John Lennon is an undoubted icon, a musical maestro and one of the finest songwriters the world as ever seen. In fact, it’s almost breathtaking the wide-reaching impact the bespectacled Beatle had on not only music but the entire 20th century and still even to this day. Through his songs both with and without The Beatles, Lennon created a picture of visceral humanity that very few could match.
It is clear that Lennon’s presence will be felt for some time yet, even 40 years after his death there is rarely a day that goes by without some news. Every day the musician is gaining new fans and followers who still not only adore his work but are happy to follow his mantras and philosophies, revel in his written word and lust over photos. So, we thought we’d bring you a timely reminder of the thing that underpins all of the imagery and iconography—the music. We’ve got a 215-track playlist chronicling the career of John Lennon.
Lennon’s life in music started at an early age as he, with the rest of Britain, got swept up in the frivolous optimism of rock ‘n’ roll. Though the music came from America, Lennon, a likely lad from Liverpool, would use the basis of what he heard to form one of the greatest bands the world has ever known in The Beatles. Meeting one Paul McCartney in 1957 would set off one of the most fruitful songwriting partnerships the world has ever seen but you’ll find, as partnerships go, it was quite a competitive one.
The songwriting credits may all read ‘Lennon-McCartney’ but the truth is, throughout most of their career and despite writing most of their early material “eyeball to eyeball”, it was very clear whose songs were whose. The duo worked well in provide two sides of the same rock ‘n’ roll coin. While McCartney was often the man with the pop sensibilities at his core, John Lennon was very much the more dangerous side of things. It’s reflected in his songs too.
From Please, Please Me, The Beatles debut all the way through to Abbey Road, the final recorded album, Lennon provides a caustic, charismatic and largely poetic set of tracks. Over 100 different songs which can be attributed to Lennon. Of those, there have been many Lennon has called his favourite, but ‘Help!’ is the one mentioned most often as the best in his eyes. Often referring to the track as the moment he was “crying out for help,” Lennon has mused that the song certainly ranks among one of his favourite songs. When questioned as to why he replied: “Because it’s real.”
That’s the authentic vein of the artist that runs through all of his work post-1965; truth. Lennon has always made it a point to seek the truth from his art, whether that is in reference to his own failings as in ‘Jealous Guy’ or in how we as the human race can effect change on his iconic song ‘Imagine’. Lennon has always pushed for honesty in his art and his partnerships. Throughout his solo career, Lennon has leant heavily on partnerships and in Yoko Ono, he found one that he trusted implicitly.
In the playlist below, we’ve also included Lennon’s solo albums from Two Virgins all the way through to the posthumously released Milk & Honey from 1984, and it shows an artist in constant evolution both personally and professionally. Throughout the entire 215-track playlist, we see the unfurling life of one of music’s brightest stars and have to sadly reflect on why the number of songs couldn’t have been doubled.
Find below the ultimate John Lennon playlist.