An inflammatory article in The New York Times provoked the following letter from John Lennon in 1971, defensively penned on a couple of sheets of in-flight stationery as the Beatle crossed the Atlantic. Journalist Craig McGregor’s piece, entitled ‘The Beatles Betrayal,’ was clear in its accusation: that a number of white bands — The Beatles in particular — were “ripping off” black music without so much as a nod to the original artists, many of whom were struggling to make ends meet whilst the Fab Four accumulated a fortune off the back of their efforts.
Clearly the charge stung.
Transcript follows. Image courtesy of Bonhams.
In Flight… yes
14th Sep. 71.
Dear Craig McGregor
‘Money’, ‘Twist ‘n’ Shout’, ‘You really got a hold on me’ etc, were all numbers we (the Beatles) used to sing in the dancehalls around Britain, mainly Liverpool. It was only natural that we tried to do it as near to the record as we could – i always wished we could have done them even closer to the original. We didn’t sing our own songs in the early days – they weren’t good enough – the one thing we always did was to make it known that there were black originals, we loved the music and wanted to spread it in any way we could. in the ’50s there were few people listening to blues – R + B – rock and roll, in America as well as Britain. People like – Eric Burdons Animals – Micks Stones – and us drank ate and slept the music, and also recorded it, many kids were turned on to black music by us.
It wasnt a rip off.
it was a love in,
John + Yennon
P.S. what about the ‘B’ side of Money?
P.P.S. even the black kids didn’t dig blues etc it wasn’t ‘sharp’ or something.