Music / John Lennon
John Lennon during his time with The Beatles.

"A working class hero is something to be
If you want to be a hero, then just follow me"
—"Working Class Hero" - John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band

John Winston Ono Lennon (9 October 1940 8 December 1980) was a member of the revolutionary band The Beatles. He left The Beatles in late 1969 to focus on his solo career with his wife Yoko Ono.

He ended at #8 in One Hundred Greatest Britons.

Studio and Live Discography (* = John and Yoko, ** = John Lennon):

John Lennon is the Trope Namer for:

"Nobody told me there'd be tropes like these...":

  • Answer Song: "How Do You Sleep?" from Imagine(see "The Reason You Suck" Speech below).
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: When Lennon returned his MBE to Buckingham Palace in 1969 (four years after receiving it with the other three Beatles), he enclosed a note giving his reasons: "I am returning this MBE in protest against Britain's involvement in the Nigeria-Biafra thing, against our support of America in Vietnam, and against 'Cold Turkey' slipping down the charts." "Cold Turkey," his most recent single, was turning in a relatively poor performance on the music charts, peaking at No. 14 in the UK and No. 30 in the U.S.
  • Artistic Stimulation: Although all four Beatles used drugs of one sort or another throughout much of their group and/or solo careers, Lennon, from 1966 through 1969, indulged much more heavily than the other three put together, first becoming psychologically dependent on LSD and then, together with Yoko, becoming addicted to heroin. Although both dependencies caused him considerable suffering, they did serve (again, far more than for his bandmates) as inspiration for some of his greatest songs - most directly "Cold Turkey," essentially heroin withdrawal symptoms set to music.
  • The Atoner: In the songs "Jealous Guy" and "Woman", Lennon expresses remorse for his previous treatment of the women in his life.
  • Avant-garde Music: Lennon has dabbled quite a lot in experimenting with sound, music and noises. He did this early on already, but his experimentations became more prominent after he met Yoko Ono, most prominent on "Revolution # 9" from The White Album. His first three solo albums, Unfinished Music No. 1: Two Virgins (1968), Unfinished Music No. 2: Life with the Lions (1968) and Wedding Album (1969) are completely avant garde sound experiments. From John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band his music actually became basic rock again, but he still dared to create tracks that had uncommercial sound experiments or very personal confessions about his relationship with Yoko.
  • Big Applesauce: An album, a song, a famous photo.
    "There's UFOs over New York, and I ain't too surprised." — "Nobody Told Me"
  • Bigger Than Jesus: The Trope Namer, although John didn't actually say it. His actual Blasphemous Boast in 1966 was a claim that the Beatles were "more popular than Jesus," which passed without notice in his native England (where the decline in church attendance he was talking about was a well-known phenomenon), then landed him and his bandmates in big trouble when the quote was reprinted (out of context) in America.
  • Bookends: John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band opens with "Mother" and ends with "My Mummy's Dead".
  • Bread, Eggs, Milk, Squick: "Nobody Told Me":
    "Everybody's talking and no one says a word
    Everybody's making love and no one really cares
    There's Nazis in the bathroom just below the stairs
    Always something happening and nothing going on
    There's always something cooking and nothing in the pot
    They're starving back in China so finish what you got"
  • Broken Record: From "John Sinclair"
    What else can Judge Colombo do?
    Gotta, gotta, gotta, gotta,
    gotta, gotta, gotta, gotta,
    gotta, gotta, gotta, gotta,
    gotta, gotta, gotta set him free
  • The Bully: He was notorious for being this in his school years. Although gradually mellowing out as he matured, throughout his whole life he would always carry nasty shades of it.
  • Call-Back:
    • The first verse of "Power to the People" starts thusly: "Say you want a revolution/We better get it on right away!". This is a Call Back to his more skeptical take in his Beatles song "Revolution": "You say you want a revolution/Well you know/We all want to change the world."
    • The "ting ting ting" of a little chiming bell that opens "(Just Like) Starting Over" on Double Fantasy is a Call Back to the heavy, doom-laden church bell that opens "Mother" on Plastic Ono Band. Lennon said in the last interview he ever gave that this was deliberate, meant to symbolise that he had come through all of his issues.
    • "I was the Walrus, but now I'm John."
    • "How Do You Sleep" references Sgt. Pepper, Paul Is Dead and "Yesterday".
  • Christmas Songs: "Happy Xmas (War Is Over)"
  • Contemptible Cover: Unfinished Music No. 1: Two Virgins, which featured John and Yoko completely nude.
  • Cover Album: Rock 'n' Roll
  • Crazy Jealous Guy: "Run for Your Life" (for The Beatles) and "Jealous Guy". He later regretted writing "Run for Your Life" due to the highly sexist lyrics (in which he threatens to kill a girlfriend if she's unfaithful).
