'How Do You Sleep?:' John Lennon's Most Ungroovy Anti-McCartney Rant

By | September 9, 2020

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Musician John Lennon formerly of "The Beatles" performs onstage at the Chrysler Arena on December 10, 1971 in Ann Arbor, Michigan. (Photo by Tom Copi/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

The title track of musician John Lennon's Imagine sets him up as some kind of enlightened sage; but "How Do You Sleep?," from the second side of the LP, shows the ex-Beatle at his most petty. An unambiguous attack on Paul McCartney, his former songwriting partner and friend, "How Do You Sleep?" is totally out of sync with the way Lennon is often remembered today. Only a couple of years earlier, Lennon and McCartney had been friends, preaching a message of peace and love to society. What went wrong? 

When The Beatles broke up in 1970, the split was not a graceful affair for both the depressed fans and the bandmates themselves. The aftermath caused burning tension between former pals Paul McCartney and John Lennon, who ended up in a musical rivalry against each other. Lennon eventually poured his emotions out in a bitter song revealing his cruel thoughts about McCartney that would be called “How Do You Sleep?,” which would be one of the most brutal songs in history.

McCartney Was The Bad Guy For Quitting The Beatles

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McCartney’s image was tarnished when he sued The Beatles in order to break the band up as a legal partnership, which was seen as blasphemy at the time (although the world realized years later this was the best decision). This action caused a nasty feud between McCartney and Lennon, who had already been a competitive duo in creativity even when they admired each other. The battle continued when Lennon slandered all of his bandmates in a 1970 interview with Rolling Stone magazine, and McCartney responded by dressing up with his wife Linda McCartney as clowns wearing paper bags (mocking John and Yoko’s controversial cover for “Two Virgins”) in a few advertisements. When McCartney released his 1971 album Ram, he threw in a few subtle insults against Lennon including his reference to Lennon in the tune “Too Many People.” The lyrics “Too many people preaching practices” alluded to Lennon’s constant preaching of his ideology of life and peace. Lennon viewed this entire album as McCartney spitting on him, which pushed him to seek his own revenge.