John Lennon was one man never afraid to wear his heart on his sleeve, never one to shy away from an opinion or to criticise music whether this is by others or even his own. There were two artists who he claimed he could not even stomach listening to the work of — he even went as far as labelling the duo as being “fruity”.
The Beatle was honest throughout his career in The Fab Four about his influences, recognising that without artists such as Little Richard and Chuck Berry there would have been no Beatles. One genre, however, that Lennon seldom cited inspiration from in both his solo career and with his former band, was the world of folk music that, simply put, was just never his cup of tea.
In a comprehensive 1971 interview with Rolling Stone, Jann S. Wenner talked to Lennon about a whole wealth of different topics surrounding the world of contemporary music at the time as well as in-depth dives into some of the tracks that he has released following The Beatles’ split and his emergence as a solo artist.
When the track ‘Working Class Hero’ crops up into conversation, Wenner makes the mistake of likening it to something which Bob Dylan could have mustered up which gets a less than warm response from Lennon who fired straight into this fierce tirade against the lazy comparison: “Anybody that sings with a guitar and sings about something heavy would tend to sound like this. I’m bound to be influenced by those because that is the only kind of real folk music I really listen to.”
The former member of The Beatles then discloses the two folk musicians that he can’t bear listening to: “I never liked the fruity Judy Collins and [Joan] Baez and all of that stuff,” he said. “So the only folk music I know is about miners up in Newcastle or Dylan. In that way, I would be influenced, but it doesn’t sound like Dylan to me. Does it sound like Dylan to you?”
The interviewer then backs down and says it’s only the instrumentation that reminds him of Dylan, which elicits this response: “That’s the only way to play. I never listen that hard to him.”
Either his criticisms have just never made their way to Baez and Collins or they decided to take his acknowledgement as a compliment because both artists have paid tribute to Lennon publically since he made his comments.
In 2007, Collins went as far in fact as releasing a tribute album titled Judy Collins Sings Lennon & McCartney. The album includes covers of Beatles classics such as ‘The Long and Winding Road’ and ‘When I’m Sixty-Four’.
Meanwhile, Baez was asked by Rolling Stone about her favourite protest songs and she named ‘Imagine’, saying this: “I sing this on my current tour and people love it and they sing along. I love the song because it’s beautiful; It has a beautiful lilt and it’s easy to sing…People love it and clap in the middle of it every night.”