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Saturday, May 1, 2010

John Lennon's 'Year Of Broken Pathways'

Hello again! As promised we are going to examine the life of John Lennon in just one 'Year of Broken Pathways'. This was the year when he was 31 years old, which was from 9th October, 1971 to 9th October, 1972. We are going to be looking for major direction change, that included fateful events and being somewhat 'out of control'. Matters would also take several years to resolve. This is the essence of the 'Year of Broken Pathways' and if it's a famous life, then the events can often be well known. In Lennon's case they actually made a documentary about it. Did you happen to see "The US vs. John Lennon"? If you did then you know exactly where I'm going.

In Sept. 1971 Lennon and Yoko arrive in New York. As Yoko says:- "John was in love with New York". It was regarded at the time as the centre of the creative world. John did not care what people thought about him, as long as he could get on the front page with the word 'peace'. However the problems that ensued with the government began when they befriended the anti-war activists Jerry Rubin and Abby Hoffman. He and Yoko saw them as fellow artists, but of course they weren't. They in turn saw Lennon as someone whose public profile would enhance their own cause. He became a pawn in their game. Things heated up when he offered to donate money to Bobby Seale, who was Chairman of the Black Panther Party. As a former FBI agent said:- "if you become his friend like this, you become the enemy of every law enforcement official/cop in the country". The authorities were terrified of him, he had so much sway:- "he had some intellectual force unlike types like Mick Jagger and others".

He then went ahead and demonstrated this power. Lennon sang a newly written song "John Sinclair", at the "Free John Sinclair" concert before 20,000 people and three days later the State of Michigan released him. Sinclair was co-founder of the White Panther Party, a prominent activist and was serving ten years for drug related offences. Do you think any of this government paranoia was known to Lennon at the time? Surely not, because this was all great fun for a natural rebel like him. He liked to be provocative. However his pathway was about to be changed forever. How could he have known that in July of the following year, 18 to 21 year olds were going to get the vote and his influence could imperil the Nixon administration.

His activist buddies hatched a plan to follow the Republican Re-Election rallies around the country and the next day hold a rally to preach against them, with of course Lennon up on stage to help draw a crowd. This would culminate at the Republican Convention in San Diego. When news of this leaked out Lennon became a political target. He realised his phone was being tapped and he was followed in his car. He became worried and frightened. Yoko said they knew it would have been very dangerous to appear in the rallies and they backed out.

In Feb. 1972 Senator Storm Thurmond suggested to Nixon that:-" deportation would be a strategic counter-measure" against Lennon and soon after notice was served to him. Because they were afraid of a big show trial, they used a former drug conviction in UK as the reason. Lennon knew why they wanted him gone, but he wanted to embarrass them over the reason:- "other pop stars have the same conviction, but come and go as they please.....because they don't speak out". Of course he simply could have left but he said :- "I like the place, this is where I want to be".

He hired an immigration lawyer, who kept on getting his stay extended, in what became a very complex case. With Nixon's re-election Lennon was marginalised and the FBI closed their file on him. However Immigration kept the case going for another two years. Lennon said:-" It keeps the conservatives happy something is being done and it keeps the liberals happy that I haven't been thrown out". His life became 'on-hold' and this coincided with the well-known 18 month 'lost weekend' with May Pang, Harry Nilsson and others in Los Angeles.....but that is another story and I'll tell it to you another time.

Nixon resigned over Watergate and was replaced by Gerald Ford in August 1974. Ford had little interest in continuing the battle against Lennon and his deportation order was overturned in 1975,  at the same time as his 35th birthday and the birth of his son Sean. He called this the happiest day of his life.

This example meets every criteria of  the 'Year of Broken Pathways' and its consequences, which take almost all of the rest of his 12 year cycle to resolve. It's fateful, it's important and it's life changing. It's happened to me and it's happened to you. But heck, John Lennon was just one guy I hear you say. And you know what, you're right! One swallow does not a summer make. I'll be back next month with another great story from murky, murderous old Scotland. Until then :- "may the cycles always bring you good fortune".


  1. I was drawn by the title 'broken pathways'! Interesting post, thanks for the share. I favour a kind of zig zag path, or a twining way.

  2. Neil-always fun following your posts. I saw the movie. The US government gave Lennon quite a wild ride. He was so idealistic, shame things ended for him as they did.

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  4. Famous Scot possibilities:

    Robert Burns
    Sir Walter Scott
    David Hume
    Robert Louis Stevenson