This Tuesday marks the 72nd anniversary of the birth of one of the most important figures in popular music. John Lennon helped make the Beatles the world’s most successful music group, but also he made quite an impact in a solo career that tragically spanned only two decades.
While everyone can easily name seven John Lennon songs, a list of his singles that did the best on US charts might surprise you. For instance, “Give Peace a Chance” hit No. 2 in the UK, but here in the States it didn’t even crack the top ten. “Happy Christmas (War Is Over)” may be a holiday classic, but it never appeared on our Billboard charts. Keeping this in mind, let’s take a look at John’s biggest hit singles in the US.
7. “#9 Dream”
Oddly enough, this song (from his ninth solo album that was released in the ninth month of the year) peaked at No. 9 on the Billboard singles chart. There’s even nine syllables in the phrase “Ah, bowakawa, pousse pousse” that’s repeated throughout the song. And what does that phrase mean, exactly? No one knows. It came to Lennon in a dream. Strange!
6. “Nobody Told Me”
Originally written for former bandmate Ringo Starr, Yoko Ono finished work on Lennon’s incomplete version of this song. It remained unreleased for nearly four years, but became his last hit single from his final album.
5. “Instant Karma!”
What kept this from becoming a No.1 hit? The Beatles’ “Let It Be”. As its members were all working on and releasing solo projects, the public still didn’t know that the band had broken up. Famously written and recorded in one day, “Instant Karma!” would go on to be Lennon’s second most memorable song.
It’s Lennon’s most memorable and beloved song. Thought of a secular anthem for peace on earth, “Imagine” has appeared on countless “greatest songs of all time” lists. Performed everywhere from the 2012 Olympics to the season finale of American Idol, and covered by over one hundred different major artists, it has become so popular that some Lennon fans have grown to resent it in recent years.
Released a month after his death, “Woman” hit No. 1 in both the UK and New Zealand, but stopped short at No. 2 in the US. Written not only for his wife, but also as a universal ode to women everywhere, John described the song’s sound four years earlier as an “early Motown/Beatles circa 1964 ballad”.
2. “Whatever Gets You Through The Night”
Lennon never thought this duet with Elton John would be a hit. Elton thought otherwise and made a friendly wager: if it hit No. 1, Lennon would have to join him onstage. A few short months later, Lennon took the stage at Madison Square Garden. It would be his last concert performance, and “Whatever Gets You Through the Night” was the only solo No. 1 he would live to experience.
1. “(Just Like) Starting Over”
John also thought this song sounded too old-fashioned to be a hit, but it went on to be his biggest single in the US. Released weeks before his death, he never lived to see it top the charts here and in the UK.
// Notes from the Road
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