I’ve written often enough about John Lennon, especially on his birthday (October 9), and on this date, that I was musing on what to write on this 35th anniversary of his death. You’ll see I’ve mentioned SOMETHING about John EVERY December 8 since this blog started in 2005, except in 2007, although it was more oblique in some years than others.
In any case, I found this link to Top 5 songs written in tribute to John Lennon. Four of them I had actually put on a compilation disc together some years ago, along with:
songs written by one or more Beatles but performed by others, e.g., It’s For You by Three Dog Night; Goodbye by Mary Hopkin; Fame by David Bowie
songs about the Beatles: Beatles, Please Come Back by Gigi Parker And The Lonelies; I Dig Rock And Roll Music by Peter, Paul & Mary
*even songs by AND about the Beatles or their members: Glass Onion from Anthology 3; Early 1970 – Ringo Starr; When We Was Fab- George Harrison.
The one tribute song from the above list I was unfamiliar with was Queen’s Life is Real (Song for Lennon).
Empty Garden (Hey Hey Johnny) by Elton John
I have always loved the backstory regarding Lennon’s Whatever Gets You Through the Night; its success meant John had to play at Elton’s MSG concert in 1974, which eventually meant a reconciliation between John and Yoko.
Here’s a 1999 live version of Empty Garden.
Here Today by Paul McCartney
When I first heard it, I thought it was a bit treacly; I’ve quite changed my mind. Certainly, by the time I watched the live 2009 NYC version, I was in a totally different head.
I wish that John and Paul had shown up at the Saturday Night Live studio back in 1975.
All Those Years Ago by George Harrison
George modified the lyrics of a song he had written for Ringo because the drummer thought the song was too high in his range. It made a lot of people happy that the song featured vocal contributions from Paul and Linda McCartney, as well as Ringo’s original drum part because it was a big hit.
The Late Great Johnny Ace by Paul Simon
This song segues from a tale about a singer in the 1950s to Beatlemania to a final verse about how he first heard the news that John had been killed. From Paul Simon’s worst-selling album up to that point. The Phillip Glass ending instrumental for strings, clarinet, and flute is painful mournful.
Here’s the original acoustic demo