The whole world knows that two weeks ago Julian Lennon broke a lifelong pledge and publicly sang his father’s international hit “Imagine”. His reason for going back on his longstanding statement was to aid the people in crisis in Ukraine. Every penny of royalties from the making of the song will go to Ukrainian relief. Believe it or not, the massive hit “Imagine” never reached number one in either the UK or the U.S., It reached number 3 on the Billboard Hot 100, and was popular in the UK at the time although it was not officially released as a single until 1975. It was not until 1975 that John Lennon had his first number one hit with “Whatever Gets You Thru the Night”, which was his only number one hit during his lifetime as “Starting Over” topped the charts immediately following his December 1980 death.
Everyone remembers Julian Lennon’s stunning 1984 debut album Valotte, which yielded three hit singles in the U.S. “Valotte” peaked at No. 9 on the Billboard Hot 100; “Much Too Late for Goodbyes” peaked at No. 5; “Say You’re Wrong” stalled at No. 21.
However, Julian’s half-brother, Sean Lennon, was responsible for a number one hit on the Billboard Hot 100. In 1988 the teenage Sean Lennon was hanging out with Billy Joel and expressing to Joel his dismay over the state of the world. Sean then said to Joel, who was born in 1949, that he wished he had been born in the 1950’s because nothing happened then. Needless to say, Joel shot back at Lennon with all of the significant things that happened in the 1950’s.
After Lennon left, Joel started writing down a list of every significant thing t hat happened in the 1950’s. By the end of the day he was composing his future number one song “We Didn’t Start the Fire”, which is famous for rattling off important parts of history and culture from the 1950’s and 1960’s. Reaching number one on, it was Joel’s third and final number one hit. His two were “It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me” (1980) and “Tell Her About It” (1983).
The Rolling Stone article “Billy Joel Hits Number One with We Didn’t Start the Fire” explains how Sean Lennon inspired the number one song.