The show is always a mess and the artist always comes off badly… [Plus] America has poured billions into places like that. It doesn’t mean a damn thing. After they’ve eaten that meal, then what? It lasts for only a day. After the $200 million is gone, then what? It goes round and round in circles.

~John Lennon (source: The Daily Beast)

This seems unlike the image of Lennon I had, the article where it was quoted didn't offer a proper citation, and Googling for the quote didn't seem to produce any kind of proof.

Did John Lennon really say this?


1 Answer 1


The quote is from a September 1980 interview with David Sheff, as published in the January 1981 Playboy magazine issue.


SHEFF: "Just to finish your favorite subject, what about the suggestion that the four of you put aside your personal feelings and regroup to give a mammoth concert for charity, some sort of giant benefit?"

LENNON: "I don't want to have anything to do with benefits. I have been benefited to death."

SHEFF: "Why?"

LENNON: "Because they're always rip-offs. I haven't performed for personal gain since 1966, when the Beatles last performed. Every concert since then, Yoko and I did for specific charities, except for a Toronto thing that was a rock 'n roll revival. Every one of them was a mess or a rip-off. So now we give money to who we want. You've heard of tithing?"

SHEFF: "That's when you give away a fixed percentage of your income."

LENNON: "Right. I am just going to do it privately. I am not going to get locked into that business of saving the world on stage. The show is always a mess and the artist always comes off badly."

SHEFF: "What about the Bangladesh concert, in which George and other people such as Dylan performed?"

LENNON: "Bangladesh was ca-ca."

SHEFF: "You mean because of all the questions that were raised about where the money went?"

LENNON: "Yeah, right. I can't even talk about it, because it's still a problem. You'll have to check with Mother (Yoko) because she knows the ins and outs of it, I don't. But it's all a rip-off. So forget about it. All of you who are reading this, don't bother sending me all that garbage about, 'Just come and save the Indians, come and save the blacks, come and save the war veterans,' Anybody I want to save will be helped through our tithing, which is ten percent of whatever we earn."

SHEFF: "But that doesn't compare with what one promoter, Sid Bernstein, said you could raise by giving a world-wide televised concert... playing separately, as individuals, or together, as the Beatles. He estimated you could raise over $200,000,000 in one day."

LENNON: "That was a commercial for Sid Bernstein written with Jewish schmaltz and showbiz and tears, dropping on one knee. It was Al Jolson. OK. So I don't buy that. OK?"

SHEFF: "But the fact is, $200,000,000 to a poverty-stricken country in South America..."

LENNON: "Where do people get off saying the Beatles should give $200,000,000 to South America? You know, America has poured billions into places like that. It doesn't mean a damn thing. After they've eaten that meal, then what? It lasts for only a day. After the $200,000,000 is gone, then what? It goes round and round in circles. You can pour money in forever. After Peru, then Harlem, then Britain. There is no one concert. We would have to dedicate the rest of our lives to one world concert tour, and I'm not ready for it. Not in this lifetime, anyway."

(Ono rejoins the conversation)

SHEFF: "On the subject of your own wealth, the New York Post recently said you admitted to being worth over $150,000,000 and..."

LENNON: "We never admitted anything."

SHEFF: "The Post said you had."

LENNON: "What the Post says... OK, so we are rich; so what?"


  • 9
    Worth pointing out that Lennon is not talking about foreign aid in general, but specifically about benefit concerts. He explicitly says that he gives money to causes he supports. Oct 28, 2016 at 14:33
  • 2
    I don't know if that last bit is pertinent to the question. Oct 28, 2016 at 14:52
  • Agree with @iamnotmaynard. The question left at the end is as relevant as whichever answer Lennon gives. Unless he says something that changes the context of the above conversation, keep them both out of the question Oct 28, 2016 at 15:38
  • 1
    @BorderlineBaguette OK, I took that out and let Lennon have the last word
    – DavePhD
    Oct 28, 2016 at 16:51

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