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John Lennon could never count Paul Simon as one of his biggest fans. While Simon admired some of Lennon’s work, he wasn’t as happy with the former Beatle’s solo career. He said that he listened to Lennon’s music out of respect, but it didn’t interest him much. He believed that Lennon rarely did innovative work in his solo career.

A black and white picture of Paul Simon talking to John Lennon and standing with Yoko Ono and Roberta Flack.
Paul Simon, Yoko Ono, John Lennon, and Roberta Flack | Tim Boxer/Getty Images

Paul Simon and John Lennon didn’t always get along

Simon admired Lennon’s work in The Beatles, but he didn’t like him much as a person. Once, Lennon invited Simon and Art Garfunkel into the studio with him; he immediately clashed with Simon. 

Lennon believed Simon was starting his guitar part too early, and he kept telling him to stop. Eventually, Lennon grabbed the guitar to mute the strings. Irritated, Simon left the room.

“He went into the f***in’ control booth, and I could see him f***in’ around in there,” Lennon told his girlfriend May Pang, per her book Loving John. “I could see him mumblin’ to himself. Dennis [Ferrante] told me he was so pissed off, he says, ‘He may be one of the Beatles, but I’m Paul Simon.‘”

Lennon followed Simon in an attempt to smooth things over. He’d been drinking, though, which made him more aggressive.

“I f***in’ went in there because I could see Dennis gettin’ a little uptight and I could see Paul gettin’ uptight, and I wanted to smooth it out — to clear the air — and I asked him what was wrong,” Lennon said. “The man was just fumin’. He said, ‘I’m not doing anything.’ Then I told him he was a f***in’ twerp!”

A screaming match ensued, and Simon and Garfunkel left.

Paul Simon criticized John Lennon’s post-Beatles albums

Simon’s opinions of Lennon extended beyond just the personal — he also disliked Lennon’s solo work. He particularly disliked his protest music, as he wasn’t sure what Lennon’s intentions were. Still, he said he would listen to his music.

“It’s not that I’m not interested in what Lennon has to say. I am,” Simon told Rolling Stone in 1972. “He usually has my ear. When he makes a record or makes a record or makes a statement, I’ll read it or listen to it.”

He added that he listened to Lennon’s new music out of respect for his old work, but he found that he never liked it much. 

“I am a potential audience for him,” Simon said. “But I find that he seldom says anything that’s interesting or innovative to me, and yet, I listen, based on a long-standing respect. Based on his musicianship, based on the fact that he was involved in some great music over the years, and so I keep listening to stuff that’s no longer great.”

He thought a different Beatle was a better songwriter

Simon ranked another former Beatle above Lennon: his songwriting collaborator Paul McCartney. Simon ranked songwriters on tiers, and McCartney, not Lennon, made his top tier.

“I’d put Gershwin, Berlin, and Hank Williams [on top]. I’d probably put Paul McCartney in there too,” he said, per Gothamist. “Then I’d have Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart.”


May Pang Said Paul Simon Wouldn’t Deal With John Lennon’s Mistreatment Because He Had a ‘Powerful Sense of Himself’

Still, Lennon ranked close to the top.

“Then, in the second tier, Lennon is there, Dylan is there, Bob Marley and Stephen Sondheim are there, and maybe I’m there, too,” he said. “It’s about whose songs last.”