The Song John Lennon Wrote to Clear his Conscience

Most layman activists are laser-focused on one idea–one area of life they’d like to change. However, when you are a rich and famous activist, when do you get to put the picket signs down? What worthy causes do you refuse? That was the dilemma John Lennon faced while writing “Power to the People.”

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His time away from the Beatles saw Lennon become far more politically charged. From “Imagine” to “Give Peace A Chance,” Lennon was quickly becoming a voice for the voiceless. After proving himself to be a keen protest artist, almost everyone wanted his backing.

[RELATED: The Song Paul McCartney Wrote as a Dig at John Lennon]

Say you want a revolution
We better get on right away
Well you get on your feet
And into the street

Like many protest songs, “Power to the People” was written as a refrain for people to chant while marching for this cause or that. Because of that, it’s a pretty generalized chant. There aren’t any references to a specific movement. That, as it turns out, was a conscious effort on Lennon’s part.

Singing power to the people
Power to the people
Power to the people
Power to the people, right on
Now, now, now, now

In a 1980 interview, Lennon explained the onus behind this song, citing an interaction with activist Tariq Ali. Ali would ask Lennon for money for various politically charged magazines and other efforts. “I was thinking, ‘Well I’m working class and I am not one of them, but I am rich and therefore I have to,'” Lennon explained.

It was a situation Lennon found himself in several times. He would “fork out” every time someone with a worthy cause would ask. It was draining on Lennon, so he wrote “Power to the People” to wipe his conscience clean.

“I wrote ‘Power To The People’ as a sort of guilt song,” Lennon continued in the same 1980 interview. “It’s like a newspaper song, where you write about something instant that’s going on right now. It’s the news headlines with misprints and everything.”

Revisit this track, below.

(Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

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