Imagine- by John Lennon is surely one of the greatest songs to have been written. Although released more than 45 years ago, this hit single has had an impact and has touched millions across generations all over the world.
This song has a legacy like none other, but disguised within its message of peace and love is also a collection of ideas that challenge the very structure of society. The song that has become an anthem all over the world, contains lyrics that are controversial at best even in this day and age. Rightly dubbed as the “’Working Class Hero’ for conservatives,” by John Lennon himself, it challenges the status quo at its most fundamental.
The song was composed by John Lennon in one session, sitting at his white grand piano in Tittenhurst Park estate in England. He recorded it in his home studio with help from musicians Alan White, Nicky Hopkins, Klaus Voorman and producer Phil Spector. The final rendition was done at The Record Plant in New York and strings were added by members of the New York Philharmonic.
Everyone who’d heard the song at that time, knew it was special, but nobody imagined the impact it would have on global audiences, both musically and politically. Paul McCartney called it “a killer” when he heard it. George Martin, who’s produced the Beatles’ records and helped make them into stars, says the album ‘Imagine,’ is the one he wishes he’d produced. And Jimmy Carter said, “. . .in many countries around the world—my wife and I have visited about 125 countries—you hear John Lennon’s song ‘Imagine’ used almost equally with national anthems.”
What makes the song so special is the irony in what the lyrics say and what the song represents in modern culture. The song that has been accepted globally as a song of peace and unity, asks us to embrace what some would call anarchy, and what early critics even labeled as communist. Imagine no Heaven, Imagine no country, Imagine no possessions. . .and no religion, too. The lyrics are about as anti-American, anti-establishment and anti-nationalist as can be, and yet it’s a song of peace and hope, about the possibilities of a human existence that transcends human desire for all the possessions that humanity craves the most.
People the world over may claim to understand and love the song, but at the same time struggle with its real meaning. Lennon was approached by various religious groups asking if they could use the song but modify the lyric from “no religion” to “one religion.” Lennon refused, explaining that it would defeat the whole purpose of the song.
We would be remiss to not quote the most iconic and resonant part of the lyrics,
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 live as one.
If you’ve not heard this brilliant work of art yet, click here to listen.