December 9th, 2010
10:56 AM ET
Just three days before his death in December, 1980, John Lennon opened up in a candid interview with Rolling Stone, discussing the message in his music, what he thinks of those who criticized him during his five-year hiatus, and whether or not he’d ever find his way back to the road again.
The latest issue of Rolling Stone contains Lennon’s full interview with writer Jonathan Cott, which is sure to provide memorable quotes for fans. For example, how he felt about those aforementioned critics: "What they want is dead heroes, like Sid Vicious and James Dean," Lennon said. "I'm not interested in being a dead [expletive] hero...so forget 'em, forget 'em."
But, as all Lennon fans know, this celebrated, influential artist wasn’t afraid to say exactly what was on his mind.
In a 1966 interview with a London reporter that was later excerpted in American teen magazine Datebook, Lennon uttered that now infamous quote about how popular the Beatles had become. "Christianity will go. It will vanish and shrink. I needn't argue about that: I'm right, and I will be proved right. We're more popular than Jesus Christ now; I don't know which will go first—rock 'n' roll or Christianity,” he said.
The quote has become perhaps as famous as the group’s music, but for those who revered it so much that they dared not to play it, Lennon said he had no problem with other musicians performing covers of the group’s work. “I love it. I was thrilled he [Elton] was doing it,” he said in a 1975 interview that was published in a 1988 issue of Spin magazine. “People are afraid of Beatle music. They are still afraid of my songs. Because they got that big image thing: You can't do a Beatle number ... You can't touch a Lennon song; only Lennon can do it... It's garbage! Anybody can do anything.”
The famed musician was also synonymous with political activism, but in a 1980 interview with Newsweek, Lennon provided more context for his political views.
“That radicalism was phony, really, because it was out of guilt. I'd always felt guilty that I made money, so I had to give it away or lose it,” he said. “I don't mean I was a hypocrite. When I believe, I believe right down to the roots. But being a chameleon, I became whoever I was with. When you stop and think, what the hell was I doing fighting the American Government just because Jerry Rubin couldn't get what he always wanted – a nice cushy job."
In a 1980 Playboy interview, famous for its depth with the artist, Lennon responded to the idea of performing for charity. “Where do people get off saying the Beatles should give $200,000,000 to South America? 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,” he said. “After the $200,000,000 is gone, then what? It goes round and round in circles. You can pour money in forever. After Peru, then Harlem, then Britain. There is no one concert. We would have to dedicate the rest of our lives to one world concert tour, and I'm not ready for it. Not in this lifetime, anyway.”
That same year, speaking to Rolling Stone just days before he was killed, Lennon explained: “We’re not the first to say 'Imagine No Countries' or 'Give Peace a Chance,' but we’re carrying that torch, like the Olympic torch, passing it hand to hand, to each other, to each country, to each generation . . . and that’s our job. Not to live according to somebody else’s idea of how we should live – rich, poor, happy, not happy, smiling, not smiling, wearing the right jeans, not wearing the right jeans.
“I’m not claiming divinity. I’ve never claimed purity of soul,” Lennon went on. “I’ve never claimed to have the answers to life. I only put out songs and answer questions as honestly as I can, but only as honestly as I can – no more, no less. I cannot live up to other people’s expectations of me because they’re illusionary…I see the world through different eyes now. But I still believe in peace, love and understanding.”
Check out Rolling Stone's newest issue for the full interview with Lennon. How are you remembering him?
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