John Lennon vs. Paul McCartney
The generation-defining duo kept their squabbles behind closed doors during the Beatles' death throes in the late Sixties, but as McCartney made a move to legally dissolve the band's partnership in December 1970, Lennon took the spat public in the pages of Rolling Stone. The conversation with magazine founder Jann Wenner touched on McCartney's supposedly overbearing nature in the studio ("I pretty damn well know we got fed up of being sidemen for Paul," he seethed), McCartney's poor leadership following the death of the band's manager Brian Epstein, and the other Beatles' reaction to Lennon's new relationship with Yoko Ono. "Ringo was all right, but the other two really gave it to us. I'll never forgive them."
McCartney's public response was more measured. On 1971's Ram, he included a subtle jab at Lennon on the opening track, "Too Many People," mocking the former Teddy Boy rebel's sudden fervor for world-peace crusades with the line "Too many people preaching practices." Elsewhere in the song he sings, "You took your lucky break and broke it in two," which McCartney later admitted was also directed at his former bandmate.
The line went over most people's heads, but Lennon got the reference – and fired back with one obvious enough for everyone. Included on 1971's Imagine is "How Do You Sleep?," a diss track so positively nasty that it borders on obscene. In footage taken at the session, Lennon, Ono and guest guitarist George Harrison can be seen laughing as they swap lines like "The sound you make is Muzak to my ears/You must have learned something in all those years," and a dig at his most famous song: "The only thing you done was ‘Yesterday.'"
McCartney was reluctant to punch back. His major public response was the devastating "Dear Friend" from 1971's Wild Life, in which he mournfully wonders whether this was "really the borderline" of their relationship. The delicate lament was an olive branch, though it would take some time to be accepted as such. Friendly calls from McCartney were met with Lennon's suspicious "Yeah, yeah, whatdaya want." His new American twang particularly grated McCartney, who once shot back, 'Fuck off, Kojak!"
Relations had improved enough by the mid Seventies for McCartney to occasionally drop by Lennon's Upper West Side apartment at the Dakota building when business brought him to New York City. Together the old friends would reminisce and exchange thoughts on baking bread or their young children. Any hopes of a permanent reconciliation were ended by an assassin's bullet on December 8th, 1980.