The John Lennon song Paul Simon said was “in bad taste”

Whichever way you look at it, the incredible songwriting talent of John Lennon is undeniable. Through his unforgettable work with The Beatles and noted solo career following the break-up of the Fab Four, Lennon is responsible for some of the best-loved tracks of the 20th century. Nevertheless, the Liverpudlian songwriter is not to everybody’s tastes.

It would take a lot to rival the songwriting proficiency of John Lennon; after all, bands don’t come bigger than The Beatles. However, another of the 20th century’s best-loved wordsmiths is Paul Simon. As one half of Simon and Garfunkel, the New Jersey-born songwriter quickly became a true musical icon of the 1960s. Continuing his career following his split from Art Garfunkel in 1970, Simon embarked upon an intensely successful solo career which has continued into the modern day, releasing his fifth studio album Seven Psalms last year.

With an intensely successful musical career spanning over six decades, Simon’s views on other musicians and their songwriting talents are fairly justified. Back in 1972, the songwriter used an interview with Rolling Stone in order to express his suspicion over the solo music and political activism of ex-Beatle John Lennon. Specifically targetting his 1971 single ‘Power to the People’, Simon called the effort “condescending” and “poor”.

Contrasting the complacency of his earlier track, The Beatles’ ‘Revolution’, ‘Power to the People’ laments the oppression faced by American citizens at the hands of their government, with particular emphasis on the Vietnam war and civil rights movement. “He strikes me as being very interested in being seen or heard,” Simon said of Lennon’s track. “Then I have to think, ‘What is he doing? What is the purpose of it? Is his purpose to get publicity for himself? Is his purpose to advance a certain political thought?’ I don’t know what his motivations are.”

Continuing to bemoan the vapidity of Lennon’s political anthem, Simon said, “It’s a poor record, a condescending record. Like all of these cliche phrases. They’re dangerous. What does that mean – ‘Power to the People’? And who is he saying it to? Is he saying it to people who have any idea what it means?”

Simon then took aim at Lennon himself, saying, “Many things he’s done, I think, have been pointless. Some have been in bad taste. Others have been courageous. I think he’s generally a well-intentioned guy. I don’t know, it’s not my style”.

While taking on the talents of John Lennon was a fairly brave stance to take, it is hard to disagree with Simon’s comments. ‘Power to the People’ is a largely pointless, vapid and condescending track written by an incredibly rich and successful white man about the plight of oppressed people and minorities in the US – something he would know very little about. Even Lennon himself later distanced himself from the track, calling it “rather embarrassing” and agreeing with gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson, who said that the track was ten years too late.

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