Song by John Lennon and the Plastic Ono Band.
Transcribed from Cindi Lauper's tribute cover version.

As soon as you're born they make you feel small
By giving you no time instead of it all
'Till the pain is so big you feel nothing at all

John Lennon's father abandoned the family when John was young.

A working class hero is something to be

John was born and raised working class. His art school career and music was an escape from the grim prospect of labor on the Liverpool docks or grinding his life away in a factory.

They hurt you at home and they hit you at school
They hate you if you're clever and they despise a fool
'Till you're so fucking crazy you can't follow their rules

We've all been here. It's universal, if you're not on top. Everyone around you wants to tear you down, for fear they might be torn down themselves. It's worse in the United States, where there is no formal class system, where the myth is that "Hard work obviates humble origins". Societies with classes acknowledge that the family you are born into has a lot to do with where you end up as an adult. The lie that your last name doesn't matter serves the upper classes well.

A working class hero is something to be

Even with John's success, he never forgot that he was born a Lennon, not a Windsor.

When they've tortured and scared you for 20 odd years
Then they expect you to pick a career
And you can't really function 'cause you're so full of fear

The System takes you in one end and excretes you out the other. John and his mates escaped the system, and their fans vicariously escaped with them.

Keep you doped with religion, sex, and TV
And you think you're so clever and classless and free
But you're still fucking peasants as far as I can see

Religion is the opiate of the masses -- Karl Marx. In Marx's day, opium was a valuable medicine for pain relief. By Lennon's, it was dope. He saw the mindless avarice promoted by advertising, the consumerist culture that promised it all and delivered none of it.

If you wanna be a hero then just follow me.

John saw the truth. He also had a keen awareness of the irony of his position.

This is a song of personal and universal pain, autobiography, and class warfare. It's a song that was impossible for the Beatles, and inevitable for Lennon. It is an anthem, a call to arms, the flip side of Imagine.
"Working Class Hero" is also the title of a 1995 John Lennon tribute album, featuring covers by Screaming Trees, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Mad Season, Blues Traveler, Cheap Trick, and George Clinton, et al.

It has also been covered independently. CzarKhan points out a Marilyn Manson b-side (Fight Song) as one example. Man, I'd love to hear that.

CST Approved