John Lennon’s 1975 court case in new tell all book

A little-known court case involving John Lennon and Mafia-connected Music Mogul Morris Levy, is back in the spotlight, thanks to a new novel.

Jay Bergen, John Lennon’s attorney at the time, has shared details from the court hearing with his new tell-all,  Lennon, the Mobster & the Lawyer – The Untold Story.

John Lennon retreated into private life in 1975 after the birth of his son Sean. Largely preferring to spend time out of the spotlight to spend time with his family, it was not common knowledge at the time, that he was actually fighting a legal battle, against Morris Levy, the Mafia-connected owner of Roulette Records

John Lennon Trial
(L-R) Jay Bergen’s colleague Howard Roy, John Lennon, Lennon’s business advisor Harold Seider, Yoko Ono, and Saluda resident Jay Bergen (Lennon’s then-attorney) lunch together during the trial. Credit: Bob Gruen

Lennon’s Attorney Jay Bergen lawyer at the time has kept the entire court record of the trial, some 5,000+ pages in all. And has spent the last four years, transcribing, and recounting the trial as it happened in a book. Lennon, the Mobster & the Lawyer – The Untold Story by Jay Bergen

Levy, who was known for stealing artists’ work, and not paying royalties, released Roots, an unauthorized version of a rock ’n’ roll golden oldies album John had been producing and claimed Lennon had verbally agreed to market the album via TV. The quick-release of John Lennon Rock nRoll, the official album, resulted in Levy’s plaintiff claiming two lawsuits against Lennon—and Lennon’s counterclaims against Levy.

The trial stemmed from a disagreement over an apparent verbal agreement where ‘John would record three rock-and-roll oldies from the 1950s that Morris would sell on a worldwide basis.’ This particular agreement was the result of an effort to settle an earlier claim in which Lennon, in writing Come Together, was accused of stealing the intellectual property (owned by Levy) of the Chuck Berry song, You Can’t Catch Me.

Lennon trial
Credit: DeVault-Graves Agency

Bergen told the Observer recently ‘that was one of the reasons John did not want to settle. He wanted to try to put an end to some of these really bogus lawsuits and a pattern of managers, publishers, and record companies who stole royalties from their artists, particularly the black artists’.

The trial was finally resolved in 1977 in favour of John Lennon and awarded over $400,000 in damages against Levy and his company to both Lennon and Capitol/EMI.

Lennon, the Mobster & the Lawyer – The Untold Story by Jay Bergen is out now.