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Photo By Iain Macmillan

May Pang

Click Here for May Pang Interview

Who is May Pang? Why this name may not be quickly recognized is a major part of why I wish to bring greater attention to her. 

 

In a departure from FindingSources' previous interviews which tended to focus on journalists, historical figures connected to specific events, or politicians, I chose to interview a relatively unfamiliar name to many, who nonetheless was extremely close to a singularly important musical, social, and political force: John Lennon.  She played a pivotal role in his life and he in hers.

 

This person was Lennon's former girlfriend, May Pang. Ms. Pang was approached chiefly because I was appalled at the tendency for books to minimize her relationship with Mr. Lennon, to the point that her name sometimes is completely omitted.  She is being "rubbed out" electronically and in printed accounts of John Lennon's life.  The lack of accuracy in many cases is reminiscent of other attempts to alter history which are the subject of other pages on this site.

 

Before speaking to Ms. Pang, and certainly afterwards, I believed her role was being intentionally distorted and minimized.  The simple explanation is because in order to have access to John Lennon's music and material for publication, one needs permission from the Estate of John Lennon, in the hands of his widow, Yoko Ono.  No one is saying Ms. Ono does not have the right to do as she wishes with this material, but to ignore May Pang's role is to ignore someone John Lennon was deeply in love with.  There is nothing to gain by attempting to change the facts.  Only Ms. Ono knows why she continues with efforts to minimize Ms. Pang's time with John to the great lengths that are being taken to preserve an image of John Lennon that is factually distorted and intentionally misleading.  Ms. Pang's compelling story is something to behold.

 

Cordially, while being interviewed, Ms. Pang did not let me get away with more than one or two "Mr. Lennon's" before she quickly said, "He would have said, 'Call me John...you know...?'" So, readers will excuse any familiar references to John because I have permission!

 

After realizing college was not for her, and at age 19, Ms. Pang started out in the music business working for Allen Klein and his well-known company ABKCO. Her perseverance in getting her first job is a fascinating story right out of central casting.  Timing, it seems, is everything.

 

There, she learned her chops in the music business.  ABKCO was then hired by the Beatles' (actually, John, George and Ringo only, as Paul had Lee Eastman represent him) and they became their music publishers and represented the production company, APPLECORPS.  Shortly thereafter, Ms. Pang became personal assistant to John and Yoko.  

 

Her story, as it appears in most "official" [trans. Yoko Ono approved] books and accounts of the Beatles and John Lennon's life is reduced to a footnote, sometimes bookended by a phrase referring to the period of John's relationship with Ms. Pang as the "lost weekend."  This insulting lack of recognizing the depth and influence of Ms. Pang is shocking and historically inaccurate.

 

Perhaps her bravest and most enduring act was when Ms. Pang helped John reconcile with his son Julian, whom he did not see for an extended period when Julian was between the ages of six and roughly ten years old.  By doing this, Ms. Pang also helped John re-establish closure with his first wife, Cynthia Lennon.  Her relationship with Cynthia speaks volumes to the  authenticity of Ms. Pang's role in Cynthia, John, and Julian's lives.  There are precious few accounts of this aspect of Ms. Pang's influence, even fewer remarking that she was helping John while at a very young age herself.  Listening to her speak about this is really special.

 

Many misconceptions exist about John's time with Ms. Pang.  First, it is patently false to think that Ms. Ono did not know exactly what was going on between May and John, so the word "affair" is not only incorrect but unfeeling.  There was no time in which Yoko did not know John's whereabouts while he was with Ms. Pang.  It was Yoko Ono who suggested that Ms. Pang date her husband in the first place. Also, Ms. Ono frequently called John, sometimes up to ten or 15 times a day while they were "separated."

 

It was during his companionship with Ms. Pang that some of John's greatest musical successes occurred.  It was then he wrote and produced the "Walls and Bridges" album, which features the song, "Whatever Gets You Through The Night," John's only #1 post-Beatles song.  Interestingly, it is May Pang's voice, not Yoko's, that whispers John's name on the song, "#9 Dream." 

 

May Pang witnessed the break up of the Beatles, having the only camera present.  It was at Disneyworld, which is where John was when he signed the papers that nullified the band.  May Pang documented this moment photographically for the world to see in her book "Instamatic Karma" and spoke about it during this interview:  "John started the band, John ended the band."  

 

It was she who moved John and Yoko into actor Robert Ryan's apartment after John's NY living situation became too deplorable.  This was the Dakota. So, May was there from the beginning of their move from their tiny West Village basement apt. to an amazing 11 room upper Westside apt. overlooking Central Park.

 

Ultimately, the proof of the depth of her relationship speaks for itself. 

 

It is interesting to look at Ms. Pang's photographs, listen to her recollections, and the telling anecdotes of Julian and Cynthia Lennon and friends. 

 

Importantly, John was successfully able to work with diverse musicians freely outside of New York, and Ms. Pang reminds the listeners of the contrast to the inhibiting footage from Let It Be.   In those guarded sessions, no other wives were there; it was simply too awkward for words. Many musicians have remarked that John was completely different once away from Yoko Ono, not an unreasonable expectation for any couple that has separated, even a famous one. 

 

Ms. Pang and I had a discussion about the influence of the late Harry Nilsson on John and it was easy to see that John's LA situation wasn't always easy, especially as his frustrations and impatience grew at the hands of the bizarrely behaving record producer, Phil Spector (now in prison).  

 

It is not also recognized by many that Ms. Pang and John lived together in New York.  To say that their relationship was anything that could be construed as brief or passing, or exclusively on the West coast is incorrect. 

 

I asked Ms. Pang to comment on hearing the news of John's death in 1980.  I deeply appreciated her candor and willingness to comment on those difficult, deeply personal remembrances.  The vividness of her story brought the entire audience into complete and utter silence.

 

Ms. Pang was interviewed by David Rapaport on April 10th, 2012.  

 

The interview runs 59 minutes. 

 

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May Pang from the book INSTAMATIC KARMA.

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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FINDING SOURCES-May Pang Has Written About Her Life With John Lennon

  • Why do you think the history books are inconsistent with regard to Ms. Pang's story?
  • What influence do you think Ms. Pang had on Mr.Lennon's life and music?
  • What comment did Ms. Pang make that interested you?
  • Does it surprise you that Ms. Pang and not Yoko Ono was in the room when John Lennon signed the papers that ended the Beatles?
  • What are you curious about with regard to this interview?