John Lennon praises Springsteen’s “Hungry Heart” in final interview hours before his death

As has been frequently mentioned in books about The Beatles, George Harrison and John Lennon shared in common a favorite song of all-time: “A Whiter Shade of Pale”, the 1967 mega-hit by Procol Harum. Paul’s favorite song of all-time is the 1964 Moody Blues’ early hit “Go Now”, which featured Denny Laine on lead vocals and guitar. Laine left the band shortly after that hit and before The Moody Blues were to experience international stardom. When Paul was putting together his new band, Wings, in 1972, the first person he hired was Denny Laine. Laine was the sole constant member in Wings during their 1972-1981 existence.

However, John Lennon had another favorite song. This song was not his all-time favorite, but the last favorite song of his life. In the several days before his death in December 1980, the ex-Beatle was extremely “high” on Bruce Springsteen’s new song “Hungry Heart” from the album The River, which was getting a ton of airplay that week and climbing the charts where it would eventually reach the number five position. In his last interview ever, only a few hours prior to his murder on December 8, 1980, he said that “Hungry Heart” was his favorite song on the radio at that time and how much he enjoyed it. In the aftermath of his death, both Time and Newsweek mentioned that Lennon was in awe of “Hungry Heart” in his final week.

Some articles in music magazines mention that John was taken aback by Springsteen’s The River album in general, particularly “Hungry Heart”, which made him think he should have included some of his heavier songs like “Serve Yourself” on his Double Fantasy album. MTV published the famous Rolling Stone interview on the anniversary of Lennon’s death, entitled “John Lennon’s Final Rolling Stone Interview”. Discussing John’s views on the pressures of superstardom, it quotes the ex-Beatle as saying, “And God help Bruce Springsteen when they decide he’s no longer God ….. they’ll turn on him and I hope he survives it.”

“Hungry Heart” was unique in that backing vocals were provided by Marc Volman and Howard Kaylan, the lead singers and founding members of The Turtles. The two performed as the duo “Flo and Eddie” in the 1970’s. The Turtles had a popular number one hit, “Happy Together“, which topped the charts for three weeks beginning on March 25, 1967; in addition, they had four other top ten hits: “It Ain’t Me Babe” (# 8 in 1965), “She’d Rather Be with Me” (# 3 in 1967), “Elenore” (# 6 in 1968), and “You Showed Me” (# 6 in 1969).

“Hungry Heart”, though today a staple of classic rock and perceived as a major hit, did not hit number one on the charts. In fact, to this day, Bruce Springsteen amazingly has never had a number one hit on the Billboard Hot 100. He came so very close in 1984 when “Dancing in the Dark” reached number two and stayed in the second slot for an astounding four weeks, never making the jump to number one. “Dancing in the Dark” was the first track released off of the international smash album Born in the U.S.A. What boggles the mind is that Born in the U.S.A. set the record for being the album with the most top ten singles yet none of these seven songs reached number one. In addition to “Dancing in the Dark”, the following six songs from the 1984 album scored in the top ten on the charts: “Cover Me” (# 7), “Born in the U.S.A.” (# 9), “I’m Goin’ Down” (# 9), “Glory Days” (# 5), “I’m on Fire” (# 6), and “My Hometown” (# 6).

Springsteen’s signature song, “Born to Run“, the title track from his 1975 breakthrough album, only stayed in the Top 40 for five weeks, unbelievably peaking at number 23.

Ironically, Springsteen wrote a song that topped the charts. “Blinded by the Light” was on his very first album, Greetings from Asbury Park,, in 1973. Three years later, Manfred Mann’s Earth Band put out a most funky version of “Blinded by the Light”, which reached number one for one week on February 19, 1977.

The album Born in the U.S.A. has a unique place in history. At the time of its release, albums and cassette tapes were still the norm; in fact, the cassette version offered an additional song, “Pink Cadillac”, as a means to prevent people from buying the vinyl album and letting other people tape it on cassette. CD’s were a couple of years away from the mainstream. The CD version of Born in the U.S.A. believe it or not was actually the first CD to be manufactured in the U.S.A. The first CD ever issued occurred in October 1982 with Billy Joel’s 1978 album 52nd Street; this very first CD and every other one were manufactured in Japan until Born in the U.S.A. was the first American-made CD in September 1984 at CBS Records’ newly opened pressing plant in Terre Haute, Indiana.

The famous music website UltimateClassicRock.com has an article on Billy Joel’s 52nd Street being the first ever CD issued entitled “33 Years Ago: Billy Joel’s ‘52nd Street’ Becomes First Compact Disc Released”, as well as an article on entitled “31 Years Ago: Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Born in the U.S.A.’ Becomes First American-Made Compact Disc”.

Springsteen’s highly anticipated autobiography Born to Run will be released worldwide on September 27. One can only speculate that the autobiography will include something about John Lennon’s touching endorsement of “Hungry Heart” only hours before the ex-Beatle’s tragic death.

It was most unusual for John Lennon to praise Bruce Springsteen’s “Hungry Heart” in light of the fact that the song and his own song, “(Just Like) Starting Over”, were released three days apart and competing against each other for airplay and chart positions. While it is hard to believe that Springsteen has never had a number hit, when John Lennon praised “Hungry Heart” the ex-Beatle would only have one number one hit in the U.S. in his lifetime; even his 1971 international hit and signature solo song “Imagine” only reached number three. The only number one hit that the ex-Beatle had in his lifetime was “Whatever Gets You Thru the Night”, which topped the charts for one week on November 16, 1974. Almost three weeks after John’s Lennon’s tragic death, “(Just Like) Starting Over” was a posthumous number one hit, reaching the top slot on December 27, 2016 and holding the top position for five consecutive weeks.

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