The Story and Meaning Behind “I Found Out” by John Lennon and How It Was His Statement of Personal Independence

John Lennon was not only breaking free from The Beatles with his first solo album. He was also trying to shake loose of the outside voices on whom he had previously relied. On the blistering track “I Found Out,” he elucidates this transformation within himself while giving advice to others who might benefit from a similar move to independence.

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What is this song about? How did it represent a change in Lennon’s outlook? And what musical changes did he make once he left The Beatles that are evident on this track? Let’s, well, find out all about “I Found Out.”

On His Own

John Lennon wrote “I Found Out” at a time of great professional upheaval as he tried to establish himself as a solo artist free of The Beatles’ cocoon. At the same time, he was trying to find his footing in his personal life. The early part of 1970, which is when he wrote most of his first solo album John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band, found him reflecting on what had brought him to that point.

He did that with the help of Dr. Arthur Janov, a psychologist whose primal-scream therapy jump-started Lennon’s efforts to confront his past. That unlocked much of the material that would eventually turn up on that solo record. Lennon was plumbing the depths of his psyche for all the world to see in fearless fashion.

“I Found Out” reflects his newfound focus on personal responsibility. He had been guided by the influence of others in the past. But his new intention was to follow his own path and depend on no one but himself and his wife, Yoko Ono. And he hoped he could impart some of that wisdom to his listeners.

Back to Basics

In addition to being an unflinching excavation of personal demons, John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band also delivered an extremely raw sound. Lennon had grown tired of the heavy production of later Beatles albums. With his first solo record, he wanted a return to the fiery, unadorned rock and roll that first entranced him as a youth.

To that end, he decided on a trio format for most of the songs, including “I Found Out.” The rhythm section consisted of Klaus Voorman on bass and Ringo Starr on drums, while Lennon played lead guitar. While not known for his guitar hero skills during his Beatles days, he flashed them fearlessly on the solo album.

He told Rolling Stone in an interview at the time how his playing style was a taste worth acquiring:

“A lot of you people want the technical thing, then you think, oh, well that’s like wanting technical films. Most critics of rock ‘n’ roll and guitarists are in the stage of the fifties where they wanted a technically perfect film finished for them and then they would feel happy. I’m a cinéma-vérité guitarist musician. You have to break down your barriers to be able to hear what I’m playing.”

What is the Meaning of “I Found Out”?

“I Found Out” begins with Lennon shooing away any would-be influencers who show up at his door. He then goes on to explain to his listeners the answers he’d received from gurus and Svengalis had proved illusory and that it’s better to simply believe in yourself: Don’t take nobody’s word what you can do.

Lennon references his therapy work and how it brought back the childhood pain that had driven him: I heard something about my Ma and my Pa / They didn’t want me so they made me a star. He says false promises and wayward predictions by others only lead you in the wrong direction: Keep you occupied with pie in the sky / There ain’t no guru who can see through your eyes.

After referencing Jesus and Paul as religious leaders (and you’d have to think the choice of Paul was a strategic one, as in the same first name as his former songwriting collaborator), he dares his audience to cut to the core of their problems on their own: Feel your own pain.

“I Found Out” is a fearless song, rendered by John Lennon with minimum frills and maximum insight.

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Photo by Steve Morley/Redferns

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