Happy Birthday John Lennon: Here’s Our Top 10 Songs

You might be surprised at the amount of time I spend staring out my window and thinking about what our world would be like today if John Lennon was still alive. I feel like maybe there would be a little more peace on earth, a little more tolerance and maybe even a few more gay weddings. Sadly we’ll never know. But it’s nice to think about a world that’s nicer, you know? It’s the kind of thinking he encouraged us to do.

Today would’ve been John Lennon’s 70th birthday. I don’t think I really need to launch into an essay about the importance of Lennon, although it is tempting. Instead I thought we’d celebrate by talking about our favorite Lennon songs! Fun, right!?

I’ve spent a few painstaking hours trying to whittle down his catalog to a Top 10, but there are just so many great songs that the list has changed a dozen times in the last hour alone, I can’t commit. Anyway! I bet you all have your own ideas about which Lennon songs should be in this list, right? Add them in the comments section. I’ve focused on songs written by Lennon, but you don’t have to, let’s celebrate them all.

10. Being For The Benefit Of Mr Kite!
Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band

I was tempted to call this post ‘Top 10 Lennon Songs From Sgt. Pepper’s, ’cause I know this record better than I know myself. But then I wouldn’t be able to talk about “Imagine,” so. When I was a kid I sat by the stereo until I could memorize every note, word and whistle of this song, I was truly fascinated. Still very much am.

9. Eight Days A Week
Beatles For Sale

I can’t tell you how much time I dedicated to trying to figure out how there could be eight days in a week. I was 5 years old, okay. Give me a break. But that hypothetical world I was telling you about? The one that Lennon still lived in? We’d have as many days as we wanted to hold someone.

8. All You Need Is Love
Magical Mystery Tour

The La Marseillaise intro makes me smile every time. This song would probably be higher up in the list, except these days it’s hard to listen to the song without hearing Ewan McGregor serenading Nicole Kidman on a rooftop and feeling a little awkward. Cheers, Moulin Rouge.

7. A Hard Day’s Night
A Hard Day’s Night

I don’t really have anything to say about this track, except that I dig it. Apparently the title was inspired by one of the many malapropisms spoken by Ringo Starr. Thanks, Wikipedia.

6. Day Tripper
Past Masters

One of the best guitar hooks ever written? y/n?

5. Come Together
Abbey Road

Yes. Just, yes.

4. Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds
Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band

The psychedelic feel of this track has always fascinated me. This was the millionth Beatles song that the BBC banned due to drug references, however in this instance I believe the accusations were false. Still, this song is like an LSD daydream.

3. Let It Be
Let It Be

So this song was written by Paul McCartney, but Lennon played bass and really it’s just too wonderful to leave off this list (same could be said for “Penny Lane,” “Eleanor Rigby,” many others). It was the final single before McCartney broke up the band, which makes me sad.

2. I Want To Hold Your Hand
Past Masters

This song is focused on two of my all-time favorite things: hand claps and hand-holding. It was the first Beatles single to ever hit #1 on the Billboard 100, with good reason. Love it.

1. Imagine
Imagine

Imagine all the people
Living life in peace

You may say that 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

I also love A Perfect Circle’s cover of this song.


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crystal

Founding member. Former writer. Still loves Autostraddle with her whole heart.

Crystal has written 1 article for us.

47 Comments

  1. “I Am the Walrus”
    “I’m Only Sleeping”
    “Happiness is a Warm Gun”
    “I’m So Tired”
    “Yer Blues”
    “Woman”
    “(Just Like) Starting Over”
    “Nobody Told Me”
    “Beautiful Boy (Darling Boy)”
    “Whatever Gets You Thru the Night”
    “Working Class Hero”
    “Watching the Wheels”
    “Happy Xmas (War is Over)”

    Somebody stop me! Gah, I wish he was still around, too.

  2. My fifteen year-old self hated Perfect Circle’s cover of “Imagine” when it dropped. Funny, since I actually like a lot of their other tunes.

    Another subject of controversy is Across the Universe. I’m okay with it (I mean, who would’ve thought “Dear Prudence” could’ve become a lovesick lesbian anthem), but I know a lot of people who loathe it.

  3. I am a total hippie born in the wrong era!! “Imagine” is one of my all-time favorites and, every time I hear it I smile and wish the world was more like the world he describes!

  4. Just wanted to say I like that you are remembering John Lennon. I like all the songs on this list and I’m sorry the first comment was someone pissed that you didn’t include their song.

  5. A friend of mine, who took the Beatles class offered at Indiana University, told me “Being For the Benefit of Mr. Kite” is a straight reading of a poster Lennon found. I always found that interesting.

    Almost impossible to narrow down a top 10 for Lennon. Obvs “Imagine” is his greatest. I find it to be badly covered by American Idol contestants and anyone else. They can’t possibly portray the pure emotion and values John Lennon was so passionate about. I won’t even bother listening to it being covered anymore.

    A Day in the Life
    Instant Karma
    Give Peace a Chance
    Good Morning, Good Morning
    In My Life
    Oh, Darling
    Mother
    Nowhere Man
    Mind Games
    Imagine

  6. With the exception of Imagine, these are not ‘Lennon songs’ – they are Lennon/McCartney songs.

    Arrrhh, how could miss out Lennon’s own classics?
    Woman
    Jealous Guy
    Mind Games
    Starting Over
    Watching the Wheels
    Happy Xmas
    Working Class Hero

    And the Beatles’ classics (beyond their boy band phase):
    Strawberry Fields
    I am the Walrus

    • Guesss it’s time to be a trivia buff: Credited as Lennon/McCartney, yes, but quite a few of their songs were written mostly by one or the other (especially later on). She did cop to Let It Be, though.