  • Dead Artists Are Better: Far from a perfect example of this trope, as Lennon had more than his share of critical and popular recognition during his lifetime. Nevertheless, the years following his murder saw his less positive traits, and the unevenness of his post-Beatles career output, largely forgotten in favor of the mythical image (strongly, but not solely, cultivated by his widow) of Lennon as a gentle, saintly prophet of peace. As a result, when Albert Goldman published his negative, sensationalistic The Lives of John Lennon a mere eight years after the subject's death, he received, in addition to justly deserved criticism for his shoddy and selective research, numerous death threats from Lennon fans for daring to say anything negative about him. (Which, given the "prophet of peace" bit, is Comically Missing the Point.)
    • He refers to this phenomenon in "Nobody Loves You When You're Down and Out"
      Everybody loves you when you're six feet in the ground
  • The Dead Rise to Advertise: Encouraging us to donate to One Laptop Per Child. It's a good cause and all, but still unnerving. A "'portable' computer with built-in monitor" DID exist in John Lennon's lifetime. . The screen size looks somewhat like the OLPC. They should have made a pun of that perhaps?
  • Disappeared Dad: Lennon had a distant and often neglectful relationship with his oldest son Julian, who's been quite open about being closer to Paul McCartney than his own father. The song "Hey Jude" was written by McCartney to console Julian over his parents' divorce and Lennon's perpetual absence.
  • Distinct Double Album: Some Time In New York City contains one album of new studio material and one album of live recordings.
  • Excited Show Title!: "Instant Karma!", "Oh Yoko!"
  • Falling Bass: "Mind Games"
  • For Doom the Bell Tolls: An ominous tolling church bell opens "Mother", the Grief Song that opens Lennon's first solo album, Plastic Ono Band. Referenced ten years later on Double Fantasy (see Call-Back above).
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: "Imagine," by Lennon's own admission, "is virtually The Communist Manifesto" set to music, "even though I'm not particularly a Communist and I do not belong to any movement". (It could arguably be considered more similar to the writings of anarcho-communists like Pyotr Kropotkin and Emma Goldman, who took issue with some of Marx's ideas). Of the song, Lennon told NME, "There is no real Communist state in the world; you must realise that. The Socialism I speak about ... [is] not the way some daft Russian might do it, or the Chinese might do it. That might suit them. Us, we should have a nice ... British Socialism."
    • "Pornographic priestess" and "you let your knickers down" in "I Am The Walrus"; the "tit tit tit tit" backing vocals in "Girl" (not to mention the very clear reference to the inhalation of marijuana in the chorus); the drug references scattered throughout The Beatles' latter-day songs—he loved this trope. He was much more blatant in his solo career, but cases like "Tight A$" and "Meat City" still show a bit of it.
  • God: "is a concept by which we measure our pain."
  • Going Cold Turkey: "Cold Turkey". Heroin withdrawal set to music.
  • Greatest Hits Album: Shaved Fish in his lifetime. Lennon Legend, The John Lennon Collection, and others after his death, most recently Power to the People: The Hits.
  • Grief Song: "Mother" and "My Mummy's Dead," which respectively open and close his album John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band. Later, his death inspired several, including his old Beatles bandmate George Harrison's "All Those Years Ago," released five months after Lennon was killed. In a rare reunion of ex-Beatles, Ringo Starr also played drums and Paul McCartney the bass on the single, which reached No. 2 on the U.S. Billboard chart.
    • Several other artists released mourning songs for John, including Elton John's "Empty Garden", Joan Baez's "Sgt. Pepper's Band", Queen's "Life Is Real", and, most recently, Bob Dylan's "Roll On John". Stevie Nicks says that "Edge of Seventeen" is for both Lennon and her Uncle Jonathan who had died suddenly of cancer the same week.
  • Grow Old with Me: Title to one of the last songs he ever wrote.
  • Grow Old With Me is also Harsher in Hindsight: It's about looking forward to sharing a long and happy life with his true love...and we now know he had only weeks to live when he wrote it.
  • History Repeats: When John saw for the first time a picture of Yasuda Zenjirō, who was Yoko Ono's grandfather, he supposedly said "that's me in a former life", to which she responded "don't say that. He was assassinated". Come 1980, and what would the tragic fate of John Lennon be?
  • I Am the Band: Lennon's Plastic Ono Band.
    • Within the Beatles Lennon is also sometimes seen as the most creative, intelligent, original and innovative member. Despite the fact that Paul McCartney is an equally strong candidate for that title, save for the part that he hadn't the same badass "cool" rebel image Lennon had.
  • Iconic Outfit: The green army jacket. and granny glasses (whether dark or regular)
