Considered by many as one of the greatest songs of all time, “Imagine” was performed by John Lennon in his 1971 album Imagine. It was thought that the lyrics of the song reflected solely Lennon’s hopes for a utopian world. However, the song’s refrain can be found in several of Yoko Onno’s poems written in the early1960s, before she met Lennon, and in her 1965 book Grapefruit. It was coined by Yoko Ono, in reaction to her childhood in Japan during World War II. (“Imagine: John Lennon”, 2006) The song contains a strong political message that is sugarcoated in a beautiful melody.
In the book Lennon in America, written by Geoffrey Giuliano, Lennon commented the song was “an anti-religious, anti-nationalistic, anti-conventional, anti-capitalistic song, but because it’s sugar-coated, it’s accepted. ” (“Imagine: John Lennon”, 2006) Lennon realized that the softer approach would bring the song to a wider audience, who hopefully would listen to his message. Lennon therefore used soft melody and easy lyrics in order to convey a much deeper meaning to more people. Lennon used empathy in his words, in his call to the people to “imagine.
” He knows a world without “countries” or “religions” does not exist, but Lennon is asking the listener to take a moment and imagine what it would be like if the words in the song would ever come true, to imagine living in a utopian world and experience the peace that everyone has been longing for. Also, the lyrics imply that Lennon recognizes the suffering of other people less privileged than he is, so he empathizes with these people and “imagines” being the same as them, being in a “brotherhood of man.
” And through the song, he is also asking the listener to see and feel the things that he sees and feels, and to want a better world like he does, to end all suffering and division between peoples. Such call to “imagine” also involves the sympathetic identification with the singer and the collective “us” who Lennon refers to when he sings, “You may say I’m a dreamer, But I’m not the only one, I hope someday you’ll join us. ” He recognizes that he is not the only dreamer, that he is not the only one dreaming of a perfect place. But he also wants the listener to “join” him and the other dreamers, and be part of the collective “us” and imagine.
Lennon knows that people long for peace, but these hopes for a better and ideal future have been long abandoned by many people whose lives have been tainted with negativity. But he calls out to these people and asks them to “imagine” and remember what it is like to hope again, no matter how impossible it is for the world to live as one. In identifying with Lennon and the other dreamers, their dreams become the listener’s own. That a listener realizes that their dreams are also his own, implies the existence of a social order the evils of which, if removed, would make the dream of everyone a reality.
The feeling of being a part of the dream and making that dream come true reaffirms the sense of shared responsibility and the recognition that such misery in the world ought not to be. The message of the song is pure and simple, but the ideas it imparts are radical in more ways than one. It implies that religion has been nothing but destructive to human societies. It divides people into groups, feeds them with supernatural explanations and otherworldly notions of the world, gives them something to believe in and something which they fear, in order to control them and pit them against other people of another “religion”, all in the name of God.
It also recognizes how countries have been divided and that many have died because of wars waged for these countries. The song also implies that want and need for the accumulation of material possessions is a cause of suffering in the world. It causes greed and hunger, a complete imbalance between those who have and those who do not. Lennon is imagining a world where people are sharing and living together, no man better then the other, a total state of equality. It is only when all people are equal, no rich or poor, where people will realize that there is no cause for division among them.
When all is united, a perfect place becomes possible because one acts not for one’s own good but for the good of everybody. Many people criticize the song as a naive dream of a man far removed from reality. “But the reason critics dislike ‘Imagine’ also happens to be exactly why the song, and all such art, is necessary.
It envisions, and in doing so creates, a world that we can’t in real life. ” (“John Lennon and Neil Young”, n. d. ) Such grand statements of longing for world peace seems almost hypocritical to other people.
But Lennon himself once said, “We are willing to become the world’s clowns if it helps spread the word for peace. ” (“John Lennon and Neil Young”, n. d. ) Truly, this song is admirable simply for its capability to influence its listeners enough to pause and think about an ideal world… to imagine, even for a second.
WOKS CITED: “Imagine: John Lennon. ” (2006, October 31). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved October 31, 2006, from http://en. wikipedia. org/wiki/Imagine:_John_Lennon “John Lennon and Neil Young. ” n. d. Retrieved October 31, 2006, http://www. thrasherswheat. org/jammin/lennon. htm.
“Imagine all the people / Living life in peace.” It’s a simple request to listeners, but the rhetoric of John Lennon’s “Imagine” is much more complex than meets the ear. Released in 1971 on the album of the same name, “Imagine” quickly rocketed to the top of the charts in the U.S., Canada, U.K. and Australia. Its conscious message for unity has made the song a staple in antiviolence protests from 1971 to present. Countless artists, from Diana Ross to Elton John, Neil Young to Lady Gaga, have performed covers of the revolutionary song at benefits and protests. Ranked third in Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time, “Imagine” is a universal anthem for world peace that rings true for each generation.
