FlourishAnyway believes there is a playlist for just about any situation and is on a mission to unite and entertain the world through song.
If you are named John, move over because you're in good company. With biblical origins (think John the Baptist and John the Apostle), the name means "graced by God" or "God is gracious." A solid, masculine name, it exudes strength, steadfastness, and security.
With such positive connotations like these, it should thus come as no surprise that John is one of the top three baby names in the last 100 years overall, according to the US Social Security Administration. Johns and Johnnys share the popular moniker with world famous men past and present, including:
- politicians, Presidents, and Supreme Court Justices
- businessmen, CEOs, and philanthropists
- saints, popes, and kings
- soldiers and heroes
- writers, actors, and comedians and
- macabre criminals.
The name John has also appeared creatively as the subject of pop, rock, country, and R&B songs. (This playlist was inspired by my nephew who has the name.) If you are a John or Johnny—or know someone who is—make a fun playlist about men who share the name. We have a long list to start you off.
1. "Dear John" by Taylor Swift
John Mayer should have seen this one coming. After all, Taylor Swift has a habit of writing tunes about former boyfriends and their misdeeds. What did he seriously think was going to happen? Add to that their age difference. He was 32 and she was a tender 19. What could go wrong? Swift has acknowledged that the song is about Mayer.
The two singer-songwriters collaborated professionally for Mayer's single, "Half of My Heart," and they dated briefly in 2009 and 2010. Then Swift dished out this country-pop gem when their relationship hit the skids. "Dear John" is filled with delicious vitriol, weaving the tale of a naive 19-year-old who becomes smitten with a manipulative older man about whom others had warned her.
In the song, Swift acknowledges failing to heed their cautions to "run as fast as you can." As a result, she discovers for herself that she was "too young to be played by your dark, twisted games" and is left heartbroken as a result. Mayer reported that he felt humiliated by the blistering song that details how disrespectfully the singer treated her. However, he later released a musical retort that is assumed to be about her, "Paper Doll" (2013).
2. "Johnny B. Goode" by Chuck Berry
This 1958 song by Chuck Berrry is semi-autobiographical and often acknowledged as "the first rock & roll hit about rock & roll stardom." Although Berry himself was not unschooled, the tune describes an illiterate country boy from Louisiana who is an ace guitar player. The character in "Johnny B. Goode" receives encouragement in his quest to make a name for himself in music from both his adoring mother and local fans. Note that Berry grew up on Goode Street in St. Louis.
Rolling Stone recognized the classic ditty as one of the "500 Greatest Songs of All Time." In addition, Berry, considered by many to be the Father of Rock & Roll, was named to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and was awarded the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.
3. "John Wayne" by Lady Gaga
The woman in this rousing 2016 pop song is tired of all those refined, city slicker men she's been dating. Instead, she's looking for a man cut of the same cloth as John Wayne, the iconic cowboy hero of the silver screen. Wayne wasn't no sissy boy, ya hear? He was known for his rough 'n tumble masculinity, bravado, and his high sperm count. (Nah. I'm making that last one up, but you get the picture.)
In the song, the narrator wants a similar man's man—a cowboy type, a guy accustomed to hard living, risk, and an adrenaline pumping lifestyle:
Read More From Spinditty
Every John is just the same
I'm sick of their city games
I crave a real wild man
I'm strung out on John Wayne.
Watch out what you ask for, Gaga!
4. "Johnny Angel" by Shelley Fabares
The swooning teenage girl in this chart-topping 1962 pop song has a crush on a boy named Johnny. Unfortunately, however, she's taking the wrong approach in trying to get noticed. Johnny doesn't even know she exists.
Rather than trying to chat him up or dating other guys, the love-stricken narrator turns down all other offers for dates while she patiently waits on the sidelines for Johnny to notice her. The introverted girl may be waiting forever at this rate.
5. "New Kid in Town" by Eagles
A Johnny-come-lately is a newcomer, some fresh-faced talent on the scene. It's not necessarily a man named "John" but we'll give it a technical pass.
