Second look at John Lennon? If his last personal assistant is to be believed, we may have to imagine John Lennon as a Reaganite. Fred Seaman told a filmmaker compiling anecdotes about the four Beatles that the former radical had begun debating people on the Left and soured on Jimmy Carter:
In new documentary Beatles Stories, Seaman tells filmmaker Seth Swirsky Lennon wasn’t the peace-loving militant fans thought he was while he was his assistant.
He says, “John, basically, made it very clear that if he were an American he would vote for Reagan because he was really sour on (Democrat) Jimmy Carter.
“He’d met Reagan back, I think, in the 70s at some sporting event… Reagan was the guy who had ordered the National Guard, I believe, to go after the young (peace) demonstrators in Berkeley, so I think that John maybe forgot about that… He did express support for Reagan, which shocked me.[“]
Lennon met Reagan on Monday Night Football, actually, as Frank Gifford recalled. This would have taken place a few years (December 1974, farther back than Giffords’ recollection) before Seaman started working for Lennon. I read an account about this meeting in another book, which described the interaction as friendly and gracious on the part of both men. That telling squares with the account at this site, although the post there offers no supporting citations.
While I’m a fan of the music of the Beatles, I found Lennon’s solo career to be too preachy for my taste. I especially didn’t care for “Imagine,” a treacly pseudo-philosophical nihilist rant dressed up as a ballad. According to Seaman, I wasn’t alone in that assessment:
“He was a very different person back in 1979 and 80 than he’d been when he wrote Imagine. By 1979 he looked back on that guy and was embarrassed by that guy’s naivete.”
Even so, I have trouble imagining Lennon as a Reagan Republican, but it’s certainly interesting to try. I suspect that there’s a more nuanced explanation for this; Lennon was always an iconoclast, and he may have just been contrarian in that period for the sake of being contrarian. The tragedy is, of course, that Lennon isn’t still around for us to debate and for him to entertain, regardless of his politics.
Update (AP): C’mon. Wasn’t it obvious?
Update II (Ed): The Nation makes a pretty good case that Lennon wasn’t exactly a supply-sider when he was murdered:
What exactly were Lennon’s political views at the end of 1980? Late that November, Lennon spoke out on behalf of striking workers in L.A. and San Francisco. (The story is told in my book “Come Together: John Lennon in his Time.”) The strike was against Japan Foods Corporation, a subsidiary of the Japanese multinational Kikkoman, best known for its soy sauce. The US workers, primarily Japanese, were members of the Teamsters. In L.A. and San Francisco, they went on strike for higher wages. The shop steward of the LA local, Shinya Ono, persuaded John and Yoko to make a public statement addressed to the striking workers:
“We are with you in spirit. . . . In this beautiful country where democracy is the very foundation of its constitution, it is sad that we have to still fight for equal rights and equal pay for the citizens. Boycott it must be, if it is the only way to bring justice and restore the dignity of the constitution for the sake of all citizens of the US and their children.
“Peace and love, John Lennon and Yoko Ono. New York City, December, 1980.”
That was Lennon’s last written political statement. It doesn’t seem to be the work of a “closet Republican.”
Jon Wiener also reminds people that Seaman was found guilty of stealing Lennon’s belongings, including his diaries, and got sentenced to five years’ probation. Like I said, I expect that Lennon may have been contrarian, but I find the notion of him being a Reagan Republican a little unlikely. Let’s face it — if being disenchanted with Jimmy Carter was the only qualifier, everyone in America would have been in the GOP.