The John Lennon letter to Oral Roberts: ORU paper weighs claims

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A letter written to televangelist Oral Roberts by someone claiming to be John Lennon is the cover story of the October 24, 2013, edition of Oral Roberts University's student newspaper, The Oracle.

The letter arrived at the ORU campus in December 1972, accompanied by a &sterling;10 note as a contribution. Oral Roberts read it to the student body at a chapel service on January 26, 1973, to the amazement of the students.

A photocopy of the original letter, made when Roberts had it transcribed so he could read it in chapel, has been located in the university archives, but the original has not been found. The Oracle emailed scans of the photocopy to Beatles memorabilia experts, who say the handwriting bears no resemblance to Lennon's from that period, although his handwriting changed more than any of the other Beatles over the years. One expert suggests that Lennon may have dictated the letter to the cousin mentioned in the letter and whose name and address appeared on the envelope.

The Oracle story includes a transcript of the complete John Lennon letter to Oral Roberts. It includes some lines that are not in the version published in Oral Roberts: An American Life, but are consistent with the transcribed version of Roberts' reading of the letter at chapel.

Beatle biographers have noted Lennon's interest in televangelists during the 1970s and a brief period in 1977 in which he professed to be a born-again Christian. That Lennon's search for meaning might have driven him to write a televangelist known world-wide -- the early '70s were the peak of Roberts' fame -- doesn't seem so farfetched.

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Graychin said:

I came of age during the Beatles' short career of recording together. I loved much of their music. As a result, I picked up a lot of trivia about them.

The supposed letter to O.R. from Lennon contains some glaring factual errors not mentioned in the Oracle story:

1) John Lennon was not "brought up a Catholic." He attended St. Peter's Anglican Church in Liverpool, sang in the choir there, attended their Sunday school and was confirmed there at age 15.

2) Based on his church and Sunday School attendance, it is unlikely that Lennon had never heard the message of Jesus, as he supposedly claims in his letter. Of course there may have been a vast difference between what he learned in the Anglican church and what he heard from Oral Roberts on television.

3) Lennon's only son with his first wife was not named "John." His name was and is Julian, named after Lennon's own mother Julia.

4) I have never seen Lennon's second wife's name spelled YoKo before. Universally, she's Yoko.

5) "Paul told me once you make fun of me for not taking drugs but you’ll regret it in the end." But Paul was as much a druggie as the rest of the Beatles were. He was fined for marijuana possession in Sweden in 1972, and was fined in Scotland for illegal marijuana cultivation on his farm there. He also used LSD and cocaine at times.

6) It would be easy for a Beatles expert to confirm whether or not Lennon had a cousin named Marilyn McCabe, but apparently the question hasn't been asked. The Google's only hits on a search for MM and Lennon are references to the Oral Roberts letter. My opinion is that Lennon had no such cousin.

So my conclusion is that some prankster trolled Oral Roberts back in the day, and the prank lives on. This Land Press wrote a long article about the supposed Lennon letter in its 3/7/2011 issue.

But one should never let the truth get in the way of a good story.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on November 3, 2013 3:05 PM.

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