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Despite everything John Lennon said in his music, he didn’t vote. During an interview he gave near the end of his life, the “Imagine” singer explained his rationale for refusing to vote. John also explained why he felt the need to dabble in politics in his music. Even hardcore fans might be surprised by what he had to say.

John Lennon used a quote to justify his refusal to vote

John discussed politics a bit in The Beatles’ music, most famously through the song “Revolution.” Social issues became a much bigger theme in his solo music. Many of his most famous solo songs are about the subject, including “Give Peace a Chance,” “Imagine,” “Power to the People,” “God,” “Working Class Hero,” and “Happy Xmas (War Is Over).”

The book All We Are Saying: The Last Major Interview with John Lennon and Yoko Ono features an interview from 1980. In it, John explained his feelings on the matter. “It’s not that I’m above politics, it’s that politics isn’t what I do,” he said. “Politics is separate from society, while I’m not. Politics is inclusive, like art and eating and having babies; it’s not just something you do every four years. As Gore Vidal often quotes, ‘Don’t vote for them, it only encourages them.'”

John’s feelings about voting seem to have remained static throughout his life. “I have never voted for anybody, anytime, ever,” he said. “Even at my most so-called political. I have never registered, and I never will. It’s going to make a lot of people upset, but that’s too bad. I’m with the majority. The majority don’t vote. Well, they know better.”

Why John Lennon didn’t like politicians

Later in the same interview, the “Nobody Told Me” star quoted himself. “‘No messages from any phony politician are coming through me,'” he said. “I said that earlier, and it’s still true. That still stands. I dabbled in so-called politics in the late ’60s and ’70s more out of guilt than anything.”

John said his success made him feel guilty. He also got involved with politics because he didn’t want people to think he offered peace and love but no real solutions. In retrospect, John felt his political involvement went against his instincts.


What John Lennon Thought of President John F. Kennedy

Why it might make sense that he didn’t vote

In the 1997 book Paul McCartney: Many Years From Now, Paul discussed the origin of John’s political opus “Revolution.” He said it was part of an era dominated by figures such as Chairman Mao and Ho Chi Minh, as well as the Vietnam War and Mao’s Little Red Book. The “Silly Love Songs” singer said that John proscribed more social commentary to the song after the fact.

At the end of the day, “Revolution” is a song about ambivalence more than anything else. In a way, it fits perfectly with John’s comments. He didn’t think voting was worth it, so why on earth would he be interested in something more profound, like a revolution? Regardless of what he said, his music continues to inspire people to get involved in organizing.

John may have shrugged off voting, but that doesn’t change the fact that his music inspired millions to hope for societal change.