5 Must-Hear Songs by Sean Ono Lennon

Sean Ono Lennon said his favorite Beatles albums are Revolver and Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and the abstractions of his father’s music have defined his own kaleidoscopic career. You can hear Lennon’s ’60s psychedelic influence on James McCartney’s brand new song “Primrose Hill,” a second-generation Lennon-McCartney composition.

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He’s the son of John Lennon and Yoko Ono, so challenging the boundaries of art is in his DNA. Lennon prefers to operate below the spotlight, and his music covers many genres, including alternative rock, progressive and psychedelic rock, avant-garde folk, and Japanese art pop.

Over his career, he’s been a member of Cibo Matto, The Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger, and The Claypool Lennon Delirium with Primus’ Les Claypool. He’s also released two critically acclaimed solo albums and composed music for films.

Consider this a sample of Lennon’s sprawling and under-the-radar body of work—the first five songs to include on your Sean Ono Lennon cosmic playlist.

“Into the Sun” from Into the Sun (1998)

“Into the Sun” is the title track to Lennon’s solo debut, produced by his then-girlfriend Yuka Honda. (Honda co-founded Cibo Matto, a band Lennon would eventually join.) Lennon and Honda recorded the album in New York City with drummer (and Ringo Starr’s son) Zak Starkey. The Beastie Boys released Into the Sun on their Capitol Records imprint, Grand Royal. The song sounds like a Burt Bacharach bossa nova with echoes of John Lennon’s nasally tenor.

And when the day is done
I will follow you into the sun
And after all my love
I will follow you into the sun

“Parachute” from Friendly Fire (2006)

For Lennon’s second solo album, he wraps catharsis in alternative soft rock. He’s not a singer who raises his voice to extremes, and he benefits from Jon Brion’s arrangements and baroque instrumentation as lifting tools when he’s most despairing. Though Lennon was born into rock ‘n’ roll royalty, his romantic struggles persist. “Parachute” begins with him singing, Love is like an airplane / We jump in then we pray / The lucky ones remain / In the clouds for days. Friendly Fire may be Lennon’s most reserved work, but it was born from his turbulent relationship with actress Bijou Phillips, the daughter of Papa John Phillips and Genevieve Waite.

Baby, don’t you cry
You had to bring me down
We had some fun before we hit the ground

“Amethyst Realm” from South of Reality by The Claypool Lennon Delirium (2019)

When Les Claypool described Lennon, he said, “Sean is a musical mutant after my own heart. He definitely reflects his genetics—not just the sensibilities of his dad but also the abstract perspective and unique approach of his mother. It makes for a glorious freak stew.” The Claypool Lennon Delirium is part King Crimson, part Cream, and Lennon’s far-out ’60s psych rock mixes surprisingly well with Claypool’s kooky sarcasm. Both Claypool and Lennon perform most of the instrumentation, and the track benefits from Claypool’s sly groove. “Amethyst Realm” features hazy noises and peaks with Lennon’s guitar solo, which combines Robert Fripp’s math and David Gilmour’s eloquence.

The game she played was dangerous
This kind of love is vaporous
She could sense when he was there
A fragrance upon the air

“Tomorrow Never Came” from Lust for Life by Lana Del Rey and Sean Ono Lennon (2017)

Lennon co-wrote and produced the sublime “Tomorrow Never Came” with Lana Del Rey and Rick Nowels. Del Rey and Lennon reference Bob Dylan (“Lay, Lady, Lay”), F. Scott Fitzgerald (This Side of Paradise), and Elton John (“Tiny Dancer”) over gauzy dream pop. Del Rey goes full meta when she sings, Lennon and Yoko / We would play all day long / “Isn’t life crazy?” I said / Now that I’m singing with Sean, Whoa, oh. Meanwhile, the song’s pre-chorus borrows chords from George Harrison’s “Something.” It’s not a stretch to assume the title is an answer to “Tomorrow Never Knows” from The Beatles’ Revolver.

I just wanted things to be the same
You said to meet me up there tomorrow
But tomorrow never came

“Animals” from Midnight Sun by The GOASTT (2014)

In 2008, Lennon formed The Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger (The GOASTT) with his girlfriend Charlotte Kemp Muhl. The band, like most of Lennon’s work, is purposefully low-key. “Animals” aims at pop culture and conspiracy theories over a noisy, experimental folk track. Lennon returns to his favorite period in rock ‘n’ roll with ’60s psych-rock and sings about messages from Jesus “upon the grilled cheese” and aliens depositing Elvis in the Pleiades—a star cluster more than 400 light-years from Earth.

Animals have escaped the zoo
Coming down 5th Avenue
Now there’s nothing left to do
Stop running away

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Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images for Coachella

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