John Lennon Tribute Songs

A Look at John Lennon's Legacy and Impact on Music

Pop culture icon and The Beatles frontman John Lennon died on December 8, 1980, when Mark David Chapman shot him multiple times outside Lennon's Manhattan home. Since his death, a number of hit records of famous artists have been released, these Lennon tributes not only stood as a testament to Lennon's lyricism but his person and activism as a man. Lennon's legacy and impact on the music industry still echo on in the hits of pop music today.

Songs About John Lennon

Perhaps the most Lennonesque of the later tributes to his legacy, Queen's "Life Is Real (Song for Lennon)" is the most similar to his music, echoing the ballad style of Lennon's "Plastic Ono Band." Released on their 1982 tenth studio album "Hot Space," the track even echoes Lennon's lyricism in title — "Life is Real" mimic's a lyric of Lennon's which states "Love is Real." Freddie Mercury would often lead Queen in a rendition of Lennon's "Imagine" as a special tribute on tour. 

A fellow member of The Beatles, Paul McCartney, also mourned the loss of his iconic bandmate in "Here Today," which he wrote in the style of a dialogue the two might have shared. McCarntey released the track on his 1982 album "Tug of War" and recorded it in 1981, less than a year after Lennon's death. 

Elton John's "Empty Garden (Hey Hey Johnny)" was released on his 1982 album "Jump Up!" and featured a sweeping first verse that starts "What happened here as the New York sunset disappeared?" referencing the time of Lennon's death.

It praised Lennon by calling him "a gardener that cared a lot, who weeded out the tears and grew a good crop" and said of his killer "it's funny how one insect could damage so much grain." 

George Harrison's "All Those Years Ago" and Joan Baez's "Sgt. Pepper's Band" also served as a tribute to the man that was John Lennon.

Songs About His Murderer

Most famously, the Cranberries' 1996 album "To The Faithfully Departed" featured a song titled "I Just Shot John Lennon," which depicts the events on the night of Lennon's murder. The song's title comes from a quote from Chapman on that same night — when asked if he knew what he did, Chapman responded calmly, "yes, I just shot John Lennon." 

Popular hard hitting rock band The Kinks released their track "Killer's Eyes" on their 1981 album "Give The People What They Want." The song has often been misinterpreted as being about Lennon's killer Chapman, but it is in fact inspired by the assassination attempt on Pope John Paul II on May 13, 1981. The Kinks were on tour in England when Mehmet Ali Agca shot the Pope four times. In a British news article, a quote from Agca's mother inspired songwriter Ray Davies to pen a verse from her perspective.