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Were The Beatles Really More Popular Than Jesus?

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Perry enjoys writing on diverse topics and has a wealth of knowledge about modern music history.

John Lennon's Famous Remark

After all these years, Lennon's flippant remark (that The Beatles were more popular than Jesus), made to a close friend and reporter, draws attention. But, Lennon was right. He knew he was right despite eventually apologizing to the media.

If you weren't a teenager in 1966, it is impossible to understand The Beatles' impact on the young generation. Today, it's incomprehensible that a rock band would dominate news cycles in the way that they did. Beatles fans are zealous. They would do anything for the band.

When John Lennon made a flippant remark during an interview about how the Beatles had more influence than Jesus, the British press laughed it off as John being John and ignored it. Several months later, the same quote appeared in the American press and in teen magazines like Datebook, which looked for controversial subjects to attract readers. All teen magazines always covered anything "Beatle" related. Suddenly, this off-handed remark made months ago in England became an atomic bomb in America from the religious factions promoting Christianity. This all happened in August 1966, as The Beatles' next tour began.

Suddenly, the Fab 4's lives were threatened by religious zealots toting guns and the fervor of the KKK who held Beatle record burnings across the south. The media there had twisted what Lennon had said into, "The Beatles were more popular than Christ." All this insanity over what Lennon said months ago haunted the band and their security. They had even thought of canceling their concert dates in the south.

The simple fact remains is that at the time, it was true, for a certain segment of the population. The Beatles were worshipped by their millions of fans and they did have more influence on them than Jesus did in their daily lives. But, The Beatles were not more popular than Christ, and John had not said that. The band was actually pro-religion in England where they had tried to promote a more modern church doctrine instead of the stale rut it was in.

When the Band played in Memphis, Tennessee, during Harrison's "If I Needed Someone" song, a large bang went off. The Beatles looked in shock thinking that John had been the target of a gunshot. It truly disrupted the song being played until it was discovered a kid had tossed a cherry bomb firecracker towards them. Up to this concert, the rhetoric and tension towards the Fab 4 had grown into a crescendo of hate. After the gig was done, John had had enough of all this shit with touring. His nerves were frayed from the news conferences that drilled him for an apology and clarifications, which he stumbled through. John was scared. The whole band was.

After their last concert in San Francisco following the Memphis ordeal, the band would never do another world tour. Years later, John was still amused and shocked how this simple comment had stirred up the American south.

Mark Chapman Kills John Lennon

The embers of the Beatle God statement made in 1966 permeated through time like some sort of alien beast. While it was forgotten by most and had become a piece of rock history, in the 1970s it mutated into a sinister psychological tumor inside Mark Chapman, a young born-again Christian. Like a virus, it simmered and grew anger and hatred within this man's mind. Even though he was a fan who hypocritically loved the Beatles as an entity, the "more popular than Jesus" comment Lennon made festered inside Chapman's mind until it took over his own sanity.

On December 8th, 1980, sixteen years after John made his infamous and flippant-but-realistic observation, Mark met John for an autograph signing outside his Dakota apartment in New York City. Mark greeted him as any diehard fan would; after all, John was his idol. John scribbled his signature on the paper Mark had and as John moved away, Mark pulled out a gun and shot John dead.

For Mark Chapman, in his deranged mind that had been twisted by his own strange version of Christianity, he had killed an evil man who claimed indirectly that he was more popular than Jesus Christ. Mark's own religious fervor and extremity had poisoned his thinking and lead him to make the unbelievable decision of murder.


This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.


perrya (author) on October 16, 2021:

Look, from the perspective of a teen or pre-teen between 1964-66, what Lennon said seemed true. The band was a tidal wave on cultures in fashion, music, men's hair style. They made news wherever they went and millions seem to worship them. Their legacy is handed down via their music even today. Even Lennon was stunned by the band's impact on the world and the frenzy that ensued. To most teens or pre-teens then (their hardcore followers) Jesus was further down the list of their priority.

perrya (author) on October 05, 2021:

yes, there is video of the news conference where john tries to explain and apologize. In 1970's, John revealed that he was scared shitless about the whole thing and Paul confirmed it that he had never seen john so freaked out and nervous because of the gun toting crazies in the south.

Ara Vahanian from LOS ANGELES on October 05, 2021:

Interesting article. I also don't think that John Lennon actually meant that the Beatles were actually more popular than Jesus though the comment was interpreted that way. I wasn't even around then in 1966 as I grew up in the 1980s and 1990s during the rise of the World Wide Web. It is unfortunate that the lives of these Beatles members were at risk due to one comment made by John.

perrya (author) on October 05, 2021:

I am sure John would agree with you. John simply made an observation from his view about beatlemania the band had caused around the world. It certainly was not far off back then, totally plausible.

Claudette Coleman Carter from Media, Pennsylvania on October 05, 2021:

Hi Perrya,

When you research the scriptures did the Beatles give their life for me or you. Jesus loved his Heavenly Father so much that he came down to earth based John 3:16 which states “For God loved the world so much that he gave his only-begotten Son, so that everyone exercising faith in him might not be destroyed but have everlasting life.”

Jesus came down to earth and dealt with the degradation of imperfect mankind to the point where they persecuted him and put Jesus to death. Are we doing the same thing to Jesus again by comparing him to some imperfect men? Please don’t lower the level of what Jesus means to you or me and compare him to such things as popularity. There is no comparison. There are beautiful experiences on a spiritually uplifting website call that millions visit each day. Since you seemingly love music, you will find such experiences as Prince and Larry Graham that will help you see how people can be major entertainers as well as recognize Jesus as their savior.

Please continue to write intriguing articles. Take care.