Jann Wenner, the founder and editor in chief of Rolling Stone, interviewed John Lennon in late 1970 (Rolling Stone published the interview, titled "Lennon Remembers," in two parts in early 1971). Wenner asked Lennon, "Do you think you're a genius?" Lennon could have answered that question any number of ways but he chose the best approach--brutal honesty. Here is Lennon's reply:
"Yes. if there is such a thing as one, I am one."
Wenner asked, "When did you first realize it?" Lennon gave this blunt, thoughtful answer:
"When I was about twelve. I used to think, 'I must be a genius, but nobody's noticed' [laughs]. Either I'm a genius or I'm mad, which is it? 'No,' I said, 'I can't be mad, because nobody's put me away; therefore, I'm a genius.' Genius is a form of madness and we're all that way. But I used to be a bit coy about it, like me guitar playing. If there's a thing such as genius, which is just what? What the fuck is it? I am one. And if there isn't, I don't care. But I used to think, when I was a kid, writing me poetry and doing me paintings--I didn't become something when the Beatles made it or you heard about me, I've been like this all me life. Genius is pain, too. It's just pain...Listen, people like me are aware of their genius, so-called, at ten, eight, nine. I always thought I was--why has nobody discovered me? In school, can't they see that I'm cleverer than anybody in this school? That the teachers are stupid, too? That all they had was information, which I didn't need, to give to me? I didn't become aware of it in the Beatle thing. I got fuckin' lost in that, like being in high school or something. I used to say to my auntie, 'You throw my fuckin' poetry out, and you'll regret it when I'm famous!' And she threw the bastard stuff out. I never forgave her for not treating me like a fuckin' genius or whatever I was when I was a child. It was obvious to me! Why didn't they put me in art school? Why didn't they train me? Why would they keep forcing me to be a fuckin' cowboy like the rest of them? I was always different. Why didn't anybody notice me? A couple of teachers would notice me, encourage me to be something or other, to draw or to paint, express meself. But most of the time they were trying to beat me into being a fuckin' dentist or a teacher!"
Wenner asked Lennon if Lennon would take it all back, not be a Beatle and just live a normal life. Lennon declared, "...If I could be a fuckin' fisherman, I would. If I had the capabilities of being something other than I am, I would. It's no fun being an artist. You know what, it's like writing, it isn't fun, it's torture. I read about Van Gogh and Beethoven, any of the fuckers. And I read an article the other day: 'If they'd had psychiatrists, we wouldn't have had Gauguin's great pictures.' I know it sounds silly, and I'd sooner be rich than poor and all the rest of that shit. But the pain, I'd sooner not be--I wish I was...ignorance is bliss or something."