change of heart about the left, we can never truly know. He had a tragic early life and died violently. Let the man rest in peace. Fighting over his corpse isn't something I would care to see.

  • Lesthanzero

    If this is fighting over a corpse, then all attempts to record history accurately are fights over corpses.

    • intrcptr2

      That's why we invented written language…

  • http://jewishdefense.org AJ Weberman

    I knew the dude and his bitch personally. He was a junkie big time after he moved to the Dakota. He paid the cops off with body armor and cooled the Leftwing politics. Fred Seaman is telling the truth. Junk destroyed his humanity.

  • StephenD

    The fact is we don't need to have Lennon seen as a convert. The balance of the heroes of the Left are sufficient in themselves. Mao, Stalin, Pol Pot, Castro… All we need do is point to these disastrous examples of the Lefts policies come to fruition. Yet, and still they cling to these folks as if they were "good" for humanity.
    Removing Lennon from their ranks will be near meaningless.

  • http://johnrussellturner.blogspot.com John Russell Turner

    I've been saying Lennon wasn't quite the Red for years-it was the words of "Revolution" that got me thinking John might not be a true hater of humanity, er uh Leftist…but we will never know. For me, Lennon's appeal was his intelligence and wit, his songwriting genius, and his reputation as a rebel. Not his politics. Although I thought the words to "Imagine" were overly idealistic, it was a great tune nevertheless…

  • Amused

    There was a Pope who exhumed the corpse of one of his predesessors , for the sole purpose of putting him on trial . I guess that type of human behavior has not changed .

    • paddydonovan

      Is Lennon on trial? For what? Because he argued against a totalitarian system in which millions were murdered upsets lefties? Sorry that he actually seemed to be like most people who become educated and realize the damage done by leftist policies and naive thinking

  • Amused

    So before any more post mortem judgements , I would refer to another Lennon hit "Instant Karma " .

  • http://historyscoper.angelfire.com tlwinslow

    When it comes to rock stars like John Lennon, face it, they are mainly dyslexic and it doesn't matter so much what they thought with their left hemispheres as what they did with their right hemispheres, starting with their music, followed by their publicity stunts to sell more music. Speaking of rock and roll, there's only one bona fide historyscope of rock and roll on the Internet, and it's totally free to enjoy, with thousands of links to YouTube so you can listen to the music while reading:
    http://tinyurl.com/rockandrollhistory

  • Amused

    Maybe you oughta be listening to some tunes by Sid Vicious .

  • Amused

    Dont know of ANYONE , either left nor right who approved or supported Mao OR Pol Pot . In fact Pol Pot was originally enabled by the U.S. , but went terribly wrong afterwards .

    • tagalog

      Obviously you don't remember the anti-Vietnam War chant of Berkeley protestors:

      Ho, Ho, Ho Chi Minh!
      NLF is gonna win!

      Mao, Mao, Chairman Mao!
      Chairman Mao and Lin Piao!

      I don't know of any pro-Pol Pot chants among the American antiwar protestors; maybe that's because Pol Pot gained prominence after Kent State and the end of the draft ended the anti-Vietnam War disruptions. After all, when Joan Baez was the only prominent Leftist to criticize Pol Pot's wholesale murders of the Cambodian population, it was her fellow Leftist, William Kunstler, who said it was improper to criticize a socialist leader (no matter how much they might deserve it).

    • tagalog

      American leftists who supported Mao: the anti-Vietnam War Left of the 1960s and 1970s,

      American leftists who supported Pol Pot: by the time of Pol Pot, the great bulk of American leftists had mostly shut up after Kent State, enjoyed the end of the draft and the Vietnam War, and were in graduate school, beginning their "Long March Through the Institutions." But there IS at least one person: when Joan Baez had the personal integrity to criticize Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge for their slaughter of the Cambodian population, lawyer William Kunstler criticized her in return, saying he would not say anything negative against a socialist state. I guess you could say he was some sort of a man of principle in some twisted, values-parsing, way.

  • tagalog

    John Lennon was murdered decades ago. The Beatles are largely forgotten, and, where remembered, are remembered as a good-time, feel-good, band, and John Lennon's solo efforts are even more obscure than the Beatles. John Lennon was irrelevant even to the antiwar Left at the time of his and Yoko's "Bed/Peace Tour" or whatever it was called. The 60s are over; they were over for a lot of us by 1968. For the die-hard loonies who have tried to recapture their post-adolescence through their young adult, adult, mature adult, middle-aged, and now old age years, it's all just ridiculous and embarrassing to have to watch. John Lennon was really a conservative? Give me a break. That must have been in between the injections of heroin.

    So who cares? Just let it go, for Heaven's sake.

    • mlcblog

      History, man! We can ponder and often learn from it.

    • Jim_C

      The Beatles are "forgotten?" Actually, they are more successful than ever. They have managed their brand extremely carefully, introducing their music to each subsequent generation in very clever and controlled ways.

      As a musical force, they are one of the only rock bands who can be mentioned in the same company as Bach and Beethoven. No artist in the 20th century in any medium comes close to the influence the Beatles had.

      • tagalog

        Not even Elvis Presley?

