How Rockstars Remembered John Lennon Through Their Songs

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On December 8, 1980, five revolver shots roared into the New York night and reverberated around the world. John Lennon, ex-Beatle, rock icon, political activist, husband, and father was killed by the impact of four projectiles. His killer, Mark David Chapman, was an unbalanced fan who had traveled from Hawaii and waited all day in front of the musician’s residence to commit the act that would forever link him to his idol.

Take a look below at how rockers remembered John Lennon in song.

George Harrison, “All Those Years Ago”

Harrison finished a quick demo of this tune for Ringo Starr, but the drummer thought the vocal was out of his range. Harrison then reverts to “All Those Years Ago” after Lennon’s death, retaining the Starr beat track but composing fresh lyrics honoring his fallen bandmate. Paul McCartney joined them not long after to add backing vocals, making the first song to highlight all three Beatles following the 1970’s “I Me Mine.”

Stevie Nicks, “Edge of Seventeen”

Stevie Nicks adopted “Edge of Seventeen” to mend her heartache after John Lennon was killed and her uncle suffered from cancer within weeks of one another. “Every time I sing this song I have that ability to go back to that two-month period where it all came down,” Nicks later remembered. “I can’t imagine ending my show with any other song. It’s such a strong, private moment that I share in this song.”

Rossington Collins Band, “Tashauna”

Gary Rossington and Allen Collins had previously experienced their crushing grief when the plane transporting their group Lynyrd Skynyrd went down in 1977 – killing three bandmates, including singer Ronnie Van Zant. They reflected to form this by-product band and then recorded “Tashauna,” which reflects on both disasters by giving tribute to both Van Zant and the more recently deceased Lennon at the time.

Paul McCartney, “Here Today”

The carefully conducted “Here Today” sealed out Side One of Tug of War on a private note, as McCartney envisioned a chat with his late friend and bandmate. “The ‘I love you’ part was hard to say,” he later admitted. “A part of me said, ‘Hold on. Wait a minute. Are you really going to do that?’ I finally said, ‘Yeah, I’ve got to. It’s true.'” 

Elton John, “Empty Garden (Hey Hey Johnny)”

A godfather to Lennon’s youngest son, Sean. Elton John rarely performed “Empty Garden (Hey Hey Johnny)” in concert. “I love the lyric and I love the song,” Elton told the Express, but “it’s very hard for me to sing it. I get quite emotional singing that song.”  

Queen, “Life Is Real”

Queen’s Freddie Mercury seems to grasp that Lennon will never return. He was so touched by the misfortune, he penned the lyrics before the music. “I just feel that I’m not equipped enough to do certain things that John Lennon did,” Mercury argued, “and I don’t think anybody should.”

Paul Simon, “The Late Great Johnny Ace”

Paul Simon debuted this Lennon tribute tune during his Performance in Central Park in 1981 however, he didn’t incorporate it on the live document that followed.

Molly Hatchet, “Fall of the Peacemakers”

“Fall of the Peacemakers” also incorporates well-known Lennon quotes from “Give Peace a Chance” and “Imagine.”

David Gilmour, “Murder”

Recording between a period of time in Pink Floyd, David Gilmour places the scene at the Dakota as Mark David Chapman follows other lingering fans while seeking his murderous intent on the song, Murder.

Julian Lennon, “Too Late for Goodbyes”

Ever since you’ve been leaving me, I’ve been wanting to cry.” Lennon demurred, telling Songfacts that “initially it was about a girl, a relationship.” But then he highlighted a much Lennon-esque character in the music video, with long hair and an all-white outfit.

The Outfield, “John Lennon”

Spinks is conclusively bequeathed to wish something contrary had occurred when Mark David Chapman screamed out the ex-Beatles star’s name: “Don’t turn around; don’t turn around.”

The Cranberries, “I Just Shot John Lennon”

Mark David Chapman’s line when he had done the gruesome murder, “I Just Shot John Lennon” brings us in the surface that day’s turmoil and violence. 

Gerry Marsden, “Much Missed Man”

Gerry Marsden mix up recollections of Lennon’s early years and early sounds with this song.

Neil Young, “Devil’s Sidewalk”

“Devil’s Sidewalk,” the third piece in the Crazy Horse early-’00s reunion, references “Come Together” from 1969’s Abbey Road: “One thing I can tell you, is you got to be free – John Lennon said that.” 

Oasis, “I’m Outta Time”

Liam Gallagher appears to question clearly if a comparable future awaits him, asking: “If I’m to fall, would you be there to applaud?

Bob Dylan, “Roll On John”

Dylan’s tribute references essential Lennon verses, including “Come together right now” and “I heard the news today, oh boy.”