Skip to main content

John Lennon was influenced by many early American rock n’ roll stars and sometimes found his influences taking control of his style. He once got in trouble for ripping off Chuck Berry and went through a phase where he tried to emulate Bob Dylan. One song by The Beatles featured John Lennon playing energetically on the piano in a style similar to Jerry Lee Lewis. 

John Lennon performed like Jerry Lee Lewis on The Beatles’ ‘I’m Down’

The Beatles first released “I’m Down” in 1965 as the B-side to “Help!”. The track is credited to Lennon-McCartney but was primarily written by Paul McCartney, who wrote the song while living in his girlfriend Jane Asher’s house. McCartney sings his lungs out on the song and was inspired by Little Richard’s powerful vocals. 

“A lot of people were fans of Little Richard, so I used to sing his stuff, but there came a point when I wanted one of my own, so I wrote ‘I’m Down’,” McCartney said in Many Years From Now

The track is also unique as it features Lennon playing the organ, an instrument rarely used in other Beatles songs. Whenever The Beatles performed this song live, the energy was always at a maximum high. In Anthology, John Lennon recalled performing “I’m Down” when the band performed at Shea Stadium, and the “Imagine” singer said he embodied Jerry Lee Lewis. 

“I was putting my foot on [the organ], and George couldn’t play for laughing,” Lennon explained. “I was doing it for a laugh. The kids didn’t know what I was doing. Because I did the organ on ‘I’m Down’, I decided to play it on stage for the first time. I didn’t really know what to do because I felt naked without a guitar, so I was doing all Jerry Lee – I was jumping about, and I only played about two bars of it.”

Lennon said one song by Jerry Lee was impossible to improve upon


John Lennon Left a ‘Crumb’ in ‘Glass Onion’ for Paul McCartney

Jerry Lee Lewis was one of the earliest legends of rock n’ roll. He emerged in the 1950s, around the same time as other rock stars, like Elvis Presley and Chuck Berry. He had well-known hits like “Great Balls of Fire” and “Breathless,” but his 1957 hit “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin on” is what sent his career into the stratosphere. 

In a 1971 interview with Jann Wenner of Rolling Stone, the British singer-songwriter said rock n’ roll made him fall in love with music and said there’s nothing better than this genre. John Lennon claimed that no group, including The Beatles, could improve upon other songs, specifically Jerry Lee Lewis’s “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin On”. 

“That’s the music that inspired me to play music,” Lennon said. “There is nothing conceptually better than rock and roll. No group, be it the Beatles, Dylan, or Stones, have ever improved on ‘Whole Lot of Shakin’” for my money. Or maybe I’m like our parents: that’s my period, and I dig it and I’ll never leave it.”