Lennon grew to musical fame throughout the ‘50s and ‘60s as a member of the legendary Liverpool rock band, The Beatles. Lennon, with fellow front man Paul McCartney, lead guitarist George Harrison and drummer Ringo Starr, led a rock-and-roll revolution with their innovative instrumental techniques. Each album represented an evolution in musical sound, and as the group’s popularity grew, they became more experimental with structure, melody and controversial lyrics. The band rose to legend during the Vietnam War, a time when tragedy and destruction became universal, leaving much of the world in unrest. Beatles’ songs throughout the ‘60s encouraged peace and harmony, but it wasn’t until June 1966 when the group officially opposed the war at a press conference in Tokyo. In 1968, the aftermath of the Tet Offensive spurred the group to write “Revolution,” a protest song criticizing anti war radicals.
Lennon broke off into his solo career a year later, bringing activism to the next level with his wife, Japanese avant-garde artist Yoko Ono. In 1969, Lennon and Ono took an unusual twist on sit-in protest, staging a “bed-in” for world peace. The couple said they would not get out of bed until America withdrew from Vietnam, and they invited the press to document their protest. He was passionate about the cause and, as he told a reporter, “We are willing to become the world’s clowns if it helps spread the word for peace.” While the media may have perceived Lennon as naïve and idealistic, his notoriety gave the anti war movement strength. His songs “Give Peace a Chance” and “Imagine” offered a hope for peace that could be universally accepted. Lennon especially inspired the younger generations, in whose short existence violence and war had become commonplace.
Upon its release in 1971, “Imagine” became an instant anthem for world peace. It dominated the radio streams and inspired other artists as well as the public to protest war and violence. Lennon offered few mainstream solo concerts, but he did perform the song at several anti-war rallies and protests. Lennon’s success as a rock legend amplified him as an icon for change. He was so influential in the anti war movement that the Nixon administration initiated an investigation to deport him, a failed effort that lasted four years.  Lennon’s advocacy for peace is epitomized in “Imagine,” which Lennon said asks, “Can you imagine a world without countries or religions? It’s the same message over and over, and it’s positive.”
At first listen, it’s easy to deduce that Lennon intended “Imagine” as a call for peace and cooperation during a time ultimately devoid of harmony. While it’s easy for many to uncover this message, the lyrics offer a deeper utopian significance.
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
In the first verse, Lennon suggests that we live in the moment, driven by personal motives as opposed to moral or religious ones. He asks the listener to disregard the concept of heaven and hell in an effort to appreciate life now, ignoring the idea of rewards or consequences of present decisions in the 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
In the second verse, Lennon is suggesting that an ideal world is one without separation. With no borders, no divisions of boundaries, all people become part of a unified group—simply, the human race. Lennon also insinuates the destructiveness of organized religion. It can be interpreted that each religion isolates itself by preaching its beliefs as superior to others, which virtually counteracts the concept of religion as a unifier. Essentially, without geographical or religious boundaries, humanity would be united.
You may say that 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 “Imagine” is probably one of the most recognizable and influential choruses in history. In the chorus, Lennon asserts that his worldview is as universal as the song itself. He may be a dreamer for presenting a seemingly impractical utopia, but because others share his vision, it offers hope for shaping this ideal world. Lennon invites his listeners to join the movement, in hopes that through the power of peace we can exist in harmony.
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
In the final verse Lennon asks to imagine a world where material possessions are superfluous, where quality of life trumps quantity of goods. But unlike a world with no afterlife or physical or religious boundaries, Lennon recognizes—as petty as it is—most people cannot imagine life without possession. When compared with the second verse, it’s clear Lennon realizes that most wars are only ostensibly about religion or territory; in reality, war is about greed—political power, gold, oil, and so on. Lennon wanted to eliminate the gluttony of society to promote social and economic unity.
When it comes to appreciating “Imagine” as one of the most influential protest songs in history, “I’m not the only one.” The poetic lyrics coupled with rhythmic piano, gentle string ensemble, and subtle drumbeat makes the song brilliant aurally and intellectually. The beautiful melody provides the perfect backdrop for romantic lyrics; this combination magnetized audiences across the globe and continues to attract listeners today. “Imagine” preaches a universal message of global peace and unity that engages and inspires most people, but the lyrics are deceptively simple. Lennon suggests an ideal world is one devoid of heaven or hell, boundaries or religion, possessions or greed. The message for oneness with ourselves, our world, our fellow man is simple, but attaining it would require moral, political, social and economic sacrifices.
The message itself is simple; if only achieving it could be the same. Some people interpret the song as anti-religious and anti-patriotic but the point is not to condemn what is, rather to dream what could be. What I love most about this song is Lennon’s passive optimism. He wasn’t aggressive, nor did he demand listeners to change. He asks us to visualize a different world, a united world, and hopes this visualization motivates us to progress toward it. There is no anger, no frustration; just concern, patience and hope for humanity. If we continue to spread Lennon’s vision of hope, peace and love, maybe someday “the world will live as one.”