Remembering John Lennon: The interviews
December 9th, 2010
10:56 AM ET

Remembering John Lennon: The interviews

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] 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?

Filed under: Celebrities • Music

soundoff (15 Responses)
  1. sayonara

    see the funniest part of him

    November 11, 2012 at 9:34 am | Report abuse |
  2. Jules

    I am a huge fan of John Lennon. I wish that he was still with us today. I personally believe that he was the greatest member of the Beatles for the Beatles would have been nothing without John Lennon. While I am a huge fan of John Lennon's career with the Beatles I am also a huge fan of his solo career with Yoko becuase I believe his music to be so deep and meaningful like for example the song Imagine, it was such a meaningfun anthem with him him crying out that all we need in the world is peace and harmony or a "brotherhood of man". I also love John Lennon becuase he was willing to do things that other people weren't willing to do even if he would be criticisd for them. For example, how he was willing to protest about peace in anyway possible including his Bed-In for peace and his amazing song, Give Peace a Chance, he was willing to use his fame for something good and to express something the world needed and still needs more of. However, there was one thing that I didn't necessarily dislike about John Lennon so much as I was puzzled by it was his relationship with Yoko Ono, I know there love was a true one and a passionate one, but I believed although she changed him better in many ways she also changed him for the worse in many other ways. Although she was the one who was finnally able to convince John to express himself like he never could before he also became a little too different from the way he was. However, I am and always will be a fan of John Lennon, for how amazing he was and how he was willing to tand up for whatever he belivedi n.

    June 6, 2011 at 9:56 am | Report abuse |
  3. Will Pottharst

    I have a 24kt gold plated John Lennon imagine albulm for sale its number 191 of 2500 made if interested please email me at

    April 17, 2011 at 6:07 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Just saying....

    Check out "his" Xmas message at "bennyweechy"

    December 11, 2010 at 1:17 pm | Report abuse |
  5. karla

    ......and Elvis is a vampire named Bubba in Bontone Mississippi

    December 9, 2010 at 4:17 pm | Report abuse |
  6. sunless

    Lennon's best song was Disco Duck.

    December 9, 2010 at 1:48 pm | Report abuse |
  7. sunless

    better see this http://www.SUPERSONIC.US.COM

    December 9, 2010 at 1:34 pm | Report abuse |
  8. bill meyers

    John Lennon and the Beatles were and will always be the number one band in the world. Will anyone 30 years from now be talking about Bono, not likely but you can probably be assured they will still be talk about the Beatles. Bono doesn't even belong to be mentioned in the same breath as the Beatles and personally I find it offensive when it is. For those of you who never grew up listening to Lennon and Beatle music take the time, it is well worth it. Bono and basically all musicians of today and the post Beatle music are copy cats of the Beatles, it basically as simple as that. The Beatles set the tone and everyone simply followed.

    December 9, 2010 at 12:17 pm | Report abuse |
  9. michaelfury

    "Our society is run by insane people for insane objectives. I think we're being run by maniacs for maniacal ends and I think I'm liable to be put away as insane for expressing that. That's what's insane about it."

    – John Lennon

    December 9, 2010 at 11:52 am | Report abuse |
  10. cheefsfury


    December 9, 2010 at 11:01 am | Report abuse |
    • Rick_Scott

      I thought he was on thier last album.

      Your Fired!

      December 9, 2010 at 11:35 am | Report abuse |
    • Elvis

      John and I have been playing at the Crocodile Cafe on Miller and 3rd since it opened last March, Bono should stop by.

      December 9, 2010 at 11:40 am | Report abuse |

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