Book-report portrays the political activism that marked the beginnings of John Lennon (pictured, with Chuck Berry and Yoko Ono) in New York and put the former Beatle in the crosshairs of the FBI. Photo: Jeff Albertson/Corbis

Abeatlemaniacs on duty, good news: the first Brazilian edition of John Lennon in New York: The Revolution Years (Editor Valentina, 248 pages). Originally published abroad two years ago, the book by American journalist James A. Mitchell portrays the first years of the former Beatle and Yoko Ono in the metropolis.

For the uninitiated, it is a divisive period in Lennon's life and artistic career, which runs from the summer of 1971, with the couple's definitive establishment in the metropolis, through the birth of their son, Sean Ono Lennon., in 1975, and ends tragically on the night of December 8, 1980, the fateful Monday that haunted the world with the news of Lennon's murder by fan Mark David Chapman, who, after three days of vigil in front of the building Dakota and hours later asking for an autograph on the cover of the newly released LP double fantasy, fired five rounds from a 38 caliber revolver at his idol, before Yoko's horrified eyes.

The last decade of the ex-Beatle's life on American soil is also the subject of the documentary The United States vs John Lennon (2006), by David Leaf and John Scheinfeld, shown in Brazil in 2010. The “duel” and the “years of revolution” expressed in the titles of the two works refer to a series of provocative behaviors by Lennon, focused, above all, on the first half of stay in New York, period covered in the book.

Alongside Wayne “Tex” Gabriel, guitarist for Elephant's Memory, Lennon welcomes his friend Mick Jagger at the Record Plant (1972). Photo: Bob Gruen/bobgruen.com
Alongside Wayne “Tex” Gabriel, guitarist for Elephant's Memory, Lennon welcomes his friend Mick Jagger at the Record Plant (1972). Photo: Bob Gruen/bobgruen.com

In the interpretation of then-President Richard Nixon, the ex-Beatle's worldwide influence and, of course, his enormous economic power could result in the engagement and financing of dangerous insurrections by American youth against his administration. Of great value, the two documentary works are complementary. Therefore, for those who have seen the film, it is worth celebrating the coincidence and guaranteeing the purchase of the book written by Mitchell.

With a distanced narrative, built from the crossing of testimonies of several characters, John Lennon in New York: The Revolution Years It's a great reportage book. Among dozens of testimonies, of course, there prevails reports of Lennon's interaction with the five musicians of the also politicized Elephant's Memory, his support band, who lived almost daily between 1971 and 1973. In addition to these reports and others, recorded between 2010 and 2013, During the period of production of the book, Mitchell enriched the work with a rigorous research of documents that approach events in newspapers, magazines, books, radio and TV programs. An equation that, at the end of the reading, builds a fascinating portrait of the long process of maturation of John Lennon's personality and political convictions, accentuated from the moment he crosses the Atlantic, at the age of 31.

In a protest that gathered about 500 people, the couple asked for the withdrawal of British troops in Northern Ireland (1972). Photo: AP Photo/Ron Frehm/Editora Valentina
In a protest that gathered about 500 people, the couple asked for the withdrawal of British troops in Northern Ireland (1972). Photo: AP Photo/Ron Frehm/Editora Valentina

On American soil, this new man emerges, who capitulates to the subjective days of countercultural splendor to become an effective militant in defense of the individual liberties of minorities kept on the sidelines by Nixon, like the young soldiers condemned to die in the name of the homeland in Vietnam. and intellectual mentors of the so-called New Left, such as Jerry Rubin and John Sinclair, two of the mentors of the Youth International Party (the International Youth Party, whose followers were called yippies, a corruption of hippie), and Bob Seale, leader of the Black Panthers, activism group that emerged in the previous decade that even used paramilitary tactics to defend the civil rights of the black population. 

Nixon's suspicion about the real intentions of Lennon's trip to the United States was initially based on the musician's obsessive position in calling for an end to the actions of US troops in the Vietnam War (operation started in 1965, during the management of the predecessor of Nixon, Democrat Lyndon B. Johnson). Criticism that was explicit in the song Give peace a chance and in the calls bed ins, press-covered protests he and Yoko held in bed in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, and Toronto, Canada, shortly after they were married in early 1969.

