John Lennon would have been 80 today. Of course, it’s almost 40 years since Lennon’s murder in 1980. I have always felt that Lennon’s solo output was under-appreciated. Perhaps that has something to do with the fact that he actually went on hiatus for five years to be a house-husband! But that’s Lennon – ever the iconoclast. Let’s celebrate the 80th anniversary of his birth with a list of the best John Lennon songs of all time. (In alphabetical order)
#9 Dream (Walls and Bridges, 1975)
Jesse Ed Davis’ slide guitar dominates this dreamy atmospheric number. Fittingly, it peaked at #9 on the Billboard Singles Chart.
Cold Turkey (single, 1969)
Lennon always believe in using music to chronicle his life events. But was this about heroin addiction withdrawal or food poisoning? Eric Clapton guests on lead guitar, in any case.
Give Peace a Chance (single, 1969)
Lennon’s first solo single was released while he was still with the Beatles. This anti-war anthem was subsequently adopted by the American anti-war movement of the 1970s.
How Do You Sleep? (Imagine, 1971)
Lennon’s tongue in cheek attack on Paul McCartney during the time when it seemed the pair were in a bit of feud. Foreshadowing the rap wars (East vs West Coast) that came two decades later.
Imagine (Imagine, 1971)
Probably, Lennon’s best known solo work. Topped most single charts worldwide at the time.
Instant Karma (single, 1970)
Famously written and recorded in a short space of time.
Isolation (Plastic Ono Band, 1970)
A deep cut from Lennon’s debut solo LP. Very relevant for these COVID times.
Jealous Guy (Imagine, 1971)
The ultimate confessional. Originally written as “Child of Nature” during the Beatles White album sessions and re-written subsequently. Covered elegantly by Roxy Music in the wake of Lennon’s murder.
(Just Like) Starting Over (Double Fantasy, 1980)
Lennon’s comeback single after a 5-year absence. Became immensely popular when Lennon was murdered. A bittersweet factoid.
Mind Games (Mind Games, 1973)
A philosophical treatise presented in a pop song. The Verve ‘borrowed’ the string motif for “History”.
Mother (Plastic Ono Band, 1970)
Lennon and Yoko Ono were going through primal scream therapy and this visceral song of childhood pain was the result.
Nobody Loves You When You Down and Out (Walls and Bridges, 1975)
A shock of depressing reality from a songwriter probably down on his luck when he penned this. Too prescient for its own good – “Everybody loves you when you’re six foot in the ground”.
One Day at a Time (Mind Games, 1973)
Another exercise in zen philosophy. An excellent approach to life, in my humble opinion. Covered by his good friend Elton John.
Power to the People (single, 1971)
Another protest anthem that was emblematic of where youth culture was in the early 70s. Lennon, as always, was in the vanguard of the times.
Woman (Double Fantasy, 1980)
“… to the other half of the sky”. Lennon’s follow-up to the Beatles’ “Girl”. Probably one of his most sentimental compositions.
Working Class Hero (Plastic Ono Band, 1970)
A protest song. Though Lennon was by this time a millionaire rock star, he still identified with the common man.
… still there’s more …