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John Lennon Week: Working Class Hero

In honor of John Lennon, who was killed 32 years ago this past December, Fusion 45 celebrates John Lennon Week. Here’s the first of five articles focused on his five best songs.

“Working Class Hero”

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Like Bob Dylan’s “Masters of War,” Lennon’s “Working Class Hero” is loosely based on an Old English Folk Song, “Nottamun Town.” As Lennon told Jan Wenner in a December 1970 Rolling Stone interview, the song is about the working class being integrated into the middle class and the illusion that “a working class hero is something to be.”

When radio station WGTB played the song in 1973, an incensed US Representative name Harry Orrin Staggers petitioned the FCC to have program director Ken Sleeman fined and imprisoned. Sleeman resisted, saying “”the People of Washington, DC are sophisticated enough to accept the occasional four-letter word in context, and not become sexually aroused, offended, or upset.” The FCC stood at ease (though other radio stations banned the song for it’s use of some choice four-letter words.)

Since its release, the song has become one of the most covered tunes in the Lennon repertoire, with versions created by Marianne Faithfull, Richie Havens and Green Day included in the mix.

Set in the key of A-minor with a Woody Guthrie like arrangement — just Lennon and his guitar —  ”Working Class Hero” is as simple yet powerful as any song in his repertoire.

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