The U.S. vs John Lennon

Synopsis: After background about the childhood and youth of John Lennon (1940-1980) and the birth of Vietnam-War protests, the film plunges into Lennon's quest for world peace: compositions such as "Give Peace a Chance", the lie-in following his marriage to Yoko Ono, appearances at concerts, "War Is Over" posters, and plans for a series of concerts in 1972 in U.S. presidential primary states reach newly-enfranchised young voters. This plan for concerts, in particular, led a prominent Senator, the FBI's J. Edgar Hoover, and Nixon's White House to initiate a concerted and illegal effort to deport Lennon. Thirty talking heads, led by Yoko, comment on Lennon and these events.
Production: Lionsgate Films
  2 nominations.
Rotten Tomatoes:
99 min

All the people that say the movement,

the revolution is over.

They ought to see what's going on right here,

'cause it doesn't look over to me.

This is like a dream,

seeing 15,000 people in one place

demanding freedom

for John Sinclair.

I was sentenced

to 91/2-10 years

in July of 1969

for giving two joints

to an undercover policewoman.

All this time that John Sinclair

has been in jail

because of his opposition

to the government,

that government has dropped

21/2 Hiroshimas a week

every week since July 1969,

when John was imprisoned.

And all that time,

Richard Nixon was trumpeting,

"The war is winding down."

We had this concert,

and it was broadcast

all over the state.

It was the biggest thing that

ever happened in Michigan.

Stevie Wonder, Bob Seger,

Rennie Davis, Jerry Rubin,

Bobby Seale

of the Black Panthers.

All power to the people.

Thank you very much.

Right on.

Power to the people.

The stage was set

to make a big impact.

"If we can make

this concert be huge..."

And then Jerry Rubin talked

John Lennon and Yoko Ono

into coming and playing

at our concert.

We had no idea

that there were FBI agents

writing down the lyrics

in the audience.

That's when the FBI

began to see

the beginning of the power

of John and Yoko.

The power structure, especially

during the Nixon administration,

which began in 1968,

was extremely paranoid

about anyone who they perceived

to be counter-culture,

counter-administration, antiwar,

and, of course, John Lennon

fell squarely in that arena.

When somebody in show business

comes and participates

in a political rally,

he or she is doing something

that is a very great

personal sacrifice,

and even a personal risk.

Certainly, they feared what a figure

like John Lennon represented.

Anybody who sings about love

and harmony and life

is dangerous to somebody

who's singing about death

and killing and subduing.

He was making friends

with a lot of people

that our government

wanted to put in jail.

He was a high-profile figure,

so his activities

were being monitored.

I think they wanted me

to know to scare me,

and I was scared, paranoid.

He believed all of his telephone conversations

were being monitored.

"He believed that he was being followed

around New York City.

He believed that friends that he

had thought were friends

were secret informants for different

intelligence communities.

We were just shocked,

and we were really scared.

Another effect

of the Sinclair thing

was it probably

further alerted the FBI,

John Mitchell, Haldeman,

Ehrlichman, and Nixon

as to this threat to them,

that something

needed to be done

to neutralize John Lennon.

Childhood was something

that, um...

he couldn't shake it.

It was there all the time.

And at night

when we were in bed,

he would be talking about it,

his mother...

Especially his mother.

He was an orphan, really.

He was abandoned

by his father,

and to all intents

and purposes,

abandoned by his mother.

Can you imagine growing up

and realizing that neither

your mother nor your father

really wanted you?

So it's no wonder

he turned out a rebel.

Being born working class,

it was a natural...

I knew... I was taught to hate

and fear the police,

hate and fear the establishment,

and to fight it.

He had a chip on his shoulder

for anybody who would tell him

how to live his life and what to do

and when to talk

and when not to talk.

I was always in trouble.

Every school I went to,

I was thrown out.

Everything I got involved in,

I was always in trouble,

so I was always

against the wall.

This is Doug Layton

and Tommy Charles

reminding you that our fantastic

Beatle boycott is still in effect.

We have not forgotten

what The Beatles said.

The Beatles made a statement

in all the newspapers

that they're getting more better than,

uh, Jesus Himself.

Originally, I was...

I pointed out that fact

in reference to England,

that we meant more

to kids than Jesus did

or religion at that time.

I wasn't knocking it

or putting it down.

I was just saying it.

I think simply on the basis

of statistics and fact,

his statement is untrue.

No one is more popular

than Jesus.

I just didn't mean what

everybody thinks I meant.

I'm not anti-Christ

or anti-religion

or anti-God.

So many people have built buildings

in the name of Christ,

and what have people

done for The Beatles?

What have they done for us?

I'm not saying that

we're better or greater

or comparing us with Jesus Christ

as a person,

or God as a thing

or whatever it is.

I just said what I said

and it was wrong

or it was taken wrong,

and now it's all this.

We urge you to take

your Beatle records,

pictures, and souvenirs

to the pickup points

about to be named,

and on the night of the Beatles'

appearance in Memphis,

August 19,

they will be destroyed

in a huge public bonfire

at a place to be named soon.

It doesn't matter about people

not liking our records

or not liking the way we look

or what we say.

They're entitled to not like us,

and we're entitled not to have anything

to do with them if we don't want to,

or not to regard them.

We've all got

our rights, you know?

Clearly, Lennon already

was thinking about

this thing of being

the lovable mop tops

is not really their goal

in life anymore.

Lennon in particular

is more willing

to take on a critical stance,

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David Leaf

David Leaf (born April 20, 1952) is an American writer, producer, and director known for documentaries, music programs, and pop culture retrospectives. more…

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Submitted on August 05, 2018

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