Power to the People (song)

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"Power to the People"
Single by John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band
B-side "Open Your Box" (UK) (Yoko Ono)
"Touch Me" (US) (Yoko Ono)
Released 12 March 1971 (UK)
22 March 1971 (US)
Format 7" vinyl
Recorded 22 October 1970
Ascot Sound Studios, Surrey
Genre Rock
Length 3:15
Label Apple
Writer(s) John Lennon
Producer(s) Phil Spector, John Lennon and Yoko Ono
John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band singles chronology
"Mother"
(1970)
"Power to the People"
(1971)
"Imagine"
(1971)

"Power to the People" is a song written by John Lennon, released as a single in 1971, credited to John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band. It was issued on Apple Records (catalogue number R5892 in the United Kingdom, 1830 in the United States) and in the US peaked at number 11 on the Billboard Hot 100 and number 10 on the Cashbox Top 100.[1] It also charted at number 7 on the British singles chart. The song's first appearance on album was the 1975 compilation Shaved Fish.

Writing and recording[edit]

"Power to the People" was recorded at Ascot Sound Studios[2] on 22 October 1970,[3] during early sessions for Lennon's Imagine album. The single was released on 12 March 1971 in the UK and 22 March 1971 in the US[4][5] (although some sources give the British release as 8 March[6]). The song was written by Lennon in response to an interview he gave to Tariq Ali and Robin Blackburn,[7] published in Red Mole (8–22 March 1971).[8] As Lennon explained: "I just felt inspired by what they said, although a lot of it is gobbledygook. So I wrote 'Power to the People' the same way I wrote 'Give Peace a Chance,' as something for the people to sing. I make singles like broadsheets. It was another quickie, done at Ascot."[2]

It entered the charts on 20 March 1971, and remained there for nine weeks. It was Lennon's fourth solo single, the Plastic Ono Band on this occasion comprising Lennon, Bobby Keys and Billy Preston in addition to regulars Klaus Voormann and Alan White.[9] Backing vocals were supplied by Rosetta Hightower[9] and "44 others".[10] Phil Spector, John Lennon, and Yoko Ono were credited as producers.[9]

A passionate political activist at the time, Lennon's perception of the song changed during the 1970s. In Skywriting by Word of Mouth, he called the song "rather embarrassing" and supported Hunter S. Thompson's claim that the anthem was "ten years too late".[11] In 1980, he stated that the song "didn't really come off" as it had been "written in the state of being asleep and wanting to be loved by Tariq Ali and his ilk".[12]

Cover versions and references[edit]

The Minus 5 recorded a version of "Power to the People" for the 1995 tribute album Working Class Hero: A Tribute to John Lennon. In 2000, Billy Preston and Ringo Starr released a performance of the song for the film about Abbie Hoffman.[13] It was featured on the soundtrack of the motion picture Steal This Movie!. It was also covered by Black Eyed Peas on the album Instant Karma: The Amnesty International Campaign to Save Darfur.

Personnel[edit]

The musicians who performed on "Power to the People" were as follows:[5]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Blaney, John (2005). John Lennon: Listen to This Book (illustrated ed.). [S.l.]: Paper Jukebox. p. 326. ISBN 978-0-9544528-1-0. 
  2. ^ a b Williams, Richard (2003). Phil Spector: Out of His Head. London: Omnibus Press. p. 160. ISBN 0-7119-9864-7. 
  3. ^ Miles, Barry; Badman, Keith, ed. (2001). The Beatles Diary After the Break-Up: 1970–2001 (reprint ed.). London: Music Sales Group. ISBN 978-0-7119-8307-6. 
  4. ^ Castleman, Harry; Podrazik, Walter J. (1977). All Together Now – The First Complete Beatles Discography 1961–1975 (Second ed.). New York: Ballantine Books. p. 100. ISBN 0-345-25680-8. 
  5. ^ a b Blaney, John (2005). John Lennon: Listen To This Book. Guildford, Great Britain: Biddles Ltd. pp. 66–70. ISBN 0-9544528-1-X. 
  6. ^ Keith Badham, The Beatles Diary Volume 2: After the Break-Up 1970−2001, Omnibus Press (London, 2002), pp 32.
  7. ^ Ingham, Chris (2003). The Rough Guide to the Beatles. London: Rough Guides Ltd. p. 117. ISBN 1-84353-140-2. 
  8. ^ Thomson, Elizabeth and David Gutman (eds.) (2004). The Lennon Companion. Cambridge, MA: Da Capo Press. p. 165. ISBN 0-306-81270-3. 
  9. ^ a b c Blaney, John (2005). John Lennon: Listen To This Book. Guildford, Great Britain: Biddles Ltd. p. 70. ISBN 0-9544528-1-X. 
  10. ^ Castleman & Podrazik, All Together Now, p. 172.
  11. ^ Lennon, John (1986). Skywriting by Word of Mouth: And Other Writings, Including "The Ballad of John and Yoko". New York: HarperCollins. p. 25. ISBN 0-06-091444-0. 
  12. ^ Cadogan, Patrick (2008). The Revolutionary Artist: John Lennon's Radical Years. Morrisville, North Carolina: Lulu. p. 137. ISBN 978-1-4357-1863-0. 
  13. ^ Harry, Bill (2004). The Ringo Starr Encyclopedia. London: Virgin Books. p. 269. ISBN 978-0-7535-0843-5.