But the siege against the ex-Beatle's daring takes on new dimensions with his definitive arrival in New York. Shortly afterward, sought after by Jerry Rubin)2), Lennon becomes a volunteer on the front of the so-called articulation John Sinclair Freedom Rally, a festival that included stars such as Stevie Wonder and the beat poet )Allen Ginsberg in defense of Sinclair, who, in addition to integrating the intellectual core of the Yippies, was also the leader of the White Panther Party, the White Panther Party, a faction of young whites in solidarity with the cause of the Black Panthers. Sinclair had been in prison for nearly two years and sentenced to a decade in prison, after being ambushed and offering two marijuana cigarettes to an undercover cop in Yippie circles. The festival was held on December 10, 1971. Two days later, with the impact of Lennon's accession, Sinclair was released.     

 

Lennon, Yoko, producer Phil Spector (lying) and the musicians of Elephant's Memory in the dressing room at Madison Square Garden (1972). Photo: Bob Gruen/bobgruen.com
Lennon, Yoko, producer Phil Spector (lying) and the musicians of Elephant's Memory in the dressing room at Madison Square Garden (1972). Photo: Bob Gruen/bobgruen.com

As a result of his involvement in the Watergate scandal, Nixon resigned in August 1974, not before causing much inconvenience to the couple. Soon after carrying out the John Sinclair Freedom Rally, Nixon ordered J. Edgar Hoover, the powerful boss of the FBI, the US federal police, to assign investigators to stay 24 hours on Lennon's tail. A mythological character for decades, Hoover became famous in the hunt for gangsters during Prohibition in the 1940s, but died in 1972 without framing the former Beatle.

The FBI's ostensible monitoring of the couple's daily lives included wiretaps and informants infiltrated, in character, in bohemian New York. Also on the roster of pimps reported in the book was a collaborator with majesty status, singer Elvis Presley, who sought out Nixon to volunteer as Lennon's stork. At the same time, the president unsuccessfully tried to deport the couple from the United States, with the justification that their temporary visa could not be renewed, due to complications with the British police, arising from a case of marijuana possession in 1968, a fact which led to a lengthy legal process. In October 1975, after a long battle fought by his lawyer John Wildes, one of the sources for the book, Lennon finally got a permanent visa in the US.

“Lennon has never had his early life in NYC examined with such depth and clarity,” says Lee Ranaldo, former guitarist for the band Sonic Youth. Photo: Disclosure
“Lennon has never had his early life in NYC examined with such depth and clarity,” says Lee Ranaldo, former guitarist for the band Sonic Youth. Photo: Disclosure


Bob Dylan's idol and one of the patrons of American folk and country music, composer Woody Guthrie (1912-1967) used to stamp the phrase "this machine kills fascists" on the body of his guitar. fascists"). The sentence, added to the fame of a wanderer who crossed the country with his instrument in hand, summed up the political facet of Guthrie, a troubadour in defense of social justice. Not by chance, Dylan emerged on the New York music scene amid the political and behavioral transitions of the early 1960s, doing the same: pouring guitar chords and long lyrics into veritable anthems of political awareness, a case of The Times They Are A-Changin' e Blowin' In The Wind.

In that first half of the 1960s, among the illustrious fans of Bob Dylan the most famous of them was John Lennon. On August 28, 1964, the anthological first meeting between the Beatles took place. and Dylan. In addition to the controversial story that it was there, at the Hotel Delmonico, in New York, that the Beatles' first experience with marijuana, offered by Dylan, took place, the meeting paved the way for a new phase for the four boys from Liverpool. The youthful phase marked by the naive romanticism of songs like Help, eight days a week e I love her and the repertoire that changed young behavior began to be built in the trio of masterpieces Rubber Soul (1965) Revolver (1966) and Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967). With the official end of the Beatles in April 1970 and the decree “the dream is over” expressed in the song Good, from his first solo album John Lennon / Plastic Ono Band released in December of that year, Lennon set aside the contemplative pacifism of the Flower Power. Disarmed and dangerous, like Guthrie and Dylan, he began the political activism portrayed in this essential book.

MAIS
Read interview with journalist James A. Mitchell, Author of John Lennon in New York: The Revolution Years.

Poster of the John Sinclair Freedom Rally, festival in defense of the freedom of the leader of the White Panther Party, sentenced to ten years in prison for possession of two marijuana cigarettes. Two days after the event, Sinclair was released on parole. Photo: Disclosure
Poster of the John Sinclair Freedom Rally, festival in defense of the freedom of the leader of the White Panther Party, sentenced to ten years in prison for possession of two marijuana cigarettes. Two days after the event, Sinclair was released on parole. Photo: Disclosure

 

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