474. ‘Woman’, by John Lennon

Part III of the Great John Lennon Mourning Period. A single from his brand new record kicks the re-released classic from top spot, only the second time an artist had replaced themselves at #1 (Lennon was also quite heavily involved when ‘I Want To Hold Your Hand’ replaced ‘She Loves You’ seventeen years earlier).

Woman, by John Lennon (his 3rd and final #1)

2 weeks, 1st – 15th February 1981

Just like ‘Starting Over’ – see what I did there –this is another love-letter to Yoko. He starts off by whispering The other half of the sky… (reminding me of the whispered ‘Happy Christmases’ on ‘Happy Xmas (War Is Over)’) and then launches into a detailed explanation of why this woman is so special: Woman, I will try to express, My inner feelings, And thankfulness…

It is a bit soppy. And a bit simplistic. Like ‘Imagine’, the message is sincere but basic. And Lennon’s voice is as close to simpering as I’ve ever heard it, especially on the Hold me close to your heart… line. While the chorus is all ooh-ooh-oohs and do-do-do-dodos. ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’ it is not. Nor is it the equal of much of Lennon’s earlier solo stuff: ‘Mind Games’, ‘Whatever Gets You Thru the Night’, ‘#9 Dream’ and the like…

That’s not to say it’s a bad song. It’s fine. It’s still a song written by John Lennon, and the quality is there. But like ‘Starting Over’, this wouldn’t have been coming anywhere close to #1 had the tragic not occurred. And I’ve always thought that calling the song ‘Woman’ was a little insulting. He could just as easily have called it ‘Yoko’ and it would still have scanned (though perhaps wouldn’t have sold quite as well…) Still, as Lennon himself said, it is a tribute to all women: Yoko, and you’d imagine his late mother, the aunt that raised him, his first wife Cynthia… That makes it a little more sincere to my ears.

I’ve never fully listened to ‘Double Fantasy’, the album from which this and ‘(Just Like) Starting Over’ came, released three weeks before Lennon’s murder. Going by the song titles there was a bit of a theme going on: ‘Dear Yoko’ and ‘Beautiful Boy (Darling Boy)’ from John, and ‘Beautiful Boys’ and ‘Every Man Has a Woman Who Loves Him’ from Yoko. It’s a celebration of love and family, against which the image of Lennon being gunned down in the doorway of his home, his wife watching on, becomes even more horrific.

But from what I have heard from the album, I’m not sure it would be so well-regarded if it hadn’t been for his soon-to-follow death. Lennon himself won’t be back on top of the charts – the 3rd single, ‘Watching the Wheels’, only made #30, which is a shame because it’s better than either of the #1s – but there is one more tribute to come before the Great Mourning Period wraps up. It must have been a sad time, and people must have been looking for some light relief. For what else would explain our next #1 single…? Gulp!

9 thoughts on “474. ‘Woman’, by John Lennon

  1. For me, what I like the most about “Woman” is the dreamy and angelic quality in the guitars and backing vocals and I like the premise of expressing appreciation to all the women in your life. Despite its success at the time, it’s not a Lennon song you’ll hear often now but when it’s on it’s a nice listen. It got close to #1 in America not long after “(Just Like) Starting Over” peaking at #2 behind two #1s: REO Speedwagon’s “Keep On Loving You” and Blondie’s “Rapture.” “Watching The Wheels” did go Top 10 in America peaking at #10 later in the spring and it’s another solid song and I like Lennon singing about how people thought he was crazy for taking his five years off from music to raise Sean. People’s mourning for John Lennon even went as far as 1984 when Yoko put together other songs from the Double Fantasy sessions into Milk and Honey which spawned the #5 hit “Nobody Told Me.”

    • I really like ‘Watching the Wheels’, but it seems that the Lennon-love died away pretty quickly as that only made #30 later in the year. For me, the best Lennon is ‘Mind Games’, ‘#9 Dream’, and his rock ‘n’ roll covers. And ‘Jealous Guy’, which is coming up soon in a cover-version.

  2. It’s a decent pop song and that is it. It’s closer to McCartney’s musically than Lennon. Cheap Trick played some in the recording of this album but I’ve read where Yoko didn’t like it. Watching the Wheels is a great song…the charts had it wrong on that one. I’m Losing You (Cheap Trick backing version) competes with his old music.

    Personally I liked Starting Over a lot…He is Elvis in that song…Woman is the weakest of his songs on the album. Double Fantasy is a good pop album. It’s been built up too much and torn down too much because of what happened. It got him back in the spot light again and I think his next album would not have been so pop….I LOVE Nobody Told Me off of the next album that was released years later.

  3. Not one of his very best but it was sweet and sincere. Beautiful Boy should have been the follow up, thats just gorgeous and sums up the 5 years. Paul was still firing great in the early 80s, waterfalls is brilliant, temporary secretary and coming up very quirky 80s synth – not the awful live usa version, the one with the Sparks tribute video. Here Today was sad, tug of war great take it away fun. In terms of non ballad stuff, pauls 70s output easily outdoes johns. Jet. Band on the run. Listen to what the man says. Helen wheels. Live and let die. Despite popular opinion it was john who was largely the ballad man post beatles, paul was the more experimental after plastic ono band. Yokos walking on thin ice is also more exciting than any john record – the track they were working on the night of the murder.

  4. Pingback: Recap: #451 – #480 – The UK Number Ones Blog

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