A Double No.1: The Powerful Aftermath Of John Lennon’s Passing

On both of Billboard’s main surveys for December 27, 1980, John climbed to No.1.

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John Lennon 'Double Fantasy' artwork - Courtesy: UMG
John Lennon 'Double Fantasy' artwork - Courtesy: UMG

For a man who tirelessly wrote, sang and campaigned for peace and harmony among his fellow humans, at least something fitting grew out of the cruel tragedy of John Lennon’s death. On the final sales charts of 1980, some three weeks after his murder, John’s music united the world, in both grief and celebration of his work. On both of Billboard’s main surveys for December 27, 1980, Lennon climbed to No.1.

“(Just Like) Starting Over,” his first new chart record in five years, had made its debut on the Hot 100 for November 1, wasting no time with an unusually high debut straight into the Top 40, at No.38. The magazine’s review of the single described it as “a tune that is reminiscent of rock’n’roll from the late 1950s. [Lennon’s] voice has never sounded better as he glides along steadily and gracefully with a solid melody line and pop-sounding material.” Yoko Ono’s B-side “Kiss Kiss Kiss” was described as a “peppery and cute selection.”

The single was comfortably inside the US Top 10 before the end of November, climbing to No.32 and then racing to No.10. But there’s no doubt that the collective sense of horror and outrage at Lennon’s senseless death propelled both the single and its parent album to greater heights. In the final chart of the year, ‘Starting Over’ replaced Kenny Rogers’ “Lady” at No.1, to start a five-week run at the top.

(JUST LIKE) STARTING OVER. (Ultimate Mix, 2020) - John Lennon (official music video HD)

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Double Fantasy, credited to both John and Yoko and featuring seven new songs by each, was similarly welcomed by most reviewers. The media picked up on and enjoyed the sense of renewal and survival in the pair’s long relationship. By late November, Billboard was listing the album as a “top national add-on” at album radio, alongside Steely Dan’s GauchoRod Stewart’s Foolish Behavior, and Heart’s Greatest Hits Live.

Listen to the best of John Lennon on Apple Music and Spotify.

The John and Yoko album duly made its chart debut at No.25, climbing to No.12 and then 11. The sickening events of December 8 outside the Dakota Building made their full impact on the final charts of the year, and Double Fantasy raced to No.1. Kenny Rogers was again the artist to give way, as John and Yoko’s final new work together started an eight-week reign, and the album became a triple platinum memorial.

Buy or stream “(Just Like) Starting Over” on the 2020 John Lennon compilation GIMME SOME TRUTH. The Ultimate Mixes.

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