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(Credit: Stefan Brending)

Music

The reason why Flea thinks John Lennon had "absolute integrity"

The differences between The Beatles and the Red Hot Chili Peppers represent one of the widest gaps in the entire umbrella of rock music. On one side, there are the pitch-perfect and wildly psychedelic sounds of The Beatles, who took rock music and explored nearly every realm of pop music throughout it. On the other side, there’s the gonzo punk-funk explosion that the Chili Peppers bring to all of their songs.

There was a brief time when the two otherwise unrelated worlds came into contact with each other. That was during the ‘John Lennon Songwriting Contest’ back in 2015, which encouraged young musicians to send in their best Lennon-like originals for a chance at a cash prize. The contest has become an annual event sponsored by the Lennon estate, and Flea got the opportunity to decide on the winner in 2015, along with the Grateful Dead’s Bob Weir and former Prince collaborator Sheila E.

While taking on the role of judge for the contest, Flea shared some of his thoughts on what Lennon meant to him as a composer and lyricist. “When I think of John Lennon, I think of absolute integrity in music,” Flea commented. “He would have played music that was true to his heart, and he was someone that I could just immediately trust.”

There hasn’t been much crossover between The Beatles and the Chili Peppers: by the time the Chili’s had become alt-rock gods, the Fab Four had been broken up for two decades. If you were lucky enough, you might have been able to catch the Chili Peppers playing a snippet of both ‘Blackbird’ and ‘I Want to Hold Your Hand’ live back when guitarist Josh Klinghoffer was still in the group. Otherwise, apart from some obvious inspirations, there wasn’t really any major connection between the two acts.

But The Beatles’ influence on rock music can still be heard in the Chili Peppers’ work. Their turn to less funky and more melodic material throughout the early 2000s wouldn’t have worked without the foundation that The Beatles laid out for them. When Flea agreed to judge the songwriting contest, it wasn’t to establish a direct connection to Lennon – it was to acknowledge the debt that all rock musicians have for The Beatles. 

Listen to Flea discussing John Lennon’s songwriting in the video down below.