John Lennon believed he was a “hypocrite” for accepting his MBE in 1965
The late Beatles legend was awarded the honour alongside his bandmates – Sir Paul McCartney, Sir Ringo Starr, and the late George Harrison – and while he originally accepted the award for Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, he handed it back four years later in 1969
15 September 2021
Explaining why he initially accepted the honour, John said in interviews recorded between 1969 and 1970: “Well, I was a hypocrite, and I was on the make if you get a medal for killing you should certainly get a medal for singing, and keeping Britain’s economics in good nick.”
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And when asked why he then rescinded the award, the musician – who had recently staged bedbound peace protests in Montreal and Amsterdam with his wife Yoko Ono at the time of the interviews – added: “[It was] a protest against Britain’s involvement in Biafra and Nigeria, and about Britain’s backing of the United States morally and verbally in Vietnam.”
John also explained he had to write three letters to announce he was returning his MBE, “one to the Queen, one to Harold Wilson [the prime minister] and one to the something of the chancellery”.
The ‘Imagine’ hitmaker made his comments in a series of interviews conducted by Canadian journalist Ken Zeilig, recordings of which have recently emerged and are due to be sold at auction.
Only around five minutes of the interviews have been broadcast previously, and although Ken passed away in 1990, the tapes have only recently been discovered by the journalist’s family.
They are expected to fetch up to £30,000 at Omega Auctions in Merseyside on September 28.
Paul Fairweather, of Omega Auctions, said of the recordings: “John’s witty insight and proclamations are vintage Lennon and there is much that will greatly excite Beatles fans. They are a hugely important find.”