The Music of John Lennon: October 9, 1940--December 8, 1980

James R. Coffey By James R. Coffey, 8th Dec 2010 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Guides>History

John Winston Lennon, taken on this day thirty years ago.

Thirty years ago today

The greatest blow I’ve ever experienced to my sense of right and wrong occurred on this day, thirty years ago. Until then, it had been beyond my life experience and comprehension that a musician, an artist, could be seen as such a threat to society that someone could justify taking his life. And, perhaps more frightening, that such a thing could happen from within the very society that had for centuries boasted civilized superiority. Yet, there it was. It had happened.

Yes, I was fully aware that throughout history there were always those who deemed certain world leaders and holy men dangerous to the status quo (I’d even had a personal connection to President Kennedy, and so had experienced the impact of such a loss). But a musician? An artist? And not just any artist but one of the most gifted, admired, and respected artists of the 20th century. Why him? Why this voice of peace and love and world harmony?

The dream is over

And then it hit me. Was that the rub? Was it his call for world peace that made him the ultimate and inherent threat? Hell--there it was in black and white in three-inch letters on the front page of every newspaper in the world--the physical proof. And that’s when the dream ended. I awoke and realized that I live in a world where the idea of peace, love, and understanding is not the common goal. And nothing has ever rattled my soul so deeply.

His music

While I could write volumes on this man’s life: his childhood, days in art college, early years with Paul McCartney, ten years as a Beatle, his art and poetry, and his life with Yoko Ono--I choose today to reflect on his music. Because in the end it was through his music that most us came to know him. His songs of peace and love and revolution; his emanations of pain and joy, angst and confusion, disillusionment and discovery. That was the connective fiber that made us of a common cloth.

Apart from being one of the greatest poets and lyricists of the 20th century, John’s musical innovations were phenomenal. From his use of feedback on “I Feel Fine” to key modulation on “I’ll be Back” to the single chord mantra of “Tomorrow Never Knows,” his contribution to Beatles albums set a framework and aura of expression that continues to reverberate throughout his solo work even today. But by and large, John took his fundamental love of rock & roll and love ballads and finessed them to fit his primal and often times harsh and unapologetic worldview as only he could. And far from hiding his true self from those who fell in love with his music, he stood there naked saying, here I am, warts, wrinkles, and scars of life. And because of this, his fans connected with him in a way that has never occurred in the history of modern music.

Once upon a time

I spent three days with John and Yoko in New York in the summer of 1972, as they were doing the final mix on Sometime in New York City. Words cannot describe the sense of pride I felt in knowing that this international icon of modern music, this man who’d help change the course of history, had chosen my country to live in. And as he strolled through the Village and hung around Washington Square with the Hippies and the street people--people just like me--you’d never have guessed in a million years that anyone had anything but deep respect and love for this man. He was John Lennon. Beatle John Lennon. A living treasure. But looking back, I wish he hadn’t trusted us as he did.

One man's perspective

Were I new to John’s music, I would appreciate a little insight into which of his songs best represent who he was. And with that objective in mind, I offer here a list of what I consider “prime” Lennon, as well as an album and single discography for all those wishing to further explore his genius or just fill in their Lennon collection.

To John I say only this; Thank you. For any words, no matter how eloquent or heartfelt, would prove mere hollow sounds against the echo of your eternal gifts.

The music


  • "Give Peace a Chance"
  • "Instant Karma! (We All Shine On)"
  • "Power to the People"
  • "Happy Xmas (War Is Over)"
  • "Woman"


  • John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band: “Working Class Hero”
  • Imagine: “How Do You Sleep”
  • Some Time in New York City: “Sunday Bloody Sunday”
  • Mind Games: “Out the Blue”
  • Walls and Bridges: “Steel and Glass”
  • Rock ‘n’ Roll: “Peggy Sue”
  • Double Fantasy: “I’m Losing You”
  • Milk and Honey: “Borrowed Time”

  • Discography
    The Albums

  • 1968: Unfinished Music No.1: Two Virgins (with Yoko Ono)
  • 1969: Unfinished Music No.2: Life with the Lions (with Yoko Ono)
  • Wedding Album (with Yoko Ono)
    Live Peace in Toronto 1969
  • 1970: John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band
  • 1971: Imagine
  • 1972: Some Time in New York City (with Yoko Ono)
  • 1973: Mind Games
  • 1974: Walls and Bridges
  • 1975: Rock ‘n’ Roll
  • 1980: Double Fantasy (with Yoko Ono)
  • 1984: Milk and Honey (with Yoko Ono)
  • 1986: Live in New York City (Posthumously, by Yoko)

The Singles

  • 1969: "Give Peace a Chance"
  • "Cold Turkey"
  • 1970: "Instant Karma! (We All Shine On)"
  • "Mother"
  • 1971: "Power to the People"
  • "Imagine"
    "Happy Xmas (War Is Over)"
  • 1972: "Woman Is the Nigger of the World"
  • 1973: "Mind Games"
  • 1974: "Whatever Gets You Thru the Night"
  • 1975: "#9 Dream"
  • "Stand by Me"
  • 1980: "(Just Like) Starting Over"
  • 1981: "Woman"
  • "Watching the Wheels"
  • 1982: "Love"
  • 1984: "Nobody Told Me"
  • "Borrowed Time"
    "I'm Stepping Out"
    "Every Man Has a Woman Who Loves Him"
  • 1985: "Jealous Guy"


Assassination, Beatle History, Beatlemania, Beatles, Give Peace A Chancejohn Lennons Death, John F Kennedy, John Lennon, John Lennon Icon, John Lennon Music, Julian Lennon, Mahatma Gandhi, Mark Chapman, New York City, Religious Leaders, Sean Lennon, Songs Of John Lennon, The Dakota, World Leaders, Yoko One

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author avatar James R. Coffey
I am founder and head writer for James R. Coffey Writing Services and Resource Center @ where I offer a variety of writing and research services including article composition, ghostwriting, editing...(more)

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author avatar Jerry Walch
8th Dec 2010 (#)

Nice review.

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author avatar Carol
8th Dec 2010 (#)

very nice, and well researched

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author avatar Denise O
9th Dec 2010 (#)

Nice work James. I too am so baffled why some one would take this wonderful guys life.
I am not from the hippy days (too young) but, I can still relate to the sweet words
that John had written and shared with all of us.
So sad, he is gone.
Thank you for sharing.:)

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