The Neil Young Song John Lennon Despised For Making Sid Vicious A Hero
The celebrities in the world of rock and roll know how to party destructively, lose themselves in the devastating world of substances and eventually damage themselves, which often leads to their deaths. This lifestyle caused the loss of many talented musicians that died from drugs and alcohol at an early age.
Sex Pistols is still known as one of the best representatives of grunge and punk subgenres, but their dark and rebellious image often took much criticism. Their bassist Sid Vicious was a significant figure who became a punk icon with his attitude and lifestyle that lived up to the reputation of a rocker. His death was as controversial as his life, and while musicians tend to tribute to him, many others oppose depicting him as a hero, including the Beatles’ John Lennon.
How Did Sid Vicious Became A Controversial Figure?
Sid Vicious got arrested for the murder of his girlfriend Nancy Spungen, who was found dead with a knife in her abdomen at a party. Vicious was under the influence of sedative drugs, and his memories were hazy. He first admitted to murdering his girlfriend but then changed his statement to have no recollection of what happened. After trying to commit suicide ten days after the incident, he went to rehab.
After vicious got out, he overdosed on cocaine which was also controversial in terms of being an accident or not, as he had left a note saying that he promised Nancy to kill himself if she died. A punk icon passed away under these circumstances at the age of 21, and while some think it’s ‘rock and roll,’ others believe that he shouldn’t be marked as a hero because that’s not what ‘rock and roll’ is.
Why Did John Lennon Disagree With Naming Sid Vicious As A Hero?
Neil Young wrote the song ‘My My, Hey Hey,’ in 1978, and the lyrics indicate that it’s better to live fast and die young rather than to age and rot in the industry. There are a lot of artists who ‘burned out’ instead of getting old, like Jim Morrison, James Dean, John Wayne, and Sid Vicious. However, John Lennon disagrees that burning out is the right way to go.
He stated in 1980 for Playboy magazine that he worshipped those who continue to live because they teach everyone more. On the other hand, those who died at a young age and called it ‘rock and roll’ only represented death, which Lennon disapproved of and didn’t want his son Sean to be influenced when he grew up.
Lennon stated about burning out in 1980 as follows:
“I hate it. It’s better to fade away like an old soldier than to burn out. If he was talking about burning out like Sid Vicious, forget it. I don’t appreciate the worship of dead Sid Vicious or dead James Dean or dead John Wayne. It’s the same thing. Making Sid Vicious a hero, Jim Morrison, it’s garbage to me. I worship the people who survive, Gloria Swanson, Greta Garbo. They’re saying John Wayne conquered cancer; he whipped it like a man.
You know, I’m sorry that he died and all that. I’m sorry for his family; he didn’t whip cancer. It whipped him. I don’t want Sean worshiping John Wayne or Johnny Rotten or Sid Vicious. What do they teach you? Nothing. Death. Sid Vicious died for what? So that we might rock? I mean, it’s garbage, you know. If Neil Young admires that sentiment so much, why doesn’t he do it? Because he sure as hell faded away and came back many times, like all of us. No, thank you. I’ll take the living and the healthy.”
The song’s creator, Neil Young, replied to Lennon’s comments two years later and counterargued that rock and roll is not about survival. He continued defending that it’s better to burn out after shining bright instead of decaying off into infinity because the rock genre isn’t about infinity; it’s about living in the moment.
Here is what Young replied to Lennon’s comments:
“The rock ‘n’ roll spirit is not survival. Of course, the people who play rock’n’roll should survive. But the essence of the rock ‘n’ roll spirit to me is that it’s better to burn out really bright than to sort of decay off into infinity. Even though if you look at it in a mature way, you’ll think, ‘Well, yes. You should decay off into infinity and keep going along.’ Rock ‘n’ roll doesn’t look that far ahead. Rock ‘n’ roll is right now; what’s happening right this second. Is it bright? Or is it dim because it’s waiting for tomorrow? That’s what people want to know. And that’s why I say that.”
You can listen to the controversial song below.