As Valentine’s Day quickly approaches, love songs are once again on our minds as we think of the perfect song that we want to dedicate to our sweethearts. John Lennon has composed many of the beautiful love songs and ballads that are cherished around the world. We thought we would share with our readers a list of our top 10 favorite Lennon love songs. (Click on "View List" at bottom of article.)
When the Beatles were together, however, John was pegged “the rocker” while it was Paul McCartney who was labeled the “balladeer.” After all, John was famous for his raucous version of Twist and Shout, and compositions like A Hard Day’s Night, and Please Please Me, later coming out with trippy songs like I Am the Walrus, Strawberry Fields, and Tomorrow Never Knows. Paul McCartney on the other hand, famously penned slow songs like Yesterday, Michelle, Long and Winding Road, Let It Be, and Hey Jude.
But just like McCartney also wrote Helter Skelter, some of Lennon’s most popular songs are in fact the slower ballad-like tunes like Imagine, In My Life, Mind Games, Happy Xmas, and (Just Like) Starting Over. In fact, Imagine was voted #3 of Rolling Stone’s Top 500 Songs of All Time (Dec 9, 2004), while In My Life was at #23. (In addition, John Lennon was listed #38 of the Top 100 Artists of All Time.)
In the early days, nearly all the Beatles' songs were about romantic love, which made their girl fans swoon with adulation, such as "Thank You Girl," “She Loves You”, “I Feel Fine”, and “I Want to Hold Your Hand.” In interviews, they always said that the early songs were never really “about” anyone in particular, although people have assumed that for example, Paul’s “Yesterday” must have been a subconscious expression of his sorrow over his mother’s death. (In interviews, he has said he didn’t do that consciously, but that it might have been true.)
With the exception of "Getting Better," John never acknowledged which songs he may have written for his first wife Cynthia, whom he married in 1962. However, it's assumed that "Do You Want To Know a Secret?" (sung by George Harrison) and "When I Get Home" were written for her. And like McCartney, some of his songs could have held undercurrents of emotion for his mother Julia, who was tragically killed in 1957.
His very earliest love song was never even recorded by the Beatles. “I’m In Love” (here’s a you tube recording) was written in 1962 and was given to a band called the Fourmost--- released in November of 1963. (Seattle Beatles tribute band Apple Jam recorded this song for their album “Off The Beatle Track” along with several other songs the Beatles gave away.)
In 1965 John began to write songs about his own life, and Norwegian Wood was written about an affair he was having. (According to Phillip Norman in “John Lennon: The Life” it was Sonny Drane, wife of Robert Freeman.) He began writing the song while on holiday with Cynthia in the Swiss Alps in January of 1965, and had said he was nervous she’d figure out he’d been unfaithful if she listened to the song. But she didn’t suspect a thing, according to him.
The same year In My Life emerged as a reflection on his childhood “friends and lovers”, ending with “I love you more.” But his burgeoning relationship with Yoko Ono in 1968 really marked a substantial shift--and his love songs were specifically for her, sometimes including her name--such as “Oh Yoko.” (Recorded June of ’71 and released on the Imagine album.)
Note on upcoming radio broadcast on John Lennon's love songs: We will be discussing John Lennon’s love songs on The John Lennon Hour, a radio show done by the author of the John Lennon Series, Jude Southerland Kessler, which airs on February 24 (5pm PST). During the broadcast we will discuss nine mutual favorites, some of which are not included here. Can you guess which ones they might be? Some may surprise you. Mark your calendars for this very special show, which will air on the Beatles-a-rama internet radio show.
Without further adieu, here is our “top ten” list of favorite John Lennon’s love songs, in chronological order, with a short history of each song. Click on "View List." Have a wonderful Valentine's Day!
Copyright notice-©Shelley Germeaux 2013: This article and photos are subject to copyright restrictions and may not be reproduced without the author’s permission. Excerpts with link to original article are welcomed. Please subscribe to the John Lennon Examiner for instant notifications of future articles. Also see our facebook page, John Lennon News and Biography, and follow us on Twitter at LennonNews.