« In many countries around the world and I have visited nearly 125, you can hear Imagine almost as often as the national anthem. »
This was expressed by former US President Jimmy Carter in 2006.
How did Lennon’s song acquire this mythical status?
When it was released in 1971, the single Imagine was a great success. It was a nice song with a nice piano part, a nice melody and a slow tempo.
While the song was playing on the airwaves all over the world, little attention was really paid to his lyrics.
However, Imagine, with its romantic and calm exterior, is a strongly subversive song. Lennon distills words that go against the main values of American society…
It was in a book of poems published by Yoko Ono, Grapefruit, that Lennon said he found the inspiration for Imagine. The Japanese artist distilled instructions for a new life, such as « imagine that you are a fruit. »
Imagine is ranked #3 on the American hit parade and the album even reaches #1 position. This hymn to peace allows him