This classic rock song from 1976 is about the Eagles' finding celebrity and success in the music industry. Young and hungry, the band has achieved an initial splash in the entertainment world but now feel the weight of big expectations from fans and critics alike. They notice that even old friends treat them differently.
They express in the song that their time in the sun will end at some point, as they anticipate being replaced by a Johnny-come-lately, just as they replaced hit makers who came before them. It's a natural part of aging and just part of the industry.
Rolling Stone magazine named the Eagles as one of the "100 Greatest Artists of All Time." The Grammy Award-winning group was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and is one of the world's best-selling bands.
6. "Johnny Cash" by Jason Aldean
The frustrated young man in this 2007 country song suddenly quits his job in anger and calls his girlfriend to tell her that he's picking her up in his Pontiac. Wait what?
She throws her suitcase in the back and they head out of town with Johnny Cash's music blaring loud on the radio. Their destination is Vegas, where they plan to elope. They don't ever plan to come back, but you know how that usually works out.
7. "Big Bad John" by Jimmy Dean
This 1961 tune tells the fabled story of a large framed miner from New Orleans who takes on folklore status similar to Paul Bunyan or John Henry. The tragic tale that is told in Jimmy Dean's signature song is not based on a real situation. It was intended to be a personal joke but instead became a #1 hit on both pop and country charts. The ginormous John character in the song, however, is loosely based on an actor friend of Dean's.
In "Big Bad John," John is an imposing man whose reputation precedes him, as he once allegedly killed a man over a Cajun woman:
He stood six-foot-six and weighed two-forty-five
Kinda broad at the shoulder and narrow at the hip
And everybody knew ya didn't give no lip to Big John
(Big John, Big John)
Big bad John (Big John).
While working in the mine one day, a timber support beam collapses, and the large man holds the structure in place to his own peril, allowing 20 coworkers to escape with their lives. As the men subsequently prepare to go back into the mine to save John, who is trapped alone there, it collapses fully on him.
He is buried alive and presumed dead. The workers cap the mine off and never open it again, commemorating him in marble at the entrance of his eternal resting place.
8. "She Thinks His Name Was John" by Reba McEntire
While Hollywood and other musical genres highlighted the tragedy of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, country music considered the subject to be taboo until Reba McEntire dared to break the silence with this 1994 emotional ballad. Her song describes a woman who is dying of the illness after acquiring it in an alcohol-fueled one-night stand with a handsome stranger whose name she can't 100% place.
For about a decade, the following was about all country music had to say on the HIV/AIDS subject:
Now each day is one day that's left in her life
She won't know love, have a marriage or sing lullabies
She lays all alone and cries herself to sleep
'Cause she let a stranger kill her hopes and her dreams
And all her friends say what a pity, what a loss
And in the end when she was barely hangin' on
All she could say is she thinks his name was John.
9. "John Wayne Gacy Jr." by Sufjan Stevens
It takes a certain kind of person to promote empathy for a rapist and serial killer of 33 people, but that's what the narrator in this 2005 indie folk song advocates. He portrays John Wayne Gacy, Jr. as a troubled child who could have been any one of us. Specifically, he paints the mass murderer as the child of an alcoholic father and depressive mother who encountered a head injury when "the swing set hit his head."
The key difference between young Gacy and others, however, is that this boy had an early penchant for death ("Look underneath the house there / Find the few living things, rotting fast, in their sleep"). After referencing the clown killer's repulsive, violent acts of inhumanity, the narrator ventures to liken himself to Gacy and in so doing points out that anyone is potentially capable of such acts. What do you think?
10. "Good Morning John" by Waylon Jennings
Legendary country singer Johnny Cash was an alcoholic who was also addicted to barbituates and amphetamines. In addition to racking up 13 Grammys and other notable awards, the entertainer was known for his personal demons. He was arrested seven times and experienced brushes with death, interventions, and stints in rehab.
