In 1975, John Lennon retired from live performance after his son Sean was born. What followed was, for him, five years of domestic bliss in his New York mansion, The Dakota, centred around being a full-time father and showering his new child with such love and devotion that he had never shown his first son, Julian.
But before he could settle down into a cycle of serenity that he’d never previously been able to enjoy, Lennon a few professional obligations to fulfil – one being what turned out to be his final live performance ever.
Backed by a band of bald men and himself donning a red jumpsuit, John Lennon’s performance in 1975 was a bizarre one.
Donning a red jumpsuit and backed by a band of mysterious bald men and with face masks attached to the back of their heads (known as the “Brothers of Mother Fuckers”), Lennon’s final show was a bizarre one to say the least.
The performance was a Salute to Sir Lew, a reference to Sir Lew Grade, “a powerful media mogul,” as noted by Dangerous Minds, “with roots in cabaret and variety shows.”
As Open Culture remember, Grade was “a man known as much for his ruthlessness in business as for his Charleston, which he performed on tabletops whenever the mood struck him. In 1969 Grade bought up the rights to over a hundred Lennon and McCartney songs, after some very tense negotiations. Lennon sued Grade in 1974 and settled out of court, and Grade remained the co-publisher of all of his new songs.”
As part of the settlement, Lennon had returned to the studio to record an album of classic rock covers, appropriately titled Rock ‘n’ Roll.
The “tribute show” for Sir Lew for took place in the Grand Ballroom of the Hilton Hotel in New York on April 18th, 1975, just a few months before Sean was born.
Lennon performed three songs: Little Richard’s Slippin’ and Slidin’ and Ben E. King’s Stand By Me, both of which featured on Rock ‘n’ Roll, before closing with Imagine, which turned out to be the last song he ever sang onstage live.
Listen to the performances below.