John Lennon: A Life in Quotes | History Hit

John Lennon: A Life in Quotes

Teet Ottin

10 Oct 2022
John Lennon in 1969
Image Credit: Joost Evers / Anefo, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

There are only few figures in music history who had an impact equal to that of John Lennon. He was not only a founding member of the most successful band of all time – the Beatles – but his peace activism and solo career cemented him as fixture of pop culture. Born in Liverpool during the Second World War, his writing partnership with Paul McCartney created some of the most recognisable songs of the 20th century. John Lennon promoted peace and pacifism during the Vietnam War, famously angering US President Richard Nixon in the process. The topics of non-violence and love were a regular theme in his interviews and public statements.

Lennon was not only a wordsmith with his lyrical writing but has left us with a multitude of memorable quotes throughout his career until his murder on 8 December 1980 by Mark David Chapman. Here are ten of his greatest.

Ringo Starr, George Harrison, Lennon and Paul McCartney in 1963

Image Credit: ingen uppgift, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

‘Nothing really affected me until I heard Elvis. If there hadn’t been an Elvis, there wouldn’t have been the Beatles.’

(28 August 1965, after meeting Elvis Presley)

Lennon (left) and the rest of the Beatles arriving in New York City in 1964

Image Credit: United Press International, photographer unknown, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

‘We’re more popular than Jesus now.’

(Interview with writer Maureen Cleave, 4 March 1966)

John Lennon and Yoko Ono in the Netherlands, 31 March 1969

Image Credit: Eric Koch for Anefo, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

‘We’re trying to sell peace, like a product, you know, and sell it like people sell soap or soft drinks. And it’s the only way to get people aware that peace is possible, and it isn’t just inevitable to have violence.’

(14 June 1969, Interview on ‘The David Frost Show’)

John Lennon and Yoko Ono in Amsterdam, 25 March 1969

Image Credit: Eric Koch / Anefo, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

‘You don’t need anybody to tell you who you are or what you are. You are what you are. Get out there and get peace. Think peace, live peace, and breathe peace and you’ll get it as soon as you like.’

(July 1969)

Yoko Ono and John Lennon at John Sinclair Freedom Rally at Crisler Arena in Ann Arbor, Michigan. 1971

Image Credit: Public Domain, via Wikimedia Commons

‘We announce the birth of a conceptual country, NUTOPIA … NUTOPIA has no land, no boundaries, no passports, only people.’

(1 April 1973, Declaration of Nutopia, co-signed with Yoko Ono)

Advertisement for ‘Imagine’ from Billboard, 18 September 1971

Image Credit: Peter Fordham, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

‘I don’t mind people putting us down, because if everybody really liked us, it would be a bore.’

(Unknown date)

Eric Clapton, John Lennon, Mitch Mitchell, and Keith Richards performing as the Dirty Mac in the Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus in 1968

Image Credit: UDiscoverMusic, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

‘I’m not claiming divinity. I’ve never claimed purity of soul. I’ve never claimed to have the answers to life. I only put out songs and answer questions as honestly as I can … But I still believe in peace, love and understanding.’

(Rolling Stones interview, 1980)

John Lennon in his last television interview in 1975

Image Credit: NBC Television, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

‘Happiness is just how you feel when you don’t feel miserable.’

(From the book ‘The Beatles Anthology’)

John Lennon with Yoko Ono, between 1975 and 1980

Image Credit: Gotfryd, Bernar, US Library of Congress

‘I really thought that love would save us all.’

(December 1980)

John Lennon and Yoko Ono, photographed by Jack Mitchell for the New York Times, 2 November 1980

Image Credit: Jack Mitchell, CC BY-SA 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

‘The thing the sixties did was to show us the possibilities and the responsibility that we all had. It wasn’t the answer. It just gave us a glimpse of the possibility.’

(8 December 1980, interview for KFRC RKO Radio)

After World War 2, America feared communist infiltration of its institutions, including Hollywood.
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