Friday, August 10, 2012

John Lennon's "Imagine"



 “Imagine” is one of the greatest songs of all time that was composed and performed by one of the greatest song writers and performers of the 20th century- John Lennon. He was also one of the founding members of the Beatles, a very popular rock and roll band of the 60’s and early 70’s. Although “Imagine” has very meaningful lyrics, it is loaded with political undertones that are maybe admired or scoffed at by people hearing it depending on their political persuasions and belief systems.  Following paragraphs are my own point of view of the song’s lyrics.

“Imagine there's no heaven
It's easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people living for today”

Life is short and we should be doing what is good for us, and the fear of heaven or hell should not be a hindrance for the better of our lives. The verse above is also an expression of unbelief of afterlife. A person who holds that view is generally an atheist. However, there are people who believe in God but not in afterlife.                                                                                                                                                                                

“Imagine there's no countries
It isn't hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people living life in peace”

The verse implies of a one world living in peace. Nationalism and religion divide people and cause armed conflicts and should be done away with. Some people may view the meaning of the verse as being anti-nationalistic and anti-religion.

 “Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
a brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people sharing all the world”

The verse above implies of a classless society of people where they have brotherhood and share with all of the world’s resources. Above idea is not possible under capitalism where private individuals own the means and the system of production of goods. As a result only few people own the society’s wealth while the majority only have very little of it.

 “You, you may say
I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
and the world will be as one”

The chorus of the song implies of people joining together to adopt the mentioned social concepts.  Doing so will enable them to live as one in a peaceful and just world.


Right after the Beatles’ disbandment in 1969 John Lennon moved to New York where he formed his solo career in the Plastic Ono Band. His participation in the anti-war movement in Viet Nam made him the object of lengthy attempt by the administration of President Richard Nixon to deport him. Lennon died on December 8, 1980 when a psychotic person named David Mark Chapman shot him in the back four times.

As a performer/writer and co-writer Lennon was responsible for 27 number one singles on the US Hot 100 Chart. His album sold in the US alone stands at 14,000,000 units. Rolling Stone ranked him 5 of 100 greatest singers of all time. He was appointed “Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) with the other Beatles in 1965. The other members of the group were Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr. As a group they were listed by the Time Magazine in its 100 most influential people of the 20th century. Lennon co-wrote with Paul McCartney in many of their songs as members of Beatles.

“ Imagine” was written by John Lennon in 1971. It was released in the US on October 11, 1971. In 2010, it was listed by the Rolling Stone as the 3rd of the 500 greatest songs of all time. In 1999, BMI listed it as among the Top 100 Most-Performed Songs of the 20th century. In 2009, Triple J listed it in the Hottest 100 of all time. In 2001, RIAA listed it as the 30th of the 365 songs of the century and in 2000, VHI listed it as the 10th of the 100 greatest songs.

Many persons are inspired by “Imagine”.  Stevie Wonder covered it at the closing ceremony of the 1996 Summer Olympic Games. Peter Gabriel also covered it in the opening ceremony of the 2006 Winter Olympics. However, not all people appreciate the song. Imagine was made as a background of a 1984 anti-communist film entitled “Killing Fields”.

John Lennon also wrote other songs with political undertone such as “Working Class Hero”, “Power to the People”, “Revolution” and “God”.  His imagine stands out the most. Some people may think of the message of “Imagine” as communism in a nutshell. The concept of classless, stateless society and people living as one in the world are also the ideals espoused by the communists. John Lennon did not live long enough to witness the collapse of the USSR which tried to adapt Marxism for more than 70 years.  The failure of communism only shows that it does not work in actual practice because of the inherent nature of man. Diversity and competitiveness are some of life’s natural survival instincts.

Peace, brotherhood, equality and oneness in the world are the message that Lennon wanted to convey in “Imagine”. They are the state on which a well meaning man want to attain for the good of all. Although not all people would agree of what Lennon stood for, the fact is that he was an idealistic person who wanted to change the world for the better and for the benefit of all people notwithstanding the fame and the fortune he attained in life. Indeed, John Lennon was not only one of the best song writers and performers of all time, but he was also one of the greatest persons who lived in the 20th century.