    • I knew there’d be at least one comment about calling these songs ‘Lennon songs’. Technically you are correct, but also, what s.w. said.

      I have a Beatles bias, sure. This isn’t a list of Lennon’s best songs, just a list of my favorite ones. That’s why everyone should share their own favorites.

      • Yes, S.W, Beatles songs are credited as Lennon/McCartney, but in fact usually written by one of them. Eight Days A Week was also penned by McCartney, not Lennon.

        It’s just the absence of Lennon’s solo work that I find quite strange in any list of favourite (indeed, not ‘best’… mea culpa) Lennon songs. For me, The Beatles and Lennon’s work are quite separate entities, but then I have a Lennon bias.

  7. I actually moved to Liverpool about two weeks ago to pursue a Master’s degree in, of all things, The Beatles. The city’s in the midst of a big Lennon tribute season, with monument unveilings and tribute concerts and whatnot. There’s even a “Bed-In” at a local theater with different performance artists from all over the world.

    But the coolest moment of the entire weekend so far — and trust me, once you’ve seen one Beatles tribute band, you’ve seen ’em all, so a transcendent moment with an act like this is rare — was when a John Lennon impersonator at a show led the crowd in “All You Need is Love” and the crowd shouted back the “She loves you yeah, yeah, yeah” bit at the end. People from all over the world, all ages and backgrounds and circumstances, one voice. I’ll never forget that, and it’s the kind of moment that proves just how essential John’s music is to so many people. Glad to see him get a shoutout on Autostraddle. Cheers.

  8. I have the following of “In My Life” tattooed as the chain links of a pocket watch around my hip. “All these places have their moments, with lovers and friends I still can recall. Some are dead and some are living. In my life, I loved them all.”

    also, across the universe and blackbird

  9. Crystal,

    Nice job but you need to listen more to the solo output (Plastic Ono Band; Imagine; Mind Games; Walls and Bridges; Double Fantasy). Skip Some Time In New York City and his forced cover album (darn Morris Levy) with the exclusion of his cover of Stand By Me.

    20 cool ones with The Beatles (songs Lennon was the primary or sole writer of) – I Want To Hold Your Hand; A Hard Day’s Night; No Reply; Help; Norwegian Wood; In My Life; Rain; Tomorrow Never Knows; Strawberry Fields Forever; Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds; A Day in the Life; I Am the Walrus; Revolution; Dear Prudence; Happiness Is A Warm Gun; Julia; Sexy Sadie; Across the Universe; Come Together; Because.

    20 cool ones solo – Instant Karma; Mother; Isolation; Love; Working Class Hero; Imagine; Jealous Guy; Gimme Some Truth; Happy Xmas (War Is Over); Mind Games; Bring on the Lucie (Freeda Peeple); Out the Blue; # 9 Dream; Steel and Glass; Nobody Loves You When You’re Down and Out; Just Like Starting Over; Woman; Beautiful Boy; Watching the Wheels; Nobody Told Me

  10. Like most kids self-administering a music education, I came across Lennon. Murdered. Wow. This was when I was maybe 12. The good thing about him was that his music was mostly positive. He could have blabbed about how everything sucks, but most of his music was about good things like love. That’s why I don’t like the A Perfect Circle video. It’s cynical and negative – the easy way out.

  11. Man. Beatles fans are really grumpy sometimes.

    I’ll be the first to say that I can be that way too. I mean, I kind of uhm.. live and breathe the Beatles. But the truth is, I’m just really glad to see John being honoured here. He deserves it.

    Some of my favourites:
    Don’t Let Me Down (probably my number one favourite ever. so perfect and desperate.)
    Watching the Wheels
    Yer Blues
    Norwegian Wood
    Dig a Pony
    Dear Yoko
    God
    I’m Losing You
    Across the Universe
    No Reply

    George’s birthday is coming up (okay, in like, february) so I think we should honour him as well. Cause he was the greatest.

    Thanks for this, Crystal. <3

  12. my mother was pregnant with me when john was killed and i used to be really upset that i was born on a planet without john lennon. does that sound crazy?

    anyway the beatles were my dad’s favorite so this post made me cry lotsss! wheee! 1. across the universe / 2. in my life / 3. revolution / 4. blackbird WHAT I KNOW IT’S NOT BY LENNON BUT I LOVE IT ANYWAY.

  13. Lost Lyrics of “I’m a Gin”:

    Imagine there’s no Devon
    It’s easy Crisp ‘n Dry
    No smell below us
    Above us pumpkin pie
    Imagine all us homos
    Living Doris Day

    Imagine there’s no humpties
    It isn’t hard to poo
    Diarrhoea bum sore
    And Halloween II
    Imagine all the people
    Living with herpes

    You may say that 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

    Imagine delicatessens
    Pastrami if you can
    No need for weed or hunger
    Norwegian wood is spam
    Aladin overall bagels
    Feeding all the world

    You may say that I’m a dreamer
    But I’m not the only one
    I hope someday you’ll join us
    And the world will live as one

    RIP – you’re always in our thoughts, Don.

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