The late John Lennon remains an icon to many. He was as much a poet and humanitarian as he was a singer/songwriter. A former Beatle, he made up one-half of the famous Lennon-McCartney songwriting duo. As a solo artist he reached "the moon, the stars and the sun." Whether singing his own material or covering rock n' roll hits composed by others, Lennon's inimitable tenor vocals remain some of the best in the history of the genre.
Imagine is Lennon's signature piece; it is also the best example of Lennon as poet. The message of this ballad is beautiful in its simplicity: Lennon asks us to imagine a world where, in essence, the lion lies down with the lamb. The instrumentation is subtle. Lennon accompanies himself on solo piano before a subdued drumbeat and bass join in, followed by a string orchestra. At the very end of the track, songbirds chirp in the distance.
In the 1980s, Rolling Stone's History of Rock n' Roll declared Lennon's "reedy tenor" on the Beatles' cover of this Motown classic to be the best male vocals -- ever. Money brings out the the raunchy, sexy side of Lennon. Listen to his pronunciation of "want." Makes a girl wanna swoon.
Another cover by the Beatles -- this time of the Isley Brothers -- Twist and Shout was part of the wave of Beatle hits to reach U.S. shores when the band first premiered on the Ed Sullivan Show in February, 1964. Twist and Shout marked Lennon's first outing in the U.S. as a rakish and sexy lead singer.
This is a personal favorite of mine. Its lyrics are stark, its message bleak. Lennon accompanies himself on acoustic guitar without any other instrumentation. In Working Class Hero, he sings of the psychic pain we call life. At the time, the song was banned in some locales for Lennon's use of the "F" word.
An unusual choice, perhaps, but this song marks a change in Lennon's vocal style. The words "well, well, well" are sung in a lower register than was normal for Lennon. In this lower register, the reediness of his voice is replaced by a deeper, macho sound. The song becomes bi-polar in nature, alternating between melody and screaming. It has regained notice in recent years after Martin Scorcese chose it for the soundtrack of his Oscar-winning movie, "The Departed."
If only this site were called listmyfifty... Then a writer could give John Lennon's vocals the full attention they deserve. Please let me know which John Lennon vocals are your favorite. Hopefully instant karma isn't gonna get me!!
select one here...