Rhetorical Analysis of “Revolution” by The Beatles
Wesley Forrest
Texas A&M University–Corpus Christi
The rhetorical analysis of the hit song “Revolution” by The Beatles and written by John Lennon;
will be revealed. In 1968 violent political protests up roared in America due to the Vietnam War.
This song is about how people want change and they try to obtain it in a violent manner; but
instead they should be trying to change it peacefully. Inside Lennon’s lyrics there are specific
repetition of rhetorical phrases and rhetorical questions, sarcastic tones, and important structure;
that explains that being non-violent is the best way for wanting change.
“You say you want a revolution," (Lennon, 1968). This first line of one of the most
influential and emotion-filled song by the most influential band ever, the Beatles. It really
portrays the question of ‘revolutionary change’ in the 1960's and really had people thinking.
"Revolution" lyrics promotes the idea of peace; with the usage of repetition, rhyming schemes,
and an imperative style of writing the Beatles demonstrates their beliefs on having a peaceful
world without violence being involved. John Lennon wrote "Revolution" and was and still today
in memory a leader in efforts to reach world peace. Not just his music but also all of the Beatles
music still continues to evoke emotion from people all over in the past fifty years. Lennon's
simple style and straightforward approach leave nothing to consideration or deliberation, the
songs lead straight to the point. The song "Revolution" is one of the best examples of this,
establishing his point and trustworthiness within his music and himself.
After listening to the song, it's easy to see the point of it, world peace without violence.
The Beatles were anti-war but also against anti-war protest groups. Through the 1960's and
1970's and up until his death in 1980, Lennon was a peace activist and made his point clear. His
tenure with the Beatles gained him world fame and allowed for him to be heard. By spring 1968,
student demonstrations of violence had reached an all-time high in the world, mainly in Paris,
where a massive strike and resultant riots led to the collapse of the government (Fontenot).
Lennon, who questioned the goals of the leftists’ movements even if he agreed with their basic
beliefs, wrote "Revolution" to the world's young revolutionaries (Matt, 2008).
The word ‘revolution’ is defined as a "forcible overthrow of a government or social order
for a new system", (Wishing, 2010). "Revolution" takes a look at the people who criticize the
government and questions whether the alternatives that are being suggested are truly better than
what the government proposes. In the sixties revolutionary period this is especially true, but even
today this comes into effect. For example, recently more than seven hundred protestors, who
were speaking out against corporate greed and other grievances were arrested during a march on
the Brooklyn Bridge (NPR Staff, 2011). Also in this song, Lennon acknowledges that of course
the world has many problems but there will always be the need for change. He explains that if
you stay true to what you say, and then it's the norm to be passionate. But when a person
becomes radical and looks for violence as the solution, then a person has no reason to protest
because it's not helping anyone. He strongly believes that if someone becomes radical then
he/she is hypocritical. Protestors preach the virtues of love and harmony, and then go on to
advocate violence against the government, the ones who initiate the violence in the first place. In
other words, radical just continue the never-ending violence circle when they don't stay true to
what they truly believe. Before the song Lennon stated, "As soon as you let your righteous
indignation over legitimate grievances degenerate into blind hatred of your opponents, you lose
all credibility”, (Rock & ecology: revolution 1, 2007).
In many parts of the song Lennon creates his credibility or ethos with the world as his
audience. His ethos was established with his audience not where he attained his ideas. "He felt
the feelings that the world felt, and thus established his credibility."(Matt, 2008) In his song
"Revolution", his somewhat non-radical yet borderline socialist views were preached to the
people and most looked up to him and believed his ideas. He also establishes ethos in several
parts of the song, mainly, "You say you want a revolution, well you know, we all want to change
the world." This means that of course we, the people, all want to change the world the way we
want it to be and everyone has different opinions about the world; but we're not about to start a
revolution. He uses a significant tone that expresses the idea that of course everyone wants
change, but leaning towards a revolution is unethical. Another point in the song where he
establishes this is when he says, "You tell me its evolution, well you know, we all want to
change the world." (Lennon). With this witty rhyme scheme, Lennon is trying to state that with a
revolution, things in society would not be better. That we can fix this if we "come together"
(another name of one of the Beatles hits). This is so powerful and meaningful as listeners and
believers because he had everything he could have ever wanted, well fame and fortune, after
reaching super stardom with The Beatles. Having someone like Lennon to sing and preach to
world with everything, and truly mean imagine if there weren't any violence in the world and we
can solve our problems peacefully. People had more trust in him because he was a guy who had
it all, and still wanted his beliefs to be heard. He establishes more credibility on the fact that he
actually truly means what he feels and causes the listener to feel more strongly towards the
points he is making.
