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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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