John Lennon, Closet Republican?

While his best-known solo effort was "anti-religious, anti-nationalistic, anti-conventional, [and] anti-capitalistic," John Lennon became a Reagan Republican a few years later, his assistant claims.

While his best-known solo effort was “anti-religious, anti-nationalistic, anti-conventional, [and] anti-capitalistic,” John Lennon became a Reagan Republican a few years later, his assistant claims.

WENN (“Lennon was a closet Republican: Assistant“):

John Lennon was a closet Republican, who felt a little embarrassed by his former radicalism, at the time of his death – according to the tragic Beatles star’s last personal assistant.

Fred Seaman worked alongside the music legend from 1979 to Lennon’s death at the end of 1980 and he reveals the star was a Ronald Reagan fan who enjoyed arguing with left-wing radicals who reminded him of his former self.

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.

“I also saw John embark in some really brutal arguments with my uncle, who’s an old-time communist… He enjoyed really provoking my uncle… Maybe he was being provocative… but it was pretty obvious to me he had moved away from his earlier radicalism.

“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.”

These stories are a bit frustrating, in that they’re almost impossible to corroborate or refute.  But the story is plausible. Lennon had a flexible, inquisitive mind and was constantly exposing himself to new ideas. Lennon was 31 when he wrote “Imagine” and had just celebrated his 40th birthday when he was gunned down. And the 1970s was not a good decade for Western liberalism, which had become bloated in both Lennon’s native England and his adopted homeland. Margaret Thatcher had just come to power in the UK and Reagan had just gotten elected–although not yet inaugurated and having the chance to disappoint the dreamers–when Lennon was murdered.

Then again, it’s not as if he stopped writing songs in 1971.  His “Double Fantasy” album was recorded in August and September 1980 and released on November 17th, two weeks before his death. Few of the songs are overly political–he was more interested in Yoko and their son, Sean, who were the subject of numerous tracks on the album.  But, while not overtly ideological, it’s hard to see “Watching the Wheels” and its extolling of dropping out of the rat race and becoming content with one’s everyday life as encapsulating the Republican spirit.

Does it really matter?

Not really. Lennon has been dead more than three decades now–nearly as long as he lived and almost twice the time he was famous.  His legacy as a musician stands on its own. Those who look to artists to validate their political philosophy are apt to be disappointed at any rate.

More interestingly, perhaps, is whether this impacts the legacy of “Imagine.” If, in fact, the artist had come to reject the premises of his anthem, does it tarnish it? Likely not. After all, Karl Marx had moved well past “Communist Manifesto” in his thinking by the time of his death and it nonetheless became the touchstone a Communist movement that bastardized its message. Art stands on its own, subjected to the interpretation of others, once the artist has created it.

UPDATE: Commenter Michael Reynolds points out that Seaman confessed in 2002 to “stealing hundreds of the late Beatle’s personal photographs and letters.” Additionally, it’s worth noting that Seamon, who only worked for Lennon for about a year, published a book (The Last Days of John Lennon) in 1992 that was considered unremarkable at the time. It’s odd, indeed, that he’d have kept this nugget to himself at the time, much less for an additional 19 years.

Alas, while an interesting discussion topic, Seaman’s belated word for it is a pretty thin basis. Apologies for not doing a cursory check into his past before posting.

via Andrew Sullivan

FILED UNDER: Popular Culture, US Politics,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Franklin says:

    Any chance Seaman is peddling a book?

  2. Chad S says:

    Barring primary source evidence, stories like this should be ignored imo.

    And just because one tries to piss off a Commie(nevermind that this description could be skewed) doesn’t make one a republican during those days.

  3. Maxwell James says:

    So what he’s saying is today Lennon would be a left-wing Democrat?

  4. legion says:

    Maxwell – Exactly. Reagan would be soundly rejected by the modern-day GOP.

  5. James Joyner says:

    @Chad:

    I think these things are interesting as a way of discussing the characters and times involved but, as noted in my intro, agree we should be skeptical about the “revelation.”

    And, indeed. Note that, even in their radical youth, the Beatles rejected “carrying around pictures of Chairman Mao.” While there were Commie sympathizers in the American left, the moment was scorned by even the most liberal mainstream Democrats.