But sobriety is an awakening, a new dawn, and Cash was clean and sober sometimes for years at a time before relapsing. This song was released in 1985 by Cash's friend, country musician Waylon Jennings. "Good Morning John" first had been released more than a decade previously by another singer-songwriter friend, Kris Kristofferson, as a part of a sobriety celebration.
Cherishing new beginnings, the tune is one of cautious optimism that focuses on the newly recovering addict's future. The narrator expresses love and support for his friend as well as relief as he welcomes John to the rest of his life. The Man in Black struggled with addiction off and on until his death in 2003.
11. "Book of John" by Tim McGraw
You may have an old family scrapbook you treasure similar to the one that is the subject of this 2013 country song. Almost discarded by mistake, the three-ring binder holds heirloom memories of the family patriarch who has passed away. The family sorts through photos, old receipts, and mementos and fondly recall memories of their beloved John in his role as father, husband, son, and friend.
12. "Johnny Boy" by Twenty One Pilots
This 2009 pop ditty is a based on the experience of Twenty One Pilots frontman Tyler Joseph's father. He was laid off in the economic crisis of 2007–2008 and The Great Recession that followed. Seeing his skilled father depressed and unemployed and just hanging around the house made the son feel helpless, thereby prompting this song. During that time frame, 22 million other Americans also became unemployed.
The song describes a man who loses his job and is too ashamed to tell his wife. Despite his qualifications, he lays on the floor moping over his job loss and possibly contemplating suicide. The narrator attempts to rally the man's confidence to carry him through the temporary downturn in his life.
Losing a job can decimate a person's self-esteem and catapult them into depression, even when the job loss isn't their fault. Aside from the financial stress, the individual loses social connectivity, a sense of identity, and a way to structure their time. They must also deal with people casting aspersions on them.
30 Musicians Named John or Johnny
John Michael Montgomery
Jon Bon Jovi
John Oates (of Hall & Oates)
John Rich (of Lonestar and Big & Rich)
John Lee Hooker
Johnny Van Zant (of Lynyrd Skynyrd)
13. "Can't Keep Johnny Down" by They Might Be Giants
Have you met a guy like Johnny with a huge chip on his shoulder? The jealous, bitter man in this 2011 alt-rock ditty never forgets a slight and is fueled by private rage. Feeling like everyone is against him, Johnny is determined not to let anyone keep him down. If he keeps this attitude up long enough, his me-against-the-world attitude may become reality.
14. "John Cockers" by John Mellencamp
John Cockers, the lone wolf subject of this 2008 rock song, has a hard edge and a harder heart. He lives down a dirty road and has lost contact with his family. When a person is this alone in the world with many contacts but no friends, it's no wonder they feel they have nothing to look forward to.
The hopeless fella has abandoned any past values he used to possess and now just takes care of himself. Accepting that he's a square peg in a round hole, the self-centered narrator has given up attempting to accommodate other people in any way. John expects that one day he'll grow weary of living this empty life and will finally lie down and die and no one will miss him. Singer-songwriter John Mellencamp has explained that the persona of John Cockers represents the many rude and disrespectful people who do not value community or life.
15. "Johnny Get Angry" by Joanie Sommers
Watch her. She's trouble. The retro gal in this 1962 pop song knows what she wants and might as well be asking for a spanking, too. The narrator declares that she needs her boyfriend, Johnny, to be "a brave man ... a cave man" by showing more possessiveness of her when another guy tries to cut into their dance.
Moreover, the girl plays toxic, emotional games with Johnny by breaking up with him merely to gauge his reaction. Then, dissatisfied with his dejected response, the little princess wants him to display a temper and lecture her good. Run, Johnny, as fast as you can! This gal doesn't do healthy relationships.
16. "Johnny Met June" by Shelby Lynne
Johnny Cash first met June Carter backstage at the Grand Ole Opry in 1956 when he was married to his first wife. Carter was singing backup for Elvis at the time. This 2005 country song is not about that meeting but instead about their final meeting many decades later, a heavenly homegoing when Johnny Cash joined his wife of 35 years.
June helped Johnny in his struggle with addictions and suffered her own. They made music and memories together, and she died in 2003 with him holding her hand. He joined her in death less than four months later.
