Meaning of “Imagine” by John Lennon

As the title implies, “Imagine” is a song where John Lennon challenges listeners to do some creative thinking. He paints a general yet vivid picture of what exactly he wants them to visualize. The song centers around a fictitious world where many of the barriers that define social reality are nonexistent. For instance, Lennon sees a society where people are not compartmentalized based on their religion. Also, material wealth is virtually a non factor in this realm.

Perhaps the even-greater meaning of “Imagine” is a call issued by Lennon that we as human beings should put aside all differences and unify. As such it is well-liked by proponents of globalism. It is also embraced by those who perceive unity as the path to peace.

VERSE 1

Imagine begins with Lennon entreating the audience to do away with one of the most-basic religious concepts many of us have grown up with – that of heaven and hell. Then the track guides us down the path of imaging a world with no national boundaries. 

He associates “countries” with the idea of having something “to kill or die for”, which was likely a direct reference to the Vietnam War. The Vietnam War was ongoing at the time “Imagine” was written and released. Lennon himself was a very-strong and outspoken opponent to this conflict. In fact the song has become a synonymous piece of memorabilia associated with the anti-war movement of the 1960s and 70s.

Lennon then specifically states that the world he is singing about has “no religion”. In addition to nation-states, he has also identified such belief systems as causes of derision. Thus he concludes that without these factors people would have a better opportunity to ‘live in peace’.

CHORUS

In the chorus, Lennon acknowledges that the place he is describing is fantastic, as it doesn’t exist in the real world. However, he is not the only person envisioning such a state of existence. In fact he hopes the listeners themselves would embrace these ideas. Through doing so,he thinks the world stands a better chance of achieving unity and peace.

VERSE 2

In the second verse, Lennon adds material possessions to his list of common aspects of human existence that he feels are negatively interfering with global harmony. In contrast to reality, he envisions a world where there is “no greed or hunger”. Under this ideology, he instead sees a humankind where we are all ‘brothers’, and people share instead of hoard.

Facts about the song “Imagine”

  • Although Lennon took all of the songwriting credits initially, his wife, Yoko Ono, assisted him in scripting Imagine, and she was finally officially acknowledged for such in 2017.
  • The song “Imagine” – and the album by the same name which it came from – where the most-successful ventures of Lennon’s solo career.
  • This track was recorded in 1971, partially in England and partially in New York City.
  • This classic charted at number one in the United Kingdom and reached number three on the US-based Billboard Hot 100.  It re-charted in the UK, again at number one, after Lennon’s death in 1981.
  • This song has been inducted into both the Grammy and Rock & Roll Halls of Fame.
  • The playing of “Imagine” has become an integral part of the world-renowned New Year’s celebration held in Times Square, New York City annually.
  • “Imagine” was partially inspired by a prayer book Lennon and Ono had received from comedian Dick Gregory.  But it was even more-heavily influenced by a book of poems Ono had composed a few years earlier.  And according to the fictitious movie Forrest Gump, Gump himself made a direct contribution to its composition.
  • “Imagine” served as Lennon’s tool whereas he was able to masterfully present his personal political views, which borderline on communism, in a way that was commercially appealing to the masses.
  • A documentary was released by Lennon and Ono to accompany this track in 1972.
  • This is one of the most critically-acclaimed songs of all time and accordingly has been covered by a number of A-list musicians.
  • The piano John Lennon used in writing “Imagine” was purchased in excess of two-million dollars in 2000 by the late musician George Michael. The piano has since been used as a museum artifact and to promote peace.
  • “Imagine” was the defining work of Lennon’s career, as made evident by a section of New York City’s Central Park dedicated to him being inscribed with this word.
  • American singer Bebe Rexha performed “Imagine” at the legendary Times Square New Year’s Eve celebration in New York City to usher in 2019. In doing so, Times Square continued its longtime tradition of performing “Imagine” shortly before the arrival of New Year’s Day.
Rachel Platten performs “Imagine” at Times Square New Year’s Eve in 2016.

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