"Power to the People"
John Lennon wearing work clothing, aviator glasses, and a white hard helmet. His right hand is seen clenching a fist with his left hand behind him.
US picture sleeve
Single by John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band
Released12 March 1971 (UK)
22 March 1971 (US)
Recorded22 January – 9 February 1971
StudioAscot Sound, Berkshire
GenreRock, protest song
Songwriter(s)John Lennon
John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band singles chronology
"Power to the People"

"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 6 on the British singles chart.[2] The song's first appearance on album was the 1975 compilation Shaved Fish.

The song was used as a campaign theme song for the 2016 and the 2020 U.S. presidential campaigns of Bernie Sanders.

Writing and recording

"Power to the People" was recorded at Ascot Sound Studios[3] on 15 February 1971,[4] during sessions that would produce songs for Lennon's Imagine album. The single was released on 12 March 1971 in the UK and 22 March 1971 in the US[5][6] (although some sources give the British release as 8 March[7]). The song was written by Lennon in response to an interview he gave to Tariq Ali and Robin Blackburn,[8] published in Red Mole (8–22 March 1971).[9] 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."[3]

It entered the charts on 20 March 1971, and remained there for nine weeks. It was Lennon's fifth 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.[10] Backing vocals were supplied by Rosetta Hightower[10] and "44 others".[11] The singers also stomped their feet to make it sound more like a political rally.[12] Phil Spector, Lennon and Yoko Ono were credited as producers.[10]

Lennon's regard for 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".[13][14] 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".[15]

Ultimate Classic Rock critic Nick DeRiso rated it as Lennon's 6th greatest solo political song, calling it "one of Lennon's funkiest and hardest-hitting musical achievements."[12]

Cover versions and references

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, Eric Burdon, Billy Preston and Ringo Starr recorded the song for Steal This Movie!, a film about Abbie Hoffman.[16]

The song has been used as a theme song of the 2016 and 2020 US presidential campaigns of Bernie Sanders.[17]


The musicians who performed on "Power to the People" were as follows:[18]

Chart history


  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. ^ Schaffner, Nicholas (1977). The Beatles Forever. Cameron House. p. 149.
  3. ^ a b Williams, Richard (2003). Phil Spector: Out of His Head. London: Omnibus Press. p. 160. ISBN 0-7119-9864-7.
  4. ^ Madinger, Chip; Raile, Scott (2015). LENNONOLOGY Strange Days Indeed - A Scrapbook of Madness. Chesterfield, MO: Open Your Books, LLC. p. 226. ISBN 978-1-63110-175-5.
  5. ^ 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.
  6. ^ Blaney, John (2005). John Lennon: Listen To This Book. Guildford, Great Britain: Biddles Ltd. pp. 66–70. ISBN 0-9544528-1-X.
  7. ^ Keith Badham, The Beatles Diary Volume 2: After the Break-Up 1970−2001, Omnibus Press (London, 2002), pp 32.
  8. ^ Ingham, Chris (2003). The Rough Guide to the Beatles. London: Rough Guides Ltd. p. 117. ISBN 1-84353-140-2.
  9. ^ Thomson, Elizabeth and David Gutman (eds.) (2004). The Lennon Companion. Cambridge, MA: Da Capo Press. p. 165. ISBN 0-306-81270-3. ((cite book)): |first= has generic name (help)
  10. ^ a b c Blaney, John (2005). John Lennon: Listen To This Book. Guildford, Great Britain: Biddles Ltd. p. 70. ISBN 0-9544528-1-X.
  11. ^ Castleman & Podrazik, All Together Now, p. 172.
  12. ^ a b DeRiso, Nick (9 October 2013). "Top 10 John Lennon Solo Political Songs". Ultimate Classic Rock. Retrieved 8 January 2023.
  13. ^ 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.
  14. ^ Thompson, Hunter S. (1998). Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream. Ralph Steadman (Vintage Books (2nd) ed.). New York: Random House. p. 21. ISBN 0-679-78589-2. OCLC 41049769.
  15. ^ Cadogan, Patrick (2008). The Revolutionary Artist: John Lennon's Radical Years. Morrisville, North Carolina: Lulu. p. 137. ISBN 978-1-4357-1863-0.
  16. ^ Harry, Bill (2004). The Ringo Starr Encyclopedia. London: Virgin Books. p. 269. ISBN 978-0-7535-0843-5.
  17. ^ End Corporate Greed Rally in Iowa City, archived from the original on 22 December 2021, retrieved 31 October 2019
  18. ^ Imagine: The Ultimate Edition
  19. ^ "The Irish Charts – Search Results – Power to the People". Irish Singles Chart. Retrieved 16 July 2019.
  20. ^ "Classifiche". Musica e Dischi (in Italian). Retrieved 27 May 2022. Set "Tipo" on "Singoli". Then, in the "Artista" field, search "John Lennon".
  21. ^ "Jaaroverzichten – Single 1971" (in Dutch). Single Top 100. Hung Medien. Retrieved 2 March 2018.
  22. ^ "Official Charts Company". Retrieved 8 March 2019.
  23. ^ Joel Whitburn's Top Pop Singles 1955–1990 - ISBN 0-89820-089-X
  24. ^ "Item Display - RPM - Library and Archives Canada". collectionscanada.gc.ca.
  25. ^ Dutch Charts Annual Reviews - Single 1971
  26. ^ Whitburn, Joel (1999). Pop Annual. Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin: Record Research Inc. ISBN 0-89820-142-X.