Sean Ono Lennon says John Lennon returning his MBE was “more punk than anything the punks did”

The Beatle rejected the honour to protest the Vietnam War and Britain's involvement in the conflict in Biafra

Sean Ono Lennon has spoken about John Lennon returning his MBE to the Queen, calling it “maybe more punk than anything the punks did”.

The Beatles were each given the honour in 1965, but Lennon returned his award a year later in protest against the Vietnam War and Britain’s involvement in the conflict in Biafra.

Speaking on George Stroumboulopoulos’ Apple Music Hits show STROMBO, Ono Lennon reflected on his dad’s actions, which happened just after the release of the track ‘Cold Turkey’.


“Famously, the single didn’t do well and he hilariously wrote that letter to the Queen of England returning his MBE,” he said. “It was a big deal to return the Member of the British Empire thingamajig that he was given. To the Queen, that was very irreverent.

“I mean, it was pre-punk rock irreverent, and frankly, maybe more punk than anything the punks did really! And he does it in such a funny way. That’s what I love. I can’t remember the exact wording, but he says something like, ‘Your majesty, I’m returning the MBE in protest against the Vietnam War and the Biafra thing.’ He goes, ‘And in protest of ‘Cold Turkey’ slipping down the charts,’ which I just think is great. It’s funny.”

He continued to note that Lennon managed to “protest the Vietnam War, protest aristocracy, and monarchy and all that kind of bullshit” while being “really funny and sweet about it”.

Of ‘Cold Turkey’’s commercial faring, he added: “I know my dad was disappointed that it wasn’t a hit, but it was a side of him that wasn’t as commercial, because it was heavy and it was deep and it was about drugs.”

Ono Lennon will appear on STROMBO on Apple Music Hits tonight (October 9) at 11pm BST.


Lennon would have turned 80 today and a new collection called ‘Gimme Some Truth: The Ultimate Mixes’ has been released to mark the milestone birthday. The record was executive produced by Yoko Ono Lennon and produced by Sean Ono Lennon, and contain’s 36 of Lennon’s best-loved songs from his solo career.

Meanwhile, Lennon’s biographer Kenneth Womack claimed the late Beatle would have given Donald Trump “hell” if he was still alive today.