Description

    John Lennon Autograph Letter Signed to Tariq Ali, the Inspiration for His Song "Power to the People." A one-page letter handwritten in black felt tip on a lined 8" x 12.5" sheet, no date [1971] or location, to "Tariq [Ali] & Robin [Blackburn]". It reads, in part: "After a few months thought talk with and without you. After carefully trying to read your paper - which as far as we can see can never have anything but a limited intellectual appeal to a few students, we've decided it would be a complete waste of money to cough up £15000 to print even more words... We enjoyed meeting you and Robin and found it quite interesting, but our primary concern must inevitably be to revolutionize thru art. Maybe in certain circumstances there would be a reason for the J[ohn] & Y[oko] Freedom Fund to allocate money to your group in the future, one never knows..." There is a mysterious postscript: "Never talk in front of chauffeurs- it's a typical middle class mistake!" This lot includes a handsomely-printed transcript of this letter and a B&W glossy reprint photo of Lennon at a rally with Yoko, holding a copy of Red Mole, suitable for framing. Letter in Fine condition with just light wear and a horizontal fold.

    On January 21, 1971, soon after returning to England from Japan (in response to McCartney's court action to dissolve the Beatles), John and Yoko were interviewed by political activists Tariq Ali and Robin Blackburn for the left-wing publication Red Mole. This was during the height of Lennon's radical phase and the interview inspired Lennon to write and record the song "Power to the People" which was released as a single less than two months later. It was his artistic response to the movement, a musical manifesto, an anthem for the people. In a 1980 Guardian interview Tariq Ali recalled the situation: "The day after the interview he rang me and said he had enjoyed it so much that he'd written a song for the movement, which he then proceeded to sing down the line: Power to the People."

    Lennon commented on this period of his life in a 1980 Newsweek interview: "That radicalism was phony, really, because it was out of guilt. I'd always felt guilty that I made money, so I had to give it away or lose it. I don't mean I was a hypocrite. When I believe, I believe right down to the roots. But being a chameleon, I became whoever I was with." In the famous "Lennon Tapes" interview with Andy Peebles on December 6, 1980, Lennon expounded on that "...Tariq Ali had kept coming round wanting money for the Red Mole or some magazine or another and I used to give anybody money kind of out of guilt. I kind of wrote Power to the People in a way as a guilt song, you know..." From the content of this letter, it seems that John and Yoko wanted to keep communications open with Ali, but did not see any reason in donating a large sum to his International Marxist Group publication just for "even more words". As always, Lennon let his art speak for him. And loudly it did just that, even to this day.


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