A Song I Love – Working Class Hero

On his first solo post-Beatles album – John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band– John Lennon took a marked detour from Beatlemania. Well, not so marked compared to his later Beatles output. But certainly as compared to the vast majority of what he did with the Beatles. But even as early as 1965, the cracks were beginning to show. (Although we didn’t know it at the time).

As noted in this post from my Beatles series, his song ‘Help’ was – according to him – a real cry for assistance. He was lost in a high-pressure celebrity world, even at one point referring to his ‘fat Elvis period’ when he was eating and drinking too much.

So when he came out with this remarkable first album, it was interesting (to say the least) to see not only how autobiographical it was but also how painful it was. There are several extraordinary songs on the album such as “Mother,” “Isolation,” “God,” and “Remember.”

But for me the crowning achievement was a song called “Working Class Hero.” By this time Lennon had dropped any pretense of sugarcoating his lyrics and was calling it as he saw it. (Frankly, I sometimes missed that earlier artistry. But this was something altogether deeper.)

I find it interesting that Lennon – a Dylan devotee – says, “When they’ve tortured and scared you for 20 odd years, then they expect you to pick a career.” Dylan – in “Subterranean Homesick Blues” says, “Twenty years of schooling and they put you on the day shift.” Indeed. Anyway, I won’t try to put any interpretive spin on this. The words speak for themselves.

Working Class Hero

As soon as you’re born they make you feel small
By giving you no time instead of it all
‘Til the pain is so big you feel nothing at all

A working class hero is something to be
A working class hero is something to be

They hurt you at home and they hit you at school
They hate you if you’re clever and they despise a fool
‘Til you’re so fucking crazy you can’t follow their rules

A working class hero is something to be
A working class hero is something to be

When they’ve tortured and scared you for 20 odd years
Then they expect you to pick a career
When you can’t really function, you’re so full of fear

A working class hero is something to be
A working class hero is something to be

Keep you doped with religion, and sex, and T.V.
And you think you’re so clever and classless and free
But you’re still fucking peasants as far as I can see

A working class hero is something to be
A working class hero is something to be

There’s room at the top they are telling you still
But first you must learn how to smile as you kill
If you want to be like the folks on the hill

A working class hero is something to be
A working class hero is something to be

If you want to be a hero well just follow me
If you want to be a hero well just follow me

Writer(s): John Lennon
Copyright: Lennon Music

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