Damon Albarn wishes he could have worked with his idol John Lennon.

The Blur and Gorillaz star says the late Beatles frontman - who was shot dead outside his New York home in 1980, aged just 40 - was the ''pivotal influence'' in him taking up songwriting when he was at school, particularly Lennon's 1971 hit solo song 'Imagine', which was inspired by his widow Yoko Ono.

Asked if there are any artists he's not worked with that he would have liked to, Albarn told Rolling Stone magazine: ''I would have loved to work with John Lennon, but I was in school when he was shot.

''He was a pivotal influence on me when I was young -- his ideas, his attitude, everything. I

'' started exploring my own songwriting by playing other people's songs on the piano, and 'Imagine' was one of the most influential songs on me as a songwriter.

''It's not the coolest song to cite, probably, but it's the most honest for me.''

The 50-year-old rocker managed to get another one of his heroes, George Benson, to play guitar on the track 'Humility' on Gorillaz's latest LP 'The Now Now'.

And Damon confessed that the soul legend's songs soundtracked his ''awkward'' attempts to as girls on dates when he was a teenager.

Asked if he is a fan of the soul legend, he said: ''The sound that he created for songs like [1980's] 'Give Me the Night' is right up there with all the slickest classic Michael Jackson grooves.

''It's closely associated, for me, with the time when I started trying to ask girls to dance at youth clubs.

''All that horrendously awkward stuff.

''I was about 14, and he was a superstar. But [the music] is even more magnificent because it was the backdrop to that, you know?''