John Winston Lennon‘s journey through the realm of planet earth started on October 8th, 1940. In the intervening days, nights, and decades to follow, Lennon would go on to leave an indelible mark on the magazine cover of rock and roll history. By the time of his tragic and untimely demise on the evening of December 8th, 1980, John Lennon had become the singer-songwriter musical hero of tens of millions, whose human stature had reached the lofty heights of breathtakingly iconic. His musical relationship with Paul McCartney as co-founder of ‘The Beatles’ was instrumental in their astronomic rise to worldwide fame, influence, and legendary musical status. ‘Beatlemania’ was a major part of the ‘Rock and Roll’ insurrection of the 1960’s. Lennon and his bandmates George Harrison, Stuart Sutcliffe, Pete Best, later replaced by Ringo Starr, and of course Paul McCartney, went on to become the most commercially successful, and popular band in Rock and Roll history. Following the Beatles’s 1970 break-up, John Lennon went on to enjoy a critically acclaimed solo career. Some of the juiciest fruits of his solo career produced are precisely what Idiots Guide has decided to highlight and honor with a thoughtful retrospective for your enjoyment….
#10. Jealous Guy / Album: Imagine / Released: 1971
‘Jealous Guy’ was an honest love ballad that resonated with audiences in large part because of it’s earnest emotional expression and simplistic, down to earth messaging. Only John Lennon can turn a slightly negative emotion and make it sound beautiful.
#9. Mind Games / Album: Mind Games / Released: 1973
Lennon’s relationship with Yoko Ono was as much a lightning rod issue then, as it remains to this day. When you strip it down to it’s essence, it’s a love story with a familiarity that pervades the human condition on a daily basis. ‘Mind Games’ delves into this reality and is a genuine expression of an inescapably specific part of this turbulent game of hearts.
#8. Instant Karma! (We All Shine On) / Album: Single / Released: 1971
Without question, ‘Instant Karma’ was an instant hit with audiences world-wide upon it’s 1971 release. It remains today one of the greatest musical anthems in rock history. ‘We all shine on’ has become a timeless expression, basically because it’s true, but specifically because it’s fun to sing along with. There is a positive vibe associated with the act of singing this song which is at once undeniable, nostalgic and everlasting.
#7. (Just Like) Starting Over / Album: Double Fantasy / Released: 1980
‘Just like starting over’ is another in a long line of memorable and profoundly exceptional John Lennon love ballad’s. It became one of the better, slightly underrated tracks on the ‘Double Fantasy’ album of 1980.
#6. I am the Walrus / Album: Single (Beatles) / Released: 1967
1967’s Beatles song ‘I am the Walrus’ is widely considered to be one of the strangest, almost absurd songs that they ever created. John Lennon was the song’s composer, who by his own admission said that “The words didn’t mean a lot.” Which makes the fact that this song is pretty damn awesome, even more so.
#5. Give Peace a Chance / Album: Live in New York City / Released: 1969
It came as no surprise that John Lennon would create songs that advocated for peace in a world that is perennially lacking enough of it. A staunch advocate of nonviolence, John Lennon’s ‘Give Peace a Chance’ was as much a plea for peace as it was a blanket political statement for an America mired, tangled in the stubborn weeds of war and persistent dissent – both in Vietnam and on our own soil. Perhaps the greatest part of this song was the prevailing, transcendent feeling of love and togetherness, that the act of participating/singing it in a crowd engenders time after time. #ClassicforPeace
#4. Happy Xmas (War Is Over)/ Some Time in New York City/ Released: 1972
As Christmas time Vietnam protest songs go, ‘War is Over’ has got to be the very best, albeit only, songs ever. With lyrics written by John Lennon and his Yoko Ono, and the fabulous chorus performance by the ‘Harlem Community Choir’, this 1971 single was dynamite! How good? Well, it has since become a Christmas season standard tune that has been covered by a dizzying array of musical acts over the years. You probably already know this of course because it’s more likely than not that you’ve heard somebody, somewhere sing this song at a holiday party. Maybe twice.
#3. Strawberry Fields / Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts (Beatles) / Released: 1967
‘Strawberry Fields Forever’ was selected from John Lennon’s childhood memories of the enchanted gardens of strawberry field’s in Liverpool, London, and moved into an impressive song track on the Beatles’s ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Band’ hit album. Quite an inspiration, wouldn’t you say? The garden was located across from a Salvation Army Children’s facility where a young John Lennon would frolic. Regardless if strawberries are in season, this song is pretty damn good.
#2. Woman / Album: Double Fantasy / Released: 1980
I’m not going to try and deny it, as far as love ballads go, John Lennon’s ‘Woman’ (1980) is one of my all-time personal favorites. As the song develops, there is kind of muted joy that begins to bloom as the harmony seeps into your soul, compelling a need for vocal expression. You want to sing this song. Or at least I do, and I know for a fact that I am not alone in feeling in this way. ‘Woman’ was also the first single to be released posthumously after his December 8th 1980, murder at the hands of that who will not be written here. For those fans who don’t necessarily like Yoko, you still have to thank her for being the inspiration for such a beautiful song, no?
#1. Imagine / Album: Imagine / Released: 1971
All that needs to be said has been said by John Lennon himself with these lyrics – “Imagine there’s no countries. It isn’t hard to do. Nothing to kill or die for, and no religion too. Imagine all the people, living life in peace…You…You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one. I hope someday you’ll join us…And the world will be as one.” These lyrics provide a notion that some people would call naively idealistic, I don’t agree with those people although they have history on their side. Regardless, it’s the thought and feeling behind these lyrics that are so attractive. They’re a goal, no matter how difficult to achieve, that is worth trying to accomplish, don’t you agree? #IMAGINE