Sean Lennon recorded a song in honor of Andy Warhol to support a new exhibit, “Letters to Andy Warhol,” which opened on Monday in New York City. “Being raised by a single mom, I was always looking for some kind of paternal influence,” the singer/songwriter tells Rolling Stone of Warhol, whom he met as a child. “Andy was like an eccentric uncle to me. He taught me a lot about art and humor.”
Despite his familiarity with his subject, Lennon was initially reluctant to pen a track inspired by Warhol. “When they asked me to write a song about him, I was hesitant at first, since [David] Bowie already wrote the quintessential Warhol song,” Lennon explains. (Bowie included “Andy Warhol” on his 1971 album Hunky Dory.) When Lennon eventually agreed to write the song, he enlisted the help of girlfriend and bandmate Charlotte Kemp Muhl and “tried approaching it more like a surreal biography.”
The resulting tribute, “Love and Warhol,” revolves around a sharp, loping beat and lightly strummed guitar. Warhol’s penchant for signatures makes it into the lyrics – “he collected every autograph” – as do other biographical details, like Warhol’s Pittsburgh birthplace and his connection to the famous New York City club Studio 54. The chorus serves as a breathy reminder of the Pop Art pioneer’s artistic impact: “He knows that they won’t forget the man/ Who could hold the whole world in a can.”
In an artist’s statement that accompanies the exhibit, Lennon expanded on his relationship with Warhol. “Andy was the soft-spoken-silver-haired-camera-carrying-turtle-necked man who I always knew would be at Mr. Chow’s when my mother let me accompany her there,” Lennon remembered. “Hosting a congregation of artists with varying degrees of flamboyance, he would snap pictures on his Yashica and whisper mischievously through dimpled cheeks at one of three tables by the balcony bar overlooking the main dining room.
“It is there that I met Keith Haring – who, like me, enjoyed drawing all over the tablecloth,” Lennon continued. “It was there that I learned Andy liked collecting people’s signatures – I could barely write mine, so the exercise seemed mysterious.”
“Letters to Andy Warhol” is free and open to the public. It currently appears at New York’s Cadillac House until Dec. 24th before relocating to Los Angeles, where it will be on view at 101/EXHIBIT Gallery starting in mid-January. The letters then head to Miami in early February before embarking on a world tour.