Jack Kerouac, John Lennon & Bob Marley All Embraced Traditional Faith & Values In Their Latter Days

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Their stories are as old as time but worth repeating in this present age where so many seem to think they are too smart for God, religion and all of His love and grace. I must admit that being a fan of contemporary music and literature, I threw the stories of Jack Kerouac, John Lennon and Bob Marley’s late in life embrace of faith and tradition into my book without giving it much thought. However, I am surprised to find that so many who have read or perused my just released book, The Catholic Tide Continues to Turn have stated that they were not familiar with these stories and found them very revealing. Perhaps it is because our rebellious society has lionized figures who want to throw out God or just leave him as far distant as possible. Yet all three men realized that the traditional values, in which they were raised and the love of God they were once shown, was too important to forever jettison.

In the late 1960s while too many people were leaving God behind and burning American flags, Jack Kerouac had reengaged with his Catholic faith and was going to anti –American protests for the sole purpose of saving flags that were about to be burned. Kerouac also let everyone who would listen know that the sexual experimentation that was being openly promoted in some quarters would be the country’s downfall. He noted that he engaged in just about every sexual situation imaginable and it left him empty and near the emotional abyss. As too many Catholics intellectuals were embracing theologians who were literally embracing heresy, Kerouac was embracing a very traditional view of the Faith. He famously stated, “I don’t want to be known as a beat poet anymore, I want to be known as a Catholic.”

The revelations made just a couple of years ago that John Lennon lamented that he couldn’t vote for Ronald Reagan in 1980 (because he was a British citizen) seemed to shock many and it was quickly buried by the mainstream media. However, years earlier other reports surfaced that Lennon had spent the last few years of his life reading religious books and watching religious programming. It seems the 1977 worldwide television release of Jesus of Nazareth had a tremendous effect on the former Beatle. Lennon’s former assistant reported that Lennon got into a shouting match with the assistant’s father who was a Socialist. Lennon told him that Big Government didn’t work and faith was the key to happiness not the government.

Bob Marley has been lionized by the drug culture and the counter culture in general for his supposed links to habitually drug use and Rastafarianism.  Interestingly, Marley let it be known later in life that he never thought of himself as part of either. Marley spent his final days embracing traditional religion at the Ethiopian Orthodox Church and taking part in Divine Liturgy and religious devotions.

The interesting tie in to all three men concerns the fact that though this material is hardly kept under lock and key, one might assume it to be for when have you ever heard this part of their story told? Yet, this was their final chapter and the one they seemed to want be remembered for, and yet how many know of it?  Perhaps, it is up to us to remind those cultural hipsters that all three men returned to their roots and attempted to let others know that much of what they supposedly represented was not what it appeared.

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  1. Thanks for this, I’m going to have to buy your books! i tried reading a biography of Kerouac and threw it away in disgust before I even got half way through; all that ‘behaviour’ with Ginsberg, Burroughs, et al. It put me off his books too, which I had enjoyed in my rebellious youth. This sheds a new light on him, for which I’m grateful; it’s never nice to have to give up on someone.

  2. There has been much discussion of the “Catholic turn” in French philosophy, i.e., the way in which the most original and prominent thinkers of contemporary France seem to function within Catholic horizons: the philosophers René Girard, Pierre Manent, Jean-Luc Marion, Rémy Brague and Chantal Delsol, along with the writers Michel Tournier, Jean Raspail, Jean D’Ormesson, Max Gallo and Denis Tillinac.

    The Faith is alone capable of answering the existential challenges posed by modernity and post-modernity and more and more people are recognising this.

  3. I suspect that John Lennon had a bit more of a conservative/traditional streak than people think as evidenced by his rejection of the “overpopulation” propaganda of the time:


    Is it possible that one reason we don’t hear more about Lennon’s conservative leanings is because Yoko Ono, who has spent the last 30 + years as the keeper of his legacy a la Jackie Kennedy, wasn’t completely on board?

  4. Lennon also stated in his last interview that he was a “most religious fellow”, and that he had come to appreciate what Christ had taught in his parables. He had outgrown the childish nihilism of “Imagine”. It’s a shame that so few people knew about this.

  5. I heard this many years ago about John Lennon, but rarely is it mentioned. Let’s hope he’s at peace with the Lord. Even in his earlier days I never felt that he was evil, just very confused. Unfortunately, his “Imagine” is still used as a socialist national anthem. I’m sure he regrets it. Also, from what I’ve read, Bob Dylan too has embraced Our Lord, though he keeps a very low profile these days.

  6. Elaine, yes the whole Yoko question is one that might never be truly answered, but it certainly seems both John and Yoko were headed in very different political and religious directions. Pete, the book has extensive endnotes that reference the sources for this and every other segment of the book.

    Siobhan, Bob Dylan has always been somewhat of an enigma. After the 1963 March on Washington, he became disillusioned by the Left and some on the Left became upset at his lack of support for their causes. He never ranted against God or any particular faith as did some of his generation. In addition long before his Christian Slow Train Coming period, Dylan had lyrical references to God. Incidentally, the Slow Traing Coming album might be the finest religious album ever written and recorded by a non-religious oriented artist. Today Bob Dylan seems to be part of a Messianic Jewish group, but I am not sure anyone really knows.

  7. I, too, have never heard about these men embracing traditional Christianity in the latter part of their lives. I am interested to learn more.

  8. I read an article recently that discussed how Andy Warhol lived a devout Catholic life, though he was surrounded by people who liked to party. This was a complete surprise to me. It was a very interesting article. I recommend doing an internet search on the topic.

  9. As Pete says, sources please! I have to be frank: I don’t believe any of this. It sounds too good to be true. It sounds to hard to believe. It sounds like urban myth. Please provide sources with quotes.

