(Credit: Brian Hamill)

Why John Lennon hated being an artist

John Lennon arrived on this earth with one purpose: to improve the lives of others through the power of music. Despite being cut tragically short, his career still managed to help make the world a better place, but the life of an artist was one that Lennon detested. However, he knew that this line of work was the only thing that he could do, and he had no choice but to spend his life creating art.

The Beatles man was always wary about the pitfalls that came with fame, and in the 1970s he managed to successfully escape the machine, a decision which he had been pining to make since The Fab Four burst onto the scene and set the world alight. Nobody in pop culture before the band had become as famous as they did during their reign of success, one that remains unparalleled over half-a-century later. That said, it wasn’t just the never-ending attention that made Lennon grow to dislike aspects of his career. His primary source of anguish was the weight of expectations that rested on his shoulders which, on occasion, had the ability to drag him down. 

The public’s constant want for more material from The Beatles grew tiresome for Lennon, who had to dig deep to produce these masterpieces. While it’s undisputed that he had that ‘special something’ inside him that made his otherworldly talent one of the all-time greats, it was also his tireless and dogged work ethic helped create these classics. When Lennon did, on occasion, write frivolous songs that he didn’t pour his heart or soul into, more often than not the song would be rather forgettable.

“If I could be a fuckin’ fisherman I would,” Lennon brazenly said to Rolling Stone in 1971. “If I had the capabilities of being something other than I am, I would. It’s no fun being an artist. You know what it’s like, writing, it’s torture. I read about Van Gogh, Beethoven, any of the fuckers. If they had psychiatrists, we wouldn’t have had Gauguin’s great pictures. These bastards are just sucking us to death; that’s about all that we can do, is do it like circus animals,” he added.

Lennon’s comment about being sucked to death due to demands on him continuing to appease the masses is a poignant one. The statement reflects where he was in his frame of mind following The Beatles’ split and how he struggled even with immense riches. Lennon had been riding the carousel of fame for close to a decade and saw himself no longer treated as a human, but, rather a commodity.

Lennon continued: “I resent being an artist, in that respect, I resent performing for fucking idiots who don’t know anything. They can’t feel. I’m the one that’s feeling because I’m the one that is expressing. They live vicariously through me and other artists, and we are the ones even with the boxers— when Oscar comes in the ring, they’re booing the shit out of him, he only hits Clay once and they’re all cheering him. I’d sooner be in the audience, really, but I’m not capable of it.

“One of my big things is that I wish to be a fisherman. I know it sounds silly— and I’d sooner be rich than poor, and all the rest of that shit— but I wish the pain was ignorance or bliss or something. If you don’t know, man, then there’s no pain; that’s how I express it,” the former Beatle added.

These comments go along way in explaining the decade that lied ahead for Lennon and his growing discomfort towards the music industry. He knew he had no choice but to carry on this deadly conveyor. However, in a few years when he finally took a step back for the first time in his adult life and became a family man who no longer felt this pressure to appease fans constantly, that’s when he was at his happiest. 

The constant worries that came with being in the limelight had finally stripped away from Lennon, and he was at last, content. It wasn’t about fame or riches for Lennon, although it did help, it was about feeling at peace with life.