17. "John Cougar, John Deere, John 3:16" by Keith Urban
You may wonder what the titular "three Johns" in this 2015 country pop crossover single have to do with one another. The song narrator looks back on his life so far and rattles off a number of images, summarizing that everything he has learned boils down to John Cougar, John Deer, and John 3:16.
Each John is a symbol in this song. First, in name-dropping the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame musician John Cougar (aka John Mellencamp), the narrator gives a silent nod to Cougar's common song themes about coming of age, young love, and breaking the rules. The narrator subsequently offers up memories from his own youth that pertain to teenage sexual tension, driving cars, and adolescent rebellion.
Second, John Deere is a long-lasting brand of farm equipment known for its perfection. This John is offered up as a symbol of the narrator's work ethic that was engrained in him by his parents and his rural roots. As a musician "baptized by rock and roll" who is committed to his career choice, he includes memories of his hard work: playing his first Gibson guitar, working at a Texaco station, and struggling against loneliness and isolation during his early years as a struggling musician ("on the boulevard of broken dreams").
Finally, the man in the song refers to the last symbolic John, a famous Bible verse:
John 3:16: For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.
The narrator admits that he spent many years turning away from God as he looked for other ways to fill his soul. Eventually, however, he came back home to the spiritual foundation he grew up with.
18. "Johnny Are You Queer?" by Josie Cotton
So Johnny, what is the deal? It sure seems like you're letting this gal throw a lot of shade your way.
Johnny is a young man who asks the female narrator of this song out on a date and decides he isn't that into her after all, even though she tries to seduce him. She attributes his lack of interest and apparent preference for dancing and hanging out with his friends as evidence that he is gay.
The narrator naturally feels wounded. With a bruised ego, she reaches for an excuse to attribute his lack of interest in her.
This 1981 new wave song caused a lot of heat at the time. (Recall that it was a much different era.) Several conservative groups launched wild accusations about the singer trying to promote homosexuality while LGBTQ groups called her a homophobe.
19. "Johnny Thunder" by The Kinks
This 1968 folk rock song describes a rebellious biker character, Johnny Thunder, who "rides the highway, moves like lightning" and needs nothin' from nobody. The rugged guy fights his way through life, subsists on very little, and refuses to listen to townsfolk. Johnny turns his back on them because he just doesn't need them.
Even so, there's someone for everyone, and sweet Helena pines for him and prays for his soul. Although the townspeople "will never, ever break him down" by talking sense into Johnny, maybe one day Helena will be able to do so ... or perhaps she will join him on the back of his bike!
20. "Johnny and Mary" by Robert Palmer
In this sad 1980 rock song with a hard pulsing beat, John is a compulsive cheater involved in an empty and desperate pursuit. He wants to be wanted and needs to be socially recognized as someone who is important and worthy.
While he chases skirts, his wife, Mary, enables his behavior. Although she doesn't approve of his infidelity, willful disregard of John's habitual adultery is a sacrifice that Mary makes so that she can enjoy a comfortable and structured life of a politician's wife. She conveniently makes excuses for her husband and believes that John will eventually tire of running around. He never does.
Even More Songs About Men Named John or Johnny
21. Johnny Come Home
Fine Young Cannibals
22. Johnny Guitar
23. Who's Johnny
24. Catfish John
25. Johnny Cool
Little Peggy March
26. Johnny B
27. Double Shot of John Wayne
28. Bye Bye Johnny
29. Handsome Johnny
30. Dear John
31. Frankie's Man Johnny
32. Be Good Johnny
Men at Work
33. John, I'm Only Dancing
34. Johnny Come Lately
35. Johnny Can't Read
36. The Ballad of John and Yoko
37. The Letter That Johnny Walker Read
Asleep at the Wheel
38. Johnny Guitar
39. Johnny's Gonna Die
40. John Henry
41. Johnny Don't Do It
42. Johnny Loves Me
43. Johnny Blade
45. My Big John
46. House of Cash
47. Johnny & June
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