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John Lennon and Bob Dylan became friends after The Beatles met the American musician. Lennon happily discussed Dylan’s impact on his songwriting, but Dylan didn’t often talk about whether or not The Beatles had an effect on him. This irritated Lennon, who would later go on to insult Dylan.

A black and white picture of Bob Dylan leaning against a window sill. John Lennon sits at a table in front of a microphone.
Bob Dylan and John Lennon | Express Newspapers/Getty Images; George Stroud/Express/Getty Images

John Lennon and Bob Dylan were close friends

Dylan met The Beatles at New York’s Delmonico Hotel in 1964. He spent time with the whole band, but according to Beatles’ road manager Neil Aspinall, he had the most respect for Lennon.

“If ever Bob got together with the Beatles after that, John was always the one he zeroed in on,” Aspinall said, per the book John Lennon: The Life by Phillip Norman. “He knew who was the leader of the band.”

This respect went both ways. According to director D.A. Pennebaker, who worked with Dylan multiple times, Lennon adored Dylan.

“John was a very good friend of Dylan’s,” he said, per The Ballad of Bob Dylan: A Portrait by Daniel Mark Epstein. “John just loved him. And vice versa. They adored each other.”

The Beatle grew irritated with the American musician

Lennon did not hide the fact that he took inspiration from Dylan’s work.

“I started thinking about my own emotions – I don’t know when exactly it started like ‘I’m a Loser’ or ‘Hide Your Love Away’ or those kind of things – instead of projecting myself into a situation I would just try to express what I felt about myself which I’d done in me books,” Lennon told Rolling Stone in 1971. “I think it was Dylan helped me realize that – not by any discussion or anything but just by hearing his work – I had a sort of professional songwriter’s attitude to writing pop songs; he would turn out a certain style of song for a single and we would do a certain style of thing for this and the other thing.”

Dylan agreed that he’d inspired The Beatles but didn’t often discuss the band’s impact on him. This started to get on Lennon’s nerves. 

“Dylan liked to say how much the Beatles learned from him,” Aspinall said. “John used to mutter, ‘He learned a bit from us, too.’”

John Lennon later insulted Bob Dylan

As the years went by, Lennon grew less enamored with Dylan. He insulted his music, particularly his song “Gotta Serve Somebody,” calling it “mediocre,” “pathetic,” and “embarrassing.”

“I was listening to the radio and Dylan’s new single or album or whatever the hell it is came on,” he said, per Rolling Stone. “‘Everybody’s got to be served.’ I mean, what was it? ‘You’ve got to serve someone’… ‘You’ve got to serve somebody.’ So he wants to be a waiter now? A waiter for Christ.”


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He also grouped Dylan in with Paul McCartney and Mick Jagger, calling them all “company men.”

“So here we sit, watching the mighty Dylan and the mighty McCartney and the mighty Jagger slide down the mountain, blood and mud in their nails,” he said in a 1979 recording. “[They’re] all company men in various disguises, but basically company men.”