  • Jesus Was Way Cool: What he really tried to talk about during his "more popular than Jesus" statement was the good Christ/bad Christian dichotomy that other famous dead people have commented on.
    John: Jesus was all right, but his disciples were thick and ordinary. It's them twisting it that ruins it for me.
  • Lighter and Softer: While Imagine does have "Gimme Some Truth," "I Don't Want to Be a Soldier" and "How Do You Sleep?", that Lennon could go in a year from singing "The dream is over the dream is over" in "God" to singing "You may say I'm a dreamer but I'm not the only one" in "Imagine" suggests that he got something out of his system.
  • List Song: "God" is mainly a list of things Lennon doesn't believe in.
  • Live Album: Live Peace in Toronto 1969, and after his death, Live in New York City, a recording of the famous 1972 Madison Square Garden concert.
  • Male Frontal Nudity: See Contemptible Cover above.
  • The Man: From "New York City"—If the man wants to shove us out/We gonna jump and shout/The Statue of Liberty said, "come!"
  • Meadow Run: At the end of the "Oh Yoko!" music video. Though, they did it on a shore of the beach and referencing the famous scene from Wuthering Heights for they shout each other's names in the same fashion as the film.
  • N-Word Privileges: In 1969, in the U.K., in the course of being interviewed by a Nova magazine reporter, Yoko said, "... woman is the nigger of the world"; three years later, John published the song "Woman is the Nigger of the World" (1972) - about the virtually universal exploitation of woman - proved socially and politically controversial to U.S. sensibilities. It's worth noting, though, that many prominent black entertainers of the day were among the most ardent defenders of the song.
  • Posthumous Collaboration: Milk and Honey with Yoko Ono
  • Precision F-Strike: Twice in "Working Class Hero".
  • Protest Song: Many. Some Time in New York City, in fact, was basically an entire protest album. Lennon's strident advocacy during this period helped make Some Time in New York City a critical and commercial failure.
    • He learned the lesson and later protest songs like "Bring on the Lucie (Freeda People)" from Mind Games work better in pop song terms.
  • Pungeon Master: He was very fond of playing around with words. His books and other non-music writing practically overdose on puns.
  • Race Fetish: He divorced his English wife for the Japanese Yoko Ono
    • He even dated a Chinese American woman named May Pang when he and Ono briefly separated.
  • Real Life Writes the Plot: Lennon liked to write in the first person. As his career went on and especially after he met Yoko Ono his music became more personal and even exhibitionistic, with a lot of songs dealing with his relationship with her and his own search for truth, love and wisdom in life.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Song: "How Do You Sleep?", from 1971's Imagine, directed toward Paul McCartney at the depth of their mutual hatred. A response to Paul's "Too Many People" from Ram, released earlier the same year. (The two buried the hatchet a few years later.)
    • Plastic Ono Band, to the fans, the Beatles, everyone and everything who ever crossed him, pissed him off or that he had ever believed in over the course of his life to that point.
    • "Steel And Glass" from the Walls And Bridges album. Reputedly a Take That! against Allen Klein, the latter-period Beatles/Apple manager.
  • Silly Love Songs: The inspiration behind the Trope Namer. John criticised Paul McCartney for writing "silly love songs"... and so Paul wrote a song with that exact title.
    • Not that Lennon himself was entirely immune to these. "Woman", anyone? "Dear Yoko"?
  • Solo Side Project: Released four solo albums while still being a part of the Beatles.
  • Studio Chatter: "This is it boys. Over the hill." from "Bring on the Lucie (Freda Peeple)" from Mind Games.
  • Three Chords and the Truth: Plastic Ono Band.
  • Title-Only Chorus: "Well Well Well"
  • Voice Types: Baritone.
  • Word Salad Lyrics: "I Am the Walrus," "What's the New Mary Jane," "Come Together," "Sun King," "Give Peace a Chance," the chorus to "#9 Dream."
    • To an extent, "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds."
  • Working-Class Hero: Trope Namer. Ironically, "Working Class Hero" is a subversion in which the working class are duped into feeling like heroes by those with power:
    Keep you doped with religion and sex and TV
    And you think you're so clever and classless and free
    But you're still fucking peasants as far as I can see
  • Wham Episode: "God":
    "I don't believe in Elvis
    I don't believe in Zimmerman
    I don't believe in Beatles
    I just believe in me
    Yoko and me
    And that's reality"
  • Young Future Famous People: Nowhere Boy is a film starring Aaron Johnson released in 2009 (in the U.K.; 2010 everywhere else) based on John Lennon's early life. Co-starring Thomas Sangster as Paul McCartney.
    • Also Backbeat, starring Ian Hart as Hamburg-era Lennon and Stephen Dorff as his friend/bandmate Stu Sutcliffe.
      • Prior to Backbeat, Hart had also played Lennon in The Hours and Times, a short film about a holiday in Spain Lennon took with Beatles manager Brian Epstein.