Musings on the Trump-Nixon connection on John Lennon’s 79th birthday
John Lennon—beloved by so many, and particularly by humanists for his song “Imagine”—would have turned seventy-nine today.
A year after his eponymously titled album came out in 1971, the FBI opened a file on Lennon, concerned that his massive popularity and antiwar stance would influence the youth vote against Richard Nixon’s reelection. In fact, Lennon talked about doing a concert tour around the country during the 1972 US presidential campaign to promote voter registration, and he was clear about his opposition to the president. For example, the song “Give Me Some Truth” from Imagine includes the line: “No short-haired, yellow-bellied son of Tricky Dick is gonna Mother Hubbard soft-soap me.” And in 1972 Lennon released Some Time in New York City, a studio album with Yoko Ono that was overtly critical of the government. The cover was designed in a newspaper-style format, including a doctored photo depicting Nixon and Mao Tse-tung dancing naked on a crowded dance floor. (The record company cleverly affixed a non-removable sticker to that corner of the album.)
According to a recent CNN opinion piece by Michael D’Antonio, Nixon once wrote to Donald Trump urging him to go into politics. D’Antonio, who logged hours of interviews with Trump for a 2015 book (and who I interviewed last year), describes how Trump proudly showed off the framed letter and commented that “he admired Nixon because he [Nixon] was such a good judge of talent.”
Perhaps the so-called talent he admired in Trump was for lying and what Nixon perceived as Trump’s willingness to pursue corrupt or underhanded means to stay on top. Back in March of ’72, Nixon used his own tricks to intimidate John Lennon, whose travel visa was expiring; with a misdemeanor back in the UK for marijuana possession, Lennon could be threatened with deportation. A few months after receiving a deportation notice, the former Beatle dropped his plans for the anti-Nixon tour. Nixon won reelection and Lennon spent years fighting to stay in the US, finally becoming a permanent resident the year after Nixon resigned the presidency.
Writing in Time magazine on the twentieth anniversary of Lennon’s murder, Martin Lewis concluded:
John Lennon was not God. But he earned the love and admiration of his generation by creating a huge body of work that inspired and led. The appreciation for him deepened because he then instinctively decided to use his celebrity as a bully pulpit for causes greater than his own enrichment or self-aggrandizement.
Imagine the next president of the United States using his or her position for something other than their own enrichment and self-aggrandizement.
You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one.