Don’t Forget the Songs-365: Mach Dos: Day 322
Mon, Dec 3, 2012

“Working Class Hero”
John Lennon


“♫ A
class hero
is something
to be

Although John Lennon is known for his Utopia pop flavored classic “Imagine,” after this years election results I like to think, wherever John Lennon is, he’s grinning joyously while singing “Working Class Hero.” Even though “Hero”has a more ironic in tone than this blue collar anthem Lennon intended, if it actually wasn’t for the two “fucking’s” in the middle of the song, instead of “Imagine,” “Working Class Hero” would have been Lennon’s song legacy. Lennon described his lyrical intention to Rolling Stone Magazine’s Editor-in-Chief Jann Wenner when he said, “I think [“Working Class Hero’s”] concept is revolutionary, and I hope it’s for the workers. I think it’s for the people like me who are working class, whatever, upper or lower, who are supposed to be processes into the middle class, or in through the machinery, that’s all. It’s my experience, and I hope it’s just a warning to people.”

I think John Blaney said it best, when he wrote in Lennon & McCartney: Together Alone, “Aligning himself with the New Left, Lennon restates their central belief in ‘Working Class Hero”: ‘the personal is the political.” By personalizing his message, Lennon hoped that his “Working Class” hero would become an anthem for the masses. But unlike 1971’s “Imagine,” the curse words in the middle of “Hero” made it so only Lennon die-hards would ever get to hear the true side of John Lennon, not the loveable Beatle but the lyrical rebel activist who preached what he sung.

Lennon expanded on his ideas behind “Working Class Hero” when he said, “I was very conscious of class—they would say [I had] a chip on my shoulder—because I knew what happened to me and I knew about the class repression coming down on us—it was a fucking fact, but in the hurricane Beatle world it got left out. I got farther away from reality for a time. But nothing changed except that we dressed up a bit, leaving the same bastards running everything. The continual awareness of what was going on made me feel ashamed I wasn’t saying anything. I burst out because I could no longer play the game any more, it was just too much for me.”

Someone who was brave enough to cover one of John Lennon’s most important songs was Marianne Faithfull. Marianne rendition of “Working Class Hero” was one of the courageous cover songs recorded of all time. When asked by Sylvie Simmons in Mojo Magazine, if Lennon ever heard her version, Faithfull replied, “I sent him a copy, I never got a reply, and then he was shot. He didn’t really have very long to reply, did he? But he did listen to it and he told Yoko that he really loved it. And every time I see Yoko she never ever fails to tell me how much John really loved it. There were people who said to me, “How dare you do this song, you’re not working class.” But it’s not about that. It goes beyond that. I have every right to sing that song. I would say our lives were pretty parallel, me and John. I didn’t actually have as many tragedies in my childhood as he did, but John got exactly what I was doing.” You’re not a true Lennon fan unless you’ve experienced the power in Marianne Faithfull’s vocal performance of “Working Class Hero.” A definitive tribute of John Lennon’s most infamous solo song is one of least popular.

I believe Lennon was prouder lyrically of “Working Class Hero” more than “Imagine.” Lennon once told David Sheff, “Imagine was after Plastic Ono. I call it Plastic Ono with chocolate coating. [Imagine] is anti-religious, anti-nationalistic, anti-conventional, anti-capitalistic… but because it is sugar-coated, it is accepted.” Makes you wonder what would have been “Hero’s” fate without Lennon’s well faced expletives.

Ironic, like it’s tone, `If you think about it, “Working Class Hero” reflects more of Lennon’s true personality than “Imagine” ever did. “Working Class” was the real John Winston Ono Lennon and “Imagine” reflected the John that Lennon really wanted to be. Today we honor the legacy of John Lennon’s “Working Class Hero.” If you still want to be that hero, follow Lennon and Faithfull, they’ll show you how hero’s should sound, lyrically fighting for you and for me.