  6. Chad S says:

    @james They can be interesting, but imo without something from the person in question, it smells too much like someone using an connection to push their agenda. If a dead celebrity believed in XYZ, they should be some proof left. We know, for instance, that Elvis was a big Nixon fan.

  7. michael reynolds says:

    A former personal assistant to John Lennon who was accused of stealing hundreds of the late Beatle’s personal photographs and letters, issued an apology to his widow, Yoko Ono, in a Manhattan courtroom yesterday.

    “I offer no excuses for my conduct, and ask only that you can find it in your heart to forgive me,” Frederick Seaman, 49, said in a statement issued as part of a settlement in a case which offered an unprecedented glimpse into Lennon’s domestic habits, his falling-out with Paul McCartney, and the insomnia and fear of stalkers which dominated the last months of his life.

  8. hey norm says:

    A guy that worked for Lennon for a year, or maybe two, and can provide no primary source material to back up his claim is to be taken at his word?
    George was always my favorite anyway.

  9. michael reynolds says:

    Sorry, should have added that was in 2002. He’d already written a book before that. In short: not such a great source.

  10. Steven Donegal says:

    In 1980, I was a Reagan Republican. In 2011, I can’t conceive of voting for any Republican. Imagine.

  11. Tsar Nicholas says:

    Well, a large majority of people become Republicans after they grow up and they stop using drugs. Then most drug-free adults stay Republican. At least until they go senile.

  12. WR says:

    “Then most drug-free adults stay Republican. At least until they go senile.”

    Then they join the Tea Party.

  13. michael reynolds says:

    Once they’re sure they’ll be collecting the benefits of the Democrat’s social safety net they turn Republican to ensure they won’t have to actually pay for it.

  14. Davebo says:

    Since the basis of the post seems to have been discounted by facts on hand, why keep the post of James.

    Rather than just post an update that undermines the entire concept of the post?

  15. Davebo says:

    By the way, the fact that this post was made is really sad.

    It’s like, “sure, the people who vote as I do are bat shit crazy, but look! Lennon was actually a Reagan fan” (per the dude who knew him for a year and is peddling a book.)

    What a gig! Is there somewhere I can send my resume for the Wingnut Welfare?

  16. Drew says:

    Heh. Song: Taxman.

  17. PJ says:

    Maybe there’s is some evidence in all those letters that he stole?

    Anyway… I got this interview with a former garderner of [REDACTED UNTIL PUBLICATION] who claims in his new book, “Gardening with [REDACTED]” that [REDACTED] actually was a closeted homosexual who had a secret relationship with [REDACTED NAME OF HOLLYWOOD STAR WHO GOT BOYCOTTED AFTER HUAC], and that they actually used to recite parts of the Communist Manifesto to each other after their secret trysts in a tree house on [REDACTED]’s estate. That the gardener has a book to sell has nothing to do with it. Obviously there isn’t any evidence at all, but why would that matter? Aren’t you all excited to read about it?

  18. HankP says:

    @Drew – Taxman was written by George Harrison.

  19. PJ says:

    @HankP:

    Taxman was written by George Harrison.

    Not according to this book I read by one of George Harrison’s former assistants. Harrison actually threatened Lennon with violence if he didn’t give him the writing credits for Taxman.

  20. jukeboxgrad says:

    Just to confuse matters further, there’s this: “George Harrison (Irish republican).”

  21. Drew says:

    “Taxman was written by George Harrison.”

    Could someone be more petty?

  22. Muffler says:

    This is bunk and everyone knows it. In fact all of a sudden this comes to light about a man who’s history has been the most open book to date. He was so conservative that the FBI file is hundreds of pages long and Nixon saw him as a national threat. Ask Yoko… bet she says that the petty thief is an liar.

  23. HankP says:

    @Drew – well, we are talking about John Lennon. I don’t think it’s petty to point out what he wrote and what he didn’t.

  24. mattb says:

    For what it’s worth, the “sticky” history of the writing and creation of “Taxman”
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taxman#Composition

    Extra trivia — this was a track where it’s actually Paul laying down the Guitar track as George couldn’t apparently get the sound right. (http://www.beatleswiki.com/wiki/index.php/Taxman)

  25. The Q says:

    Or as John said on getting his green card and commenting on John Mitchell et al and their plans to deport him:

    Time wounds all heels.

  26. Sirkowski says:

    As Rickie Gervais would say: Don’t. Talk. Shit.