  • Questions

    Actually, Lennon did make an album that got back to his rock n' roll roots. It was called, fittingly, "Rock and Roll." Recorded in 1973 and released in 1975, it had some great tracks on it — John's rendition of Ben E. King's "Stand by Me" was a hit single as well.

    Producer Phil Spector, by the way, pulled a gun on John during the recording sessions. Jesus, what a nut — Spector, that is.

  • Raymond in DC

    "If a man isn't a liberal at 20 he has no heart. But if he's still a liberal at 40, he has no head." Lennon was how old when he died? Oh yeah, 40.

    But even if his private persona had grown wiser and more conservative, the damage his public persona had left behind remained. The iconic song "Imagine" was not just an attack on religion, but described a multi-culti world without borders ("no country"), and an amoral existence devoid of values where there's "nothing to live or die for".

    • tagalog

      The song "Imagine" was released in 1971. John Lennon was aged 40 in 1980, the year that he was murdered. So his song was released when John Lennon was 31 years old. It seems to me that a person who is still a lefty -or whatever a person is called who would think the thoughts of "Imagine"- at the age of 31 can still be said to have no head.

  • Steve Chavez

    "Imagine" a world without the likes of Ahmadinejad, Chavez, Castro's, Kim, and Obama!

    • theleastthreat

      I may say you're a dreamer, but you're not the only one.

    • Allen Burnham

      Obama is slighty to the left of Attila the Hun and Eric Cantor is right there with dear old Attila

  • Ghostwriter

    My mother was never a big Beatles fan. I wonder what she'll think of this.

    • intrcptr2

      Nothing, I would wager, unless you're going to spill the beans.

      Of course, I somehow doubt her distaste stemmed from her estimation of their politics, which were pretty ill formed and unknown when they still existed.

  • Jeff Orr

    Its probably true I was surprised when he wrote a Christmas song toward the end.

  • dom youngross

    Groundbreaking artists like Lennon and the Beatles are okay with me, whatever their politics were or weren’t. But when actor Tom Hanks calls for ‘five more years’ of Obama, he can wiz up a rope.

  • Amused

    Lisa you're probaly one of the few people on the face of the earth who would by todays standards, consider Lennon a Conservative .He opposed war , and THAT doesn' t necessarily make him a leftist either .

    • http://www.newsrealblog.com/ DavidSwindle

      Neither leftists nor conservatives are "anti-war." Leftists are happy to support wars they agree with. Likewise conservatives aren't always pro-war. Michele Bachmann has gotten a lot of crap for being against Obama's leftist war in Libya.

  • Amused

    I say lets put Dylan on trial , man he's probably responsible for zillions of lefties !

    • DungMin

      Put Dylan on trial? Are you serious? Have you listened to anything he’s put out in the last 30 years? I’d recommend giving perhaps “Infidels” a spin, then get back to us.

  • WilliamJamesWard

    Was John Lennon a good guy or a bad guy, what will the jury decide? I enjoyed
    the Beatles music when younger and my wife is still over the moon with the
    personalities and songs and she does so without picking up any anti-American
    pro leftist ideas, this is probably the way of most people. If John was leftist and
    turned right well more power to his memory, most leftist friends I had in the
    "60's and "70's are more conservative or strongly conservative today. My question
    is what song will be on our lips if our ship sinks with leftist rust or sails on
    to new and better horizons with American exceptionalism and conservative
    ideas promoting freedom and liberty. On the left "ring around the rosey, a pocket
    full of poseys, ashes, ashes we all fall down. Conservatives "Mine eyes have
    seen the glory of the coming of The Lord……………."…………………………William

  • http://newmediaage.shugartmedia.com/NewMediaWorld/ Tar_n_Feathers

    Like so many of the Boomers that embraced him, Lennon spent a lifetime trying to live down his middle class roots with his working-class-hero posture– a cartoonish affectation that leftists found romantically appealing. It was something I never took too seriously.

  • Almarri

    Liked his music but along with Paul McCartney on everything else,thought they were both arseholes politically!!

  • Amused

    And well they should , for they were not politicians , and it's the politicians , ALL of them who are the "arseholes ".

  • Mareli

    You people are hopeless. John Lennon did not become a rightwinger before he died, despite your wishful thinking. I read the Playboy article too and did not get the impression that he would have voted for Reagan or any of the other rot that some of you want to believe.

  • Reason_For_Life

    Bob Dylan had four words, "Blowin' in the wind" that described all of the Beatles, even though that wasn't his intention. They went whichever way the wind seemed to be blowing.

    Lennon fell for every fad that came his way. The Peace Movement, the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, Karl Marx, environmentalism…you name it, he believed it if he thought other people did.

    Had he lived a few more years he would have embraced global warming, Scientology and Area 51.

    • Jim_C

      He tried many things and became disenchanted with everything. Even wrote a great song explicitly about it. A flawed human being who made ingenious music.

  • Jim_C

    Now, Bob Dylan is a very interesting case. Though the Left tried to co-opt him as a figurehead it was a role he rejected, at some personal cost. "My favorite politician was Arizona senator Barry Goldwater…and there wasn't any way I could explain that to anybody."

  • Jim_C

    As for Lennon and the Beatles, at the end of the day, theirs was a simple message of love and brotherhood and we don't need to read much into it. It's a beautiful message and it will stand the test of time quite well.