Remembering John Lennon

John Lennon, who would have turned 70 on Saturday, is still being noticed by the FBI 30 years after his death. AP reports that FBI agents seized a set of Lennon’s fingerprints from a Manhattan memorabilia shop on Wednesday. The signed fingerprint card, made at a police station on May 8, 1976, was reportedly bought by an unidentified concert promoter at a Beatles convention two decades ago. Store owner Peter Siegel said Homeland Security also had inquired about the card.

It was in the U.S. where the Beatles reportedly first tried marijuana, proffered by Bob Dylan at New York’s Delmonica Hotel during their 1964 tour.

On December 10, 1971, Lennon appeared at a John Sinclair Freedom Rally at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. Sinclair was a Michigan activist who was sentenced to 9 1/2-10 years in jail for possession of a couple of marijuana joints. Yippie! Jerry Rubin organized the event, as part of a series that lead up to the 1972 Republican convention.

On the bill were Michigan natives Stevie Wonder and Bob Seeger, plus Phil Ochs, Steve Miller, Commander Cody, Allen Ginsberg, Chicago Eight members David Dellinger, Renne Davis and Bobby Seale (ungagged), and, in his first American performance since the break up of the Beatles, John Lennon with Yoko Ono.

Stevie Wonder, aged 21, came on at 2:30 AM and said, “This is to any undercover agents in the crowd” and played “Somebody’s Watching You.” Later a FOIA investigation revealed FBI agents were taking down every word.
Lennon came out, announced, “The Pope smokes dope” and performed his composition “The Ballad of John Sinclair” and three other original songs with Yoko. Two days later, an appellate court freed Sinclair on bail.

Afterwards, Phil Ochs was wiretapped and followed, and the Immigration and Naturalization Service initiated proceedings to deport Lennon because of old pot bust in England. The protracted fight soured him from performing for political causes, but he was planning to do so when he was shot dead in 1980. (Source: Stand and Be Counted by David Crosby and David Bender.)

Harvard psychiatrist Lester Grinspoon, the author of Marijuana Reconsidered, met Lennon when he testified as an expert witness at the INS hearings that Attorney General John Mitchell had engineered. Grinspoon, who tried marijuana deliberately after studying it for years, told Lennon that cannabis appeared to make it possible for him to “hear” his music for the first time. Grinspoon writes, “John was quick to reply that I had experienced only one facet of what marijuana could do for music, that he thought it could be very helpful for composing and making music as well as listening to it.” The 2006 film The U.S. vs. John Lennon details Lennon’s trials.

In his autobiography Confessions of a Raving, Unconfined Nut, Yippie! Paul Krassner recounts smoking with John and Yoko in 1972. Lennon discounted theories that Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and Jim Morrison may have been political assassinations. “No, no,” John said, “they were already headed in a self-destructive direction.” A few months later, he reminded Krassner of the conversation and added, “Listen, if anything happens to Yoko and me, it was not an accident.”

But Lennon lives. Ann Arbor just held its 40th annual Hash Bash, and “Imagine” has become the world’s peace anthem. A working class hero is, indeed, something to be.

Read more at http://www.johnlennon.com/

Ellen Komp edits the award-winning Very Important Potheads blog.

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