The song John Lennon thought everyone got wrong

John Lennon

It was never really acknowledged that John Lennon used his songwriting to censor himself. When the time came, if it was something he truly believed in, it didn’t take long for it to flow from his head to his lyric sheet. That didn’t mean that some people didn’t interpret things incorrectly. In fact, Lennon felt that many fans misinterpreted “Working Class Hero” when he was creating one of his masterpieces.

Even though Lennon was about to achieve greatness with Plastic Ono Band, he never gave much thought to the record’s sales numbers. He also didn’t ponder the legacy he would leave behind. It was more like an excuse for him to get this extra baggage out of his head so he could work on himself. If anything, he had just returned from therapy to try to record some of his songs.

And he holds nothing back, boy. When Lennon broke down at the end of a song like “Mother” or in the sombre tone of “God,” where he practically gave up all of the earthly possessions he once held so dear, no one heard it. The Beatles’ discography exposed their fans to some pretty strange music.

There was no sugarcoating of anything on the record, but Lennon’s rendition of “Working Class Hero” was the bluntest of the bunch. One of the most scathing political songs Lennon had ever recorded was made with just an acoustic guitar and his voice. It’s not so much a pop song as it is a litany of all the hardships one must endure. This is in order to become one of the world’s greatest stars.

Even though the song’s political overtones quickly became apparent. Lennon made it clear that the song was more about individual strength than any sort of propaganda. He told Rolling Stone that “it had nothing to do with socialism.” It was along the lines of, “You’ll get where I am, and this is what you’ll be if you want to go through that trip.” I’ve had both happiness and misery while being a successful artist. However, I’ve learned what true success is from Yoko.

Lennon isn’t exactly presenting the ideal image of what it means to be a celebrity, though. “Working Class Hero” is akin to a cold shower for anyone aspiring to work in the music industry. It discusses the people you have to deceive, cheat, and eventually leave hungry in order to reach your current position. Aside from that, he uses the first significant swear words on any of his records.

To be sure, John Lennon never professed to be an inspiration. Even though he still has one of the most heinous violent histories of any rock star of his generation towards his first wife, Cynthia. That kind of behavior only serves to highlight the song’s importance.

John Lennon’s “Working Class Hero” isn’t a celebration of achieving fame. It’s a cautionary tale. You may achieve your goals, but you also have to ask yourself “at what cost”? When you consider the people you’ve left behind.

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