  10. I have to admit to being slightly stunned. I have been writing articles here and other Catholic sites, as well as political sites like the National Reivew, for some time. However, never have I been sought out in this demanding of a manner, via e-mail and other communications to provide details for the sourcing of this article. The lack of faith in the conversion of souls is rather revealing. As I indicated in a previous post, this information is thoroughly provided in the endnotes of my book. However, here are a couple of links for those who fall into the category of a Doubting Thomas. Read and believe!

  11. This is truly amazing. I was a huge fan of Dylan, Marley, and Lennon in high school and college. They all certainly pined for something greater than themselves in many (not all) of their songs and lyrics. Marley got me interested in the Psalms in a better way than the Christian rock music of my day, and Dylan’s Slow Train Coming stopped my in my path. After I commented to my friend’s roommate how much I loved that STC and why it was so relatively unknown, he simply said that Dylan’s music producers thought it was just too Christian or religious and they just did want to promote it. It took Dylan years to get the songs released, he explained to me.

    I am forwarding the article to all of my 80s and 90s hipster siblings. I was just so heartneded to hear Lennon reject the overpopulation myth as presented in his time. And I like how he just rejected the interviewer’s snarky retort. Thank you so much!

  12. I believe it was Fulton Sheen who said that at the end of time, we’ll be surprise to see who the Lord will put to the right and who to the left. Another rock star that comes to mind is Jim Morrison, who on the surface, was a pretty bad dude (though in my younger years I was a fan of his.) I read that after he died in Paris, they discovered notebooks of his “poetry” which were later published, though one notebook they found he wrote on every page, “God help me, God help me” over and over again. Now did the evil one snatch him away before he was able to convert, or did God hear his cry and take him? Time will tell.


  13. Excellent post Siobhan, Jim Morrison is one of those figures that electrifies the militant secualr left, for to them the Lizard King seems to be thumbing his nose at God or worse throughout his life. To see him scribble and plead for God to help him shows humility, another characteristic the militant secular left hates. We could go on and on about major rock stars coming full circle. For example Rick Wakeman of Yes, who not only plays benefits for Conservative Party candidates in his native England, but also has embraced his childhood church.

    If more of these stories became known, it would be blow the lid off the facade that our popular culture has tried to cultivate about faith and traditional values.The idea of John Lennon challenging Jesus or Jim Morrison getting arrested for lewd behavior on state behavior in Miami is the kind of thing the militant secular powers that be want us to remember. They don’t want to see the late in life humility shown by Lennon and Morrison and their pleas for God’s help.

  14. “I was a huge fan of Dylan, Marley, and Lennon in high school and college. They all certainly pined for something greater than themselves in many (not all) of their songs and lyrics.”

    That is a quality I see in the much-maligned “Imagine” — Lennon’s attempt to envision an un-fallen world, where there would be no NEED for religion in the sense of conscious submission to beliefs or morality (it would “come naturally” to us), or nations, or possessions; where there would seem to be “no heaven” since it would be one with earth, and “no hell” because no one would go there. Of course where he went wrong was in thinking this un-fallen world could be produced purely by human effort — sort of like a child thinking that all that mumbo-jumbo about aerodynamics and airplanes was bunk and people could fly just fine without it if they simply flapped their arms hard enough.

  15. Imagine there’s no Heaven. It’s easy if you try. No Hell below us, above us only sky. Imagine all the people, living for today. You, you may say I’m a dreamer. But I’m not the only one. I hope some day you’ll join us. And the world will be as one. -John Lennon.

    It’s a beautiful message. But I think it’s a little late to start claiming John Lennon for the “Traditional Religion” Team of Heavenly Pick-up Basketball.

  16. Russ, you might want to check your facts. Imagine was written and recorded in 1971. John Lennon started having doubts about his utopian views by the mid 1970s. As referenced in my book, “The Catholic Tide Continues to Turn” through various sources including the links below among others, by the mid 1970s Lennon had a serious change of heart about his political and religious views. It was a full fledge change of heart by the late 70s.

  17. Jean-Louis Kirouac (as baptized) and the sad reality of the mythical Jack Kerouac.

    It is on page 143 of “One and Only – The untold story of On The Road” (Gerald Nicosia & Anne Marie Santos – Viva Editions) ) that one can find the most paradoxal photo of Jack Kerouac, taken in his bedroom while looking through his photo collection of his girl friends. On the wall, in a little black frame, the Black Cross of Temperance; hanging from the luminaire, his black Rosary.

    But all that has not kept him from rejecting before her birth his only and legitimate daughter Janet (Jan) Michele Kerouac (from Joan Heverty, his second wife), an abandonned child to whom he left knowingly a whole hell of misery and sufferings.

    But it is with that myth called ON THE ROAD, written in a long fit of frustration that poor Jack continues to mystify all his fans. Read One and Only and Kerouac will never be the same… for the worst and the best.

  18. “Help Me To Help Myself” – demo not included on Double Fantasy album but produced as part of that project.

    Well, I tried so hard to settle down
    But the angel of destruction keeps on houndin’ me all around
    But I know in my heart
    The leaves are shining in the sun,
    That we never realy parted.
    Oh no, oh, help me, Lord,
    Oh, help me, Lord,
    Please, help me, Lord, yeah, yeah,
    Help me to help myself,
    Help me to help myself.

    They say the Lord helps those who helps themselves,
    So I’m asking this question in the hope that you’ll be kind
    ‘Cause I know deep inside
    The leaves are shining in the sun,
    I was never satisfied
    Oh no, oh, help me, Lord,
    Please, help me, Lord, yeah, yeah
    Help me to help myself,
    Help me to help myself.

    Who knows?

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