Was John Lennon Racist
On December 8, 1980, music icon John Lennon died after being shot several times in the back. Responsible for this was a mentally confused former fan who felt hurt in his religious feelings.
"Christianity will shrink and disappear. We don't have to argue about that. I'm right, and that will prove itself. We are now more popular than Jesus. I don't know what's going to go away, rock n roll or Christianity."
The British journalist Maureen Cleave wrote down these words of John Lennon in the spring of 1966. At the height of Beatlemania, in the mid-1960s, she published the series "How does a Beatle live?" In the British newspaper "Evening Standard" and in March '66 it was her turn to write about John Lennon and his thoughts. But it didn't get any big reactions at first.
The Beatles grew up in a different England. The Church, including the Catholic Church before the upheavals of the Second Vatican Council, had more and more problems to reach people. All four Beatles grew up in religious families. Lennon and Ringo Starr as Anglicans, George Harrison and Paul McCartney as Catholics. McCartney even sang in the church choir. All four said goodbye to the faith as teenagers. From a church for which corporal punishment was part of everyday life. At the same time, youth in England and Europe longed for new music, rebellious and loud. And not at all like the music of their religious parents. Time for the Beatles.
America too was quickly gripped by Beatle mania. Here, however, the relationship to church and faith was different than in the United Kingdom. In the summer of '66, three months after publication in the "Evening Standard", the texts of Maureen Cleave's Beatles series were printed in the American youth magazine "Datebook". America, founded by religious pilgrims, and still shaped today by conservative, evangelical Christianity - was more sensitive to Lennon's words. Several radio stations, especially in the conservative southern states, have started boycotting the Beatles because of their “blasphemy.” DJ Tommy Charles from WAQY in Birmingham, Alabama: "That was just so absurd for us. Such a sacrilege we had to do something. You have to show them that they can't get away with something like that. "
Radio boycott for the Beatles
Radio colleagues from all over the southern states followed the call and boycotted the Beatles' songs. Protests started. The musicians feared for their safety, especially since their big US tour was coming up in the summer of '66. At individual concerts on the tour, the racist Ku Klux Klan also appeared and protested. The Beatles records and posters were publicly burned. At the urging of Beatles manager Brian Epstein, Lennon released an apology: "Youth culture, television, has more influence on youth than Christianity. What the public makes of us, pop culture. God is not an old man in heaven, he is something that exists in all of us. I didn't want to compare ourselves to Jesus, just explain why Christianity is declining in England compared to youth culture. If you want me to apologize if that makes you happy - do it I'm sorry. "
With the Beatles' live career, despite that statement, it was soon over. The US tour in August '66 was supposed to be the band's last. Lennon's criticism of religion would also play a role later in his solo career. In the song Imagine, Lennon takes a stand against capitalism, against self-interest - and also against religion. "Imagine there's no heaven" - words that were to cost him his life in December 1980.
Outside his home in Central Park, New York, John Lennon was shot several times in the back by former Beatles fan Mark Eric Chapman on December 8, 1980, and died minutes later. When asked about his motive, the perpetrator would later say: "John Lennon hurt my feelings with his statements about atheism and religion."
Lennon's views cost him his life. But his music lives on even in the 21st century. Across from his home on Central Park are the "Strawberry Fields" today. A place of remembrance that Beatles fans from all over the world make pilgrimages to today. Recognizable by a two-meter round plaque in the floor. A badge with just one word: Imagine.
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