Ranking John Lennon’s best songs on 40th anniversary of death

WTOP's Jason Fraley salutes John Lennon (Part 1)

Exactly 40 years ago on Dec. 8, 1980, Beatles legend John Lennon was murdered in Manhattan.

We’re marking the 40th anniversary not by glorifying his death — the perpetrator remains unnamed in this article on purpose — but rather by celebrating Lennon’s legacy of peace activism and songwriting genius.

His work evolved from early rock ‘n’ roll hits (“A Hard Day’s Night”) to psychedelic explorations (“Strawberry Fields Forever”) to beautiful ballads (“Imagine”) over a career tragically shortened at age 40.

What are the best songs ever written by John Lennon?

Let the countdown begin.

Disclaimer:  Ranking his best songs is a tricky endeavor as Lennon and Paul McCartney agreed from the very beginning to share writing credit under the “Lennon/McCartney” duo, regardless of who wrote the song.

As a rule, our list does not include songs primarily written by Paul: “Love Me Do,” “I Saw Her Standing There,” “Can’t Buy Me Love,” “Eight Days a Week,” “Yesterday,” “Michelle,” “Eleanor Rigby,” “Yellow Submarine,” “Can’t Buy Me Love,” “Paperback Writer,” “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” “With a Little Help From My Friends,” “When I’m 64,” “Hello, Goodbye,” “Penny Lane,” “Back in the USSR,” “Ob-la-di, Ob-la-da,” “Blackbird,” “Helter Skelter,” “Birthday,” “Let It Be,” “The Long and Winding Road,” “Get Back,” “Lady Madonna,” “Hey Jude”

Likewise, you won’t find “Here Comes the Sun,” “Something” or “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” which were all written by George Harrison, nor will you find Beatles covers of other artists, namely “Twist and Shout.”

Without further ado, on with the list!

30. “Give Peace a Chance”

29. “Mind Games”

28. “Nowhere Man”

27. “Jealous Guy”

26. “Beautiful Boy”

25. “We Can Work It Out”

24. “I Feel Fine”

23. “Please Please Me”

22. “I Am the Walrus”

21. “Dear Prudence”

20. “Tomorrow Never Knows”

19. “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds”

18. “Across the Universe”

17. “Don’t Let Me Down”

16. “Day Tripper”

15. “Ticket to Ride”

14. “I Want to Hold Your Hand”

13. “She Loves You”

12. “Happy Xmas (War is Over)”

11. “Working Class Hero”

10. “All You Need is Love”

9. “Revolution”

8. “Come Together”

7. “Help!”

6. “Instant Karma (We All Shine On)” 

5. “Strawberry Fields Forever”

4. “A Hard Day’s Night”

3. “A Day in the Life”

2. “In My Life”

1. “Imagine” 


WTOP's Jason Fraley salutes John Lennon (Part 2)
Jason Fraley

Hailed by The Washington Post for “his savantlike ability to name every Best Picture winner in history," Jason Fraley began at WTOP as Morning Drive Writer in 2008, film critic in 2011 and Entertainment Editor in 2014, providing daily arts coverage on-air and online.

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