Was John Lennon a closet Republican?

A former employee says the musical legend who urged us to "give peace a chance" and "imagine no possessions" had a secret softspot for Reagan

Could this flower child have been a Republican? One confidant of John Lennon says in the years before his death, Lennon had begun to admire Ronald Reagan.
(Image credit: Bettmann/CORBIS)

Are you sitting down? John Lennon was a "closet Republican," says Fred Seaman, who worked for the former Beatle from 1979 until his death in late 1980. Seaman says fans assume Lennon remained the same flower child who wrote "Give Peace a Chance" and "Imagine," but in truth, he had become a secret admirer of Ronald Reagan. "He was a very different person back in 1979 and '80 than he'd been when he wrote 'Imagine,'" Seaman says in the new documentary Beatles Stories. "By 1979 he looked back on that guy and was embarrassed by that guy's naivete." Was Lennon really a closet conservative?

Yes. This makes total sense: Even some early Beatles songs offered glimpses of Lennon's "counter-counter-cultural" conservatism, says Bryan Preston at Pajamas Media. The Beatles' "'Taxman' is an obvious rip on the grasping leviathan state," and "Revolution," "arguably the gutsiest rock song of the 1960s, slams hippies for being wild-eyed dopes who don’t really understand what they're demanding." So, yeah, I believe he was a "closet Republican." I wish "he'd had the courage to come out."

"Lennon's Reagan revolution"

Subscribe to The Week

Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.


Sign up for The Week's Free Newsletters

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign up

Nonsense. Lennon was no Republican: Seaman was found guilty of stealing the late Lennon's belongings, including his diary, says Jon Weiner at The Nation, so his credibility is not exactly sterling. Just before his death, Lennon sent a letter supporting striking union workers in San Francisco, and in his last interview, he said the 1960s showed that it was possible to make the world a better place. That's not exactly what you'd expect from a "closet Republican."

"John Lennon: NOT a closet Republican"

Well, he wouldn't be the first aging hippie to repent: OK, so this "Lennon-as-Republican slander" is a bit far-fetched, says Joel Achenbach at The Washington Post. But it's not hard to believe that, at 40, he was "embarrassed by the memory of his younger, idealistic, hippie self." Who isn't? Questioning your youthful "radical politics" doesn't mean you're a different person. It just means you have "a working brain."

"Can't imagine John Lennon as a Republican"

Regardless, this makes for delicious schadenfraude: Republican or no — and "no" seems more likely — it's wonderful to see how uncomfortable this story makes liberals, says James Delingpole at Britain's Telegraph, given that John Lennon was "probably second only to Che as an icon of international left-wing street credibility."

"Was John Lennon a secret Reagan Republican?"

Continue reading for free

We hope you're enjoying The Week's refreshingly open-minded journalism.

Subscribed to The Week? Register your account with the same email as your subscription.