Every time I have admitted to not liking the Beatles, a white person has tried to crucify me.
I am not even kidding. It is incredible, just sitting back and watching them twitch and foam at the mouth. I’m not saying that all white people love the Beatles, or that people of color don’t listen to the Beatles. What I am saying is that I have never feared for my life more than when I confessed my disdain for John Lennon to a group of beanie-wearing, Nirvana-worshiping, self-proclaimed hipsters.
My distaste for the Beatles is not really about the Beatles in the first place. The Beatles were talented, and in my opinion, they made great music. I used to happily sing “Can’t Buy Me Love” and “I Want To Hold Your Hand” all the time as a child. It would be wrong to say that a small part of me is not a Beatles fan.
However, I cannot fully endorse a band whose founder and songwriter was a racist, misogynistic, homophobic, antisemite, ableist piece of crap.
As much as you probably do not want to hear it, we cannot sugar-coat this any longer: John Lennon was trash. This man was extremely controlling and abusive towards all the women he was romantically involved with, including Yoko Ono, and even admitted to beating women in a song he wrote with Paul McCartney, called “Getting Better”. He wrote a song threatening violence towards one of his ex-girlfriends as well. Lennon was a homophobic snob; despite claiming to want to have sex with his gay manager Brian Epstein, he attacked a man for suggesting he was gay, and originally referred to Epstein as a “rich f*g Jew” on “Baby You’re a Rich Man” before changing it. And while we are discussing his problematic songs, let’s not forget his racist ballad “Woman is the N***er of the World”, a song in which he describes women as “the slave to the slaves.” It is still unclear as to what the point of this song was. Although fans have tried to say that he is speaking out against sexism, the need to equate the oppression of non-black women with anti-blackness is pure racism no matter how you try to justify it. His appropriation of Indian culture in order to seem “spiritual” was demeaning as well. Lennon took pleasure in mocking the disabled and mimicked those with disabilities.
Yep, what a great guy.
Of course, presenting this laundry list of awful things John Lennon has done was not enough for the pretentious music fans, who will defend Lennon to the grave simply because he was a “rock icon”.
This idea of justifying an artist’s awful behavior simply because they are an artist is something that has always troubled me. Mostly because this is something that white artists are rarely ever faced with. John Lennon can be one of the most violent and cruel singers to ever exist and people will still adore him. Meanwhile, white people are ready to boycott Beyoncé over her Super Bowl halftime performance for embracing her blackness in front of the world.
Elvis Presley can steal rock’n’roll from the African-American community, publicly state that “the only thing Negroes can do for me is buy my records and shine my shoes”, and still be regarded as the King. However, white people dislike Lauryn Hill for saying that she makes music specifically for black people. Amy Winehouse, a singer who based her entire sound off of African-American soul, can be videotaped making racial slurs, and still be regarded as the greatest vocalist of all time. Blackness cannot be embraced in music without certain people flying off the handle, and when it comes to calling out all of their favorites, they suddenly turn a blind eye. They rewrite history in order to make certain icons seem angelic and portray true visionaries and extremists.
Whether these artists were just “speaking their minds” or were a “product of their times”, there are certain things that we are not obligated to forgive, and if one of them is your musical favorite, you are just going to have to get over it.