A guy named Fred Seaman is all over the conservative blogs today for a new documentary in which he claims that John Lennon was “a closet Republican” at the time he was shot. This seems unlikely.
First of all, who is Fred Seaman? He’d been a personal assistant to John and Yoko at the Dakota in the late seventies, but he’s also a convicted criminal. He was found guilty of stealing John Lennon’s personal belongings, including his diaries, after Lennon had been killed. He was sentenced to five years probation.
You might say that weakens his credibility.
What exactly were Lennon’s political views at the end of 1980? Late that November, Lennon spoke out on behalf of striking workers in Los Angeles and San Francisco. (The story is told in my book Come Together: John Lennon in His Time.) The strike was against Japan Foods Corporation, a subsidiary of the Japanese multinational Kikkoman, best known for its soy sauce. The US workers, primarily Japanese, were members of the Teamsters. In LA and San Francisco, they went on strike for higher wages. The shop steward of the LA local, Shinya Ono, persuaded John and Yoko to make a public statement addressed to the striking workers:
“We are with you in spirit.… In this beautiful country where democracy is the very foundation of its constitution, it is sad that we have to still fight for equal rights and equal pay for the citizens. Boycott it must be, if it is the only way to bring justice and restore the dignity of the constitution for the sake of all citizens of the US and their children.
“Peace and love, John Lennon and Yoko Ono. New York City, December, 1980.”
That was Lennon’s last written political statement. It doesn’t seem to be the work of a “closet Republican.”
Seaman says Lennon told him he was disillusioned with Jimmy Carter in 1980. Lots of people on the left were disillusioned with Jimmy Carter in 1980, and for good reasons. That didn't make you a Republican, closeted or otherwise.
In what turned out to be Lennon’s last interview, with RKO radio the afternoon of the day he was shot, he talked about “the opening up of the sixties.” He said “Maybe in the sixties we were naïve and like children and later everyone when back to their rooms and said, ‘we didn’t get a wonderful world of flowers and peace.… the world is a nasty horrible place because it didn’t give us everything we cried for.’ Right? Crying for it wasn’t enough.
“The thing the sixties did was show us the possibility and the responsibility that we all had. It wasn’t the answer. It just gave us a glimpse of the possibility.”
That interview was his last. Six hours later he was killed.
Fred Seaman tried to cash in on his Lennon connection with an earlier book, published twenty years ago. That one has been forgotten. This story will be too.