The song is very powerful and meaningful, and brings people's beliefs and emotions. He
establishes pathos with the simplicity yet with some poetic and rhyming schemes; and of course
the up beat music that goes along with it. He tries to enforce the idea of resolution without
revolution with tone of his voice. It's almost as if he's being stern and demanding with the
listeners. With his imperative voice, he demands to us to stop being violent in a time that peace
within our country is needed. Wanting change to occur, his approach was much more effective
than he would have been had it been an aggressive argument for his case. Personally, every time
I hear the song I think of what life would be like and how peaceful things would be if the world
listened and acted upon what he was saying. The culmination of the mood of the song and the
powerful lyrics presented generate these emotions and thoughts, making it a much more
influential song than many others of his time.
He establishes his pathos within his lyrics by saying "But when you talk about
destruction, don't you know you can count me out. Don't you know it's gonna be all
right"(Lennon). These words create thoughts and feelings about how he's against violence and
that he doesn't want any part of it; the last thing he want to see is for people to get hurt. He also
tries to assure us that it's going to be all right in the end, if we were to be patient. In the part
where he sings, "But when you want money for people with minds that hate, all I can tell brother
you have to wait. Don't you know it's gonna be all right," (Lennon) is that he can't contribute
money to people who's ideas are wrong in his eyes and that he thinks they’ll use it for wrong
instead of good. The figure of speech of personification (where non living things have human
qualities) is present. ‘Minds that hate’ exemplifies that we are all human beings with hearts and
have a motive to do good. But when we use our mind for selfishness, then that’s where
everything gets out of control. From this verse he also states that we all are still brothers and
sisters, even though our ideas and beliefs are mixed among us. He uses repetition (the
reoccurrence of phrases) in the fact that every verse ends with "Don't you know it's gonna be all
right" (Lennon). This rhetorical question suggests that in the end of all the chaos and upheaval,
we will be alright if we stick together. He constantly brings it up throughout the song; forcing
listeners, such as myself, to continuously feel the emotion and deeply think about and assure
about the changes that could be made in the world.
Lennon also uses logos to prove his point. He uses common knowledge and his
educational opinion to explain his point of view, instead of cold hard facts and evidence. For
example, when Lennon says, “You tell me it’s the institution, well you know you better free your
mind instead, and if you’re carrying pictures of chairman Mao, you ain’t gonna make it with
anyone anyhow”(Lennon), he tries to explain to the people that it is not right to keep blaming the
government and they should take initiative of their actions. He also tries to point out that if they
keep believing chairman Mao (a Chinese communist revolutionary at the time) and preaching his
words then no one, especially the government will take them seriously. Eliminating this and
sharing for the better of mankind would also prevent war. Again, this is an effective use of
While Lennon is no longer with views, his music and us continue to influence people
today. His effective use of ethos, pathos, and logos help preserve them and allow them to still
cause emotions almost five decades after they are written. While he may never have been a
politician or public speaker, he still was able to get his points and views across to the world such
as his cry for world peace in “Revolution”. This song was not a movement about physically over
taking the government, but it was about a spiritual revolution directed at overcoming
preconceptions. The Beatles overall not only changed the world of entertainment, but they
started a revolution that changed us all forever.
Lyrics of “Revolution” by The Beatles
You say you want a revolution
Well, you know
We all want to change the world
You tell me that it's evolution
Well, you know
We all want to change the world
But when you talk about destruction
Don't you know that you can count me out
Don't you know it's gonna be all right
all right, all right
You say you got a real solution
Well, you know
We'd all love to see the plan
You ask me for a contribution
Well, you know
We're doing what we can
But when you want money
for people with minds that hate
All I can tell is brother you have to wait
Don't you know it's gonna be all right
all right, all right
ah, ah, ah, ah, ah...
You say you'll change the constitution
Well, you know
We all want to change your head
You tell me it's the institution
Well, you know
You better free you mind instead
But if you go carrying pictures of chairman Mao
You ain't going to make it with anyone anyhow
Don't you know it's gonna be all right
all right, all right
all right, all right, all right
all right, all right, all right
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