Virtual Voices

John Lennon's revolution

Politics

John Lennon of The Beatles wrote the surprisingly and relatively conservative song "Revolution" in 1968. Compared with the Rolling Stones' 1968 "Street Fighting Man" written by Mick Jagger, Lennon's lyrics are tame and earned him the scorn of the New Left. Although Lennon's political views became increasingly radical, his songwriting partner, Paul McCartney, may have vindicated his more moderate "Revolution" when he defended President Obama last week. If that's true, we should ask ourselves if McCartney is confirming that we are indeed in the midst of a political revolution and if it's "gonna be all right."

Read Jagger's revolutionary lyrics:

"Ev'rywhere I hear the sound of marching, charging feet, boy. 'Cause summer's here [1968] and the time is right for fighting in the street, boy. But what can a poor boy do except to sing for a rock 'n' roll band 'cause in sleepy London town there's just no place for a street fighting man. No. Hey! Think the time is right for a palace revolution. 'Cause where I live the game to play is compromise solution. . . . Hey! Said my name is called disturbance. I'll shout and scream, I'll kill the king, I'll rail at all his servants. . . ."

Compare with Lennon:

"You say you want a revolution. Well, you know we all want to change the world. You tell me that it's evolution, well, you know we all want to change the world. But when you talk about destruction don't you know that you can count me out. Don't you know it's gonna be all right. You say you got a real solution. Well, you know we'd all love to see the plan. You ask me for a contribution, well, you know we're doing what we can. But when you want money for people with minds that hate all I can tell is brother you have to wait. Don't you know it's gonna be all right. . . ."

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Both Jagger and Lennon were advocating political revolution. Jagger mused about violent means while Lennon took a more thoughtful, peaceful approach. Because Lennon met a murderous end in 1980, we don't know what he would think of the Obama administration but we do know that his partner Paul McCartney is supportive. Defending the 44th president last Tuesday prior to receiving the Library of Congress's Gershwin Award for Popular Song, McCartney said, "I'm a big fan, he's a great guy. So lay off him, he's doing great."

Does McCartney recognize Obama as the leader of the peaceful political revolution that Lennon desired? It's a question worth contemplating. With a progressive in the White House, we may be making progress toward the goal that many of the 1968 revolutionaries desired: radical egalitarianism blessed by the cultural elite. Is this what McCartney sees taking place in America today? Is this the peaceful path to revolution Lennon sang about? If so, understand that political revolutions are symptomatic of cultural revolutions---throwing off of cultural norms cultivated over centuries by our ancestors.

The street fighting man crashed and burned by 1969. America tired quickly of violent revolution. Forty years later, Paul McCartney's blessing of President Obama may be symbolic of the dreams of 1968 coming to fruition and the vindication of John Lennon's peaceful revolution. Is it gonna be all right?

Lee Wishing
Lee Wishing

Lee is the administrative director of The Center for Vision & Values at Grove City College.

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