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Readers’ Poll: The 10 Greatest Solo Beatle Songs

Your picks include ‘Band on the Run,’ ‘Instant Karma’ and ‘What Is Life’

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Rock fans will forever wonder what would have happened to the Beatles had they carried on through the 1970s. We'll never know, but we can look to their solo projects for some answers. All four Beatles began the 1970s with very strong efforts (even Ringo had big hits) but, as the decade wore on, only Paul McCartney seemed capable of scoring on the charts. John Lennon came back strong in 1980 with Double Fantasy, though we'll obviously never know where he would have gone from there.

We asked our readers to vote for their favorite solo Beatle songs. All four of them landed at least one song in the Top 10. Click through to see the results. 


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4. George Harrison – ‘What Is Life’

George Harrison surprised a lot of people by landing a couple of massive hits on the charts right after the Beatles broke up. "My Sweet Lord" hit Number One all over the world, while "What Is Life" proved almost as popular. Today, many people know it merely as a song from all those soundtracks: it's in This Is 40, Patch Adams, Goodfellas and many more. It's almost as ubiquitous as "Let My Love Open the Door" or "Solsbury Hill." The track is deceptively simple, and more layers become apparent the more often you play it. 

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3. George Harrison – ‘My Sweet Lord’

"My Sweet Lord" was a huge blessing for George Harrison, but also a huge curse. It was a huge radio hit that helped propel the triple LP All Things Must Pass up the charts, but it also caused a plagiarism lawsuit that led to years of expensive and embarrassing litigation. The song is very similar to the 1963 Chiffons song "He's So Fine," and a court ultimately found that he "subconsciously" plagiarized the song. (The Chiffons later cut their own version of "My Sweet Lord.")

"He must have known, you know," John Lennon told Playboy in 1980.  "He's smarter than that. It's irrelevant, actually. . . only on a monetary level does it matter. He could have changed a couple of bars in that song and nobody could ever have touched him, but he just let it go and paid the price. Maybe he thought God would just sort of let him off."

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2. Paul McCartney – ‘Maybe I’m Amazed’

It took a long time for Paul McCartney's "Maybe I'm Amazed" to become a big hit single. He wrote the song about his wife Linda in 1969, before the Beatles even broke up. It first surfaced on his 1970 solo debut McCartney, but he didn't release it as a single. Only seven years later, when he released a live version on Wings Over America, did it finally land on the charts. That live version is the one you hear most often on the radio, and McCartney almost never finishes a concert without breaking out this song. 

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1. John Lennon – ‘Imagine’

This wasn't even a close contest. "Imagine" got over 200 more votes than the Number Two song. That shouldn't be a huge surprise, but the song is very polarizing. Many on the right see it as a call for socialism and communism. Lennon, however, had no such intent. It's merely a call for people to set aside their differences and come together in a peaceful fashion. "It's not like he thought, 'Oh, this can be an anthem,'” Yoko Ono has said. “It was just what John believed — that we are all one country, one world, one people. He wanted to get that idea out.”

The song is one of Bono's favorites. "I don't like how the song has become this New Age anthem — 'Imagine no restrictions,'" he's said. "It is a rigorous idea — that you have to hold a thought, and then go after it. My respect for John is that he didn't just have the thought. He went after it. Sometimes he made errors of judgment, but his mistakes were made in earnest."

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