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  • John Lennon’s son, Sean Ono Lennon said The Beach Boys’ “God Only Knows” changed his life.
  • He said listening to the song made him feel like he’d never heard a song before.
  • Sean credits Brian Wilson as a colossal influence on him.
John Lennon's son, Sean Ono Lennon, near a window
John Lennon’s son, Sean Ono Lennon | Paul Bergen/Redferns

John Lennon’s son, Sean Ono Lennon, said The Beach Boys‘ “God Only Knows” changed his life. In retrospect, he felt the song marked the beginning of his musical education. Notably, the track was not one of the band’s bigger hits in the United States and neither was its parent album.

John Lennon’s son said listening to The Beach Boys’ ‘God Only Knows’ was like drinking water after getting high

During a 2016 interview with Pitchfork, Sean discussed his feeling about one of The Beach Boys’ songs. “Suddenly, I found myself listening to ‘God Only Knows,'” he said. 

“Brian once described how drinking water after his first hash joint felt like his’ first glass of water,’ and I felt the same way when listening to ‘God Only Knows’ at that moment,” he added. “This was the first time I’d ever heard a song.” 

John Lennon’s son had to memorize every part of ‘God Only Knows’

Sea said the track opened his eyes. “It was the beginning of my true musical education,” he said. “No longer would I be self-taught; from now on I would be attending a graduate course at the Brian Wilson School of Music.”

The rest of the album Pet Sounds had a huge impact on him. “I ravenously consumed each song on the album, overcome by a sort of madness,” he said. “I couldn’t stop listening to ‘God Only Knows’ until I knew every single note of every instrument and vocal. I’d never played a major six or a minor major seven; I’d heard those colors before, but Pet Sounds made me see them and desire them, and to this day I hunger for them.”


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“God Only Knows” was merely a minor hit in the United States. The track reached No. 39 on the Billboard Hot 100, staying on the chart for eight weeks. The tune appeared on the album Pet Sounds, which was not a huge hit either. It reached No. 10 on the Billboard 200 and stayed on the chart for 47 weeks. Both the song and the album were not as successful as some of the band’s previous work.

Despite this, “God Only Knows” persisted in popular culture. For example, underground musician Daniel Johnston recorded a cover of “God Only Knows.” In addition, the original version of the song appeared the trailer for the A24 horror movie Lamb.

“God Only Knows” wasn’t much of a hit but it changed Sean’s life.