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Music

John Lennon's favourite guitarist of all time

John Lennon is arguably the most influential musician of all time. His work in and out of The Beatles has seen his cultural potency reach heights that are unheard of, far surpassing that of Bob Dylan and The Rolling Stones. It’s a testament to his work that he continues to inspire countless budding musicians today, some 42 years after his tragic death. 

Often Lennon is spoken about in such godly terms that people forget one major point, he was also a human being, and he also started from the bottom and endured no end of hardship and strife before reaching the soaring heights that we know him for today. Like any music lover, he coveted a select few who helped him cultivate his own unmistakable songwriting and guitar-playing style. 

Duly, we’ve trawled through hours of different Lennon interviews in a bid to ascertain who his favourite guitarist of all time is, a question that has long been on the minds of fans. Whilst there are a couple of figures that made strong claims, including Chuck Berry whom Lennon once described as rock and roll incarnate, we think it’s safe to say that old ‘Slowhand’ himself, Eric Clapton, was Lennon’s favourite ever guitarist. 

Offering an insight into how Lennon viewed the guitar, his thoughts on Clapton show a different side to the Beatles frontman and one that was desperate to perform as often as possible with dynamic Clapton. 

There’s no doubting that the primary influence the esteemed Clapton had on The Beatles was through his close friendship with George Harrison, but in Clapton, Lennon also felt he had found a kindred spirit. Lennon’s appreciation for Clapton was so great that when Harrison temporarily left the band in 1969, Lennon thought the best replacement was Clapton.

“I think if George doesn’t come back by Monday or Tuesday, we ask Eric Clapton to play,” he told the Let It Be director Michael Lindsay-Hogg. “We should just go on as if nothing’s happened.”

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Lennon’s appreciation for the former Cream man didn’t stop there. Lennon even penned a sweetly worded eight-page letter to Clapton in the hope of persuading him to join the ‘Fab Four’, or at the very least, to embark on a world tour with him in a setting outside of The Beatles such as the Plastic Ono Band. 

“I’ve/we’ve long admired your music—and always kept an eye open to see what you’ve been up to lately. I really feel I/we can bring out the best in you”. Elsewhere, Lennon explained: “We have many ‘revolutionary’ ideas for presenting shows that completely involve the audience—not just as ‘Superstars’ up there—blessing the people—but that’s another letter really.” 

Luckily for us, and for the final chapter of The Beatles, Harrison eventually re-entered the fold only 12 days after his departure, and then the band would put some of their mutual qualms aside and go on to close the book on their stellar career by recording the incredible final record, Let It Be

Fortunately for Lennon, he and Clapton would share the stage on numerous occasions, and they already had done prior to him penning the letter. These came in the supergroup The Dirty Mac in 1968 and as part of the Plastic Ono Band at Toronto’s Concert for Peace in 1969. Famously, Clapton even helped Lennon to write his classic track ‘Cold Turkey’. 

You can’t help but wonder what The Beatles would have looked and sounded like with the inclusion of Clapton, but let’s be honest, this was The Beatles. They just wouldn’t have been the same without George Harrison. 

Watch Lennon and Clapton perform ‘Give Peace A Chance’ in Toronto, below.