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An Angry Letter To The NY Times From John Lennon, Just Because

Here's one of those things that makes you realize that the Internet was created for us to trade notable ephemera: A website called Letters of Note published an angry handwritten note from John Lennon to the New York Times after the Times' Craig McGregor wrote a piece called "The Beatles Betrayal" that said that The Beatles stole music from black acts, and got rich doing it. Lennon's rebuttal is angry, but maybe sort of off the point?:

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14th Sep. 71.


Dear Craig McGregor


'Money', 'Twist 'n' Shout', 'You really got a hold on me' etc, were all numbers we (the Beatles) used to sing in the dancehalls around Britain, mainly Liverpool. It was only natural that we tried to do it as near to the record as we could - i always wished we could have done them even closer to the original. We didn't sing our own songs in the early days - they weren't good enough - the one thing we always did was to make it known that there were black originals, we loved the music and wanted to spread it in any way we could. in the '50s there were few people listening to blues - R + B - rock and roll, in America as well as Britain. People like - Eric Burdons Animals - Micks Stones - and us drank ate and slept the music, and also recorded it, many kids were turned on to black music by us.


It wasnt a rip off.


it was a love in,


John + Yennon


P.S. what about the 'B' side of Money?


P.P.S. even the black kids didn't dig blues etc it wasn't 'sharp' or something.

Clearly McGregor got to Lennon in a way that we don't see very often. The best thing here is that it reminds us that Lennon was not a god, contrary to hundreds of Rolling Stone articles. [Letters of Note

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John Lennon
The Beatles

John Lennon's letter does not read as angry to me. Nor does it pull him down in my eyes.

What is angry about this letter?


McGregor "got to Lennon" in a way we don't see very often? Apparently Winistorfer is not familiar with Lennon's career, or has he read too many Rolling Stone articles, which is a magazine that stopped being relevant many decades ago.


John's letter doesn't sound angry to me. John had a razor sharp tongue, and could really cut into you when he wanted to. This just sounds like he is explaining what the Beatles (and other groups of the day) were doing -playing the music that they loved. And yes, John was human, just like the rest of us.


I just posted a comment (i don't see it there yet, but maybe it has to be approved) anyways, just by chance, immediately after finishing the comment, I see there's a new documentary called "Beatle Stories" and in the preview, there's Smokey Robinson saying "The Beatles were the first white act I ever saw who came right out and said 'hey, we grew up listening to black music..." go look up the preview, it's beatles stories dot com, let Smokey tell it.


Oh my gosh, give me a break. First of all, Lennon was absolutely right, and who in their right mind thinks that the entirety of the Beatles career amounted to a minstrel show? Where is the black influence in "Eleanor Rigby"? Or "Julia"? It's not where you get it from, it's what you do with it, all music comes from somewhere else. There's no European influence in Jazz? Fats Domino and Chuck Berry take nothing from country music? Am I, as a musician, forbidden to play certain kinds of music because of the color of my skin? And Lennon is being modest! His take on "You Really Got A Hold On Me" or "Anna" or their version of "Long Tall Sally" are far superior to the originals. McGregor can be forgiven for a near-40 year old article, but what imbecile concludes that this letter is how we can see that Lennon wasn't a "god"? It's funny - I always see Smokey Robinson singing John Lennon's praises, Chuck Berry too... The only people who complain about white musicians theft of black music are usually people who don't know a thing about the process of music in the first place. If Lennon hadn't made a dime, no one would say a thing. That's why you never see people say the same thing about the Stones or Zeppelin, bands who were WAY more guilty of ripoff than The Beatles. Now BUSINESS theft of black (and white) artists is a totally different story, and even The Beatles themselves suffered that (and so did alot of black artists at the hands of black-owned record companies and bandleaders). Great to see the letter though, always great to spend a little more time with John, man oh man, how I wish he was still around.


According to Mr. Webster's big fat book of words and their meanings, "Anger" and "Humor" are not synonymous. They DO, however, have the same number of syllables, which is probably what threw you off. If Mr. Lennon had written an "Angry" letter to The Times, it could not have been published, because the acid in his words would have caught the presses on fire.

Chuck Book

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