If there is a song that has crossed borders, transcended in a spectacular way and that has become an anthem that represents great values and even a way of life, that is Imagine. John Lennon printed in his handwriting his cry for a more just world, and as the decades go by, five already since it was launched, we still have to vindicate it to continue building a fairer society in which to live.
The importance of Imagine, Lennon’s most revered song in his post-Beatles career, was perfectly summed up by President Jimmy Carter: “My wife and I have visited over 125 countries, and we’ve heard John Lennon’s song Imagine used almost equally with national anthems“. This universality of the song has made it the favorite when accompanied by moments of mourning or pain. Imagine is full of hope, although Lennon did not intend this to be the first meaning of the subject.
There are several moments in which Imagine was performed as a tribute and that have permeated society. Queen performed the theme at the John Lennon memorial ceremony at London’s Wembley Arena the day after his death. Stevie Wonder he did so at the closing of the 1996 Olympic Games in honor of the victims of the Centennial Olympic Park bombing. Later, Neil Young made his own version to remember 9/11 victims and Madonna he did the same at a benefit concert for the victims of the Indian Ocean tsunami. The last time it has sounded worldwide has been at the opening of the Olympic Games in Tokyo, with a version of the five continents with the presence of Alejandro Sanz.
If we go back to the time of creation of the piece, John Lennon shared the inspiration for these lyrics in an interview in Playboy. “The concept of positive prayer. If you can imagine a world at peace, without religious denominations, not without religion but without this thing my god is bigger than your god then it may be true“The Beatles member continued:” The Church called me once and asked, ‘Can we use the lyrics from Imagine and change it to ‘Imagine one religion’? ‘ That showed me that they didn’t understand it at all. It would defeat the whole purpose of the song, the whole idea. “
John Lennon, on the BBC’s Top Of The Pops television show in 1970. / Ron Howard/Redferns
In addition to this religious sense, it cannot be ignored that the content of the song is strongly political, centered on the communist movement. Lennon himself confirmed it: “Imagine, which says: ‘Imagine there is no more religion, no more country, no more politics’, he is practically the manifest communist, although I am not particularly communist and I do not belong to any movement, “he said in that interview. Over time, the message has become unified, and various political ideologies have embraced the premise that contains, which seeks to eliminate greed and hunger.
It has been 50 years since Lennon released the second album of his solo career, which includes this song. It is important to take into account the social environment in which it appeared, since President Nixon even branded Lennon a “dangerous political leader.”
It is not a particularly known fact that Yoko Ono shares the authorship of the song along with Lennon’s name. It was in 2017 when the National Music Publisher Association acknowledged the artist’s participation in Imagine, after she presented an archival recording in which the exbeatle talked about their collaboration. Thus he recognized that she did not appear in the credits initially: “At that time I was much more selfish than I am now and I avoided mentioning all her contributions.”
The best versions of Imagine
A song as universal as Imagine it has been covered many times. Many artists and groups have wanted to make this hymn their own, transmit from his point of view the lyrics Lennon wrote 50 years ago. To celebrate this anniversary, we have compiled the best versions of this song in a playlist. You can already hear it.
The variety of styles is incredible, those of Chris Cornell and A Perfect Circle, and having many instrumentals in different keys: orchestral, with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra or that of Ray Conniff, or with virtuosos of various instruments, such as the guitar, with Chet Atkins and Mark Knopfler, or Bill Frisell.
Some shine with the black soul, with those of Sarah Vaughn or the AWB with Ben E. King or the Harlem gospel choir, and many great female voices have also made it their own, from Dolly Parton a Etta James, going by Diana Ross, Joan Baez, or Avril Lavigne. In a Latin key, the Brazilian Roberto Carlos also recorded his live during the 1980s.
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‘Imagine’: the significance of John Lennon’s anthem 50 years later | LOS40 Classic