Beatles 'More Popular Than Jesus' -- Really? Meaning Of Lennon's Infamous Quote

By | March 4, 2021

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Teenagers gather at a "Beatles Burning," staged by WAYX-AM (Georgia), where records, books, and wigs are burned in a bonfire in response to John Lennon's comment that the Beatles are more popular than Jesus Christ. Bettmann / Contributor

We’re more popular than Jesus now.

John Lennon of The Beatles did not realize the severe impact this statement would have on his entire career and life when he said those words in a 1966 interview. By the mid-1960s, The Beatles were sweeping the world by storm in terms of popularity. The Beatlemania that began around 1964 was rapidly growing to the point where the moptops were idolized beyond comprehension. In an everyday sense, their importance to music fans (particularly teenagers) rivaled that of any religious deity, and John Lennon agreed. However, America did not let him get away with what seemed to be an innocent observation.

London Wasn’t Even Fazed By John Lennon’s Comment

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Maureen Cleave was a journalist highly respected by The Beatles because of her professionalism, so they always felt comfortable to open up truthfully. Cleave was writing a profile on the band in 1966 that would consist of in-depth interviews revealing what their lives were truly like behind the perfect perception the world had of them. Lennon’s interview took place at his London estate and Cleave was able to expose a man displeased with the consequences of fame and fortune who longed for more simplicity. For the first time in a while, Lennon’s life wasn’t consumed by The Beatles so he was able to reflect on his own life as he dove deep into books, many about world religion, and psychedelic drugs to form his own opinions. The article “How Does A Beatle Live? John Lennon Lives Like This” was published in the London Evening Standard on March 4th, 1966 with this quote from Lennon:

Christianity will go. It will vanish and shrink. I needn’t argue about that; I know I’m right and I will be proved right. We’re more popular than Jesus now. I don’t know which will go first – rock & roll or Christianity. Jesus was all right, but his disciples were thick and ordinary. It’s them twisting it that ruins it for me.

Throughout England, the article was just another of the hundreds published about the Fab Four. Nobody thought twice about Lennon’s remark and it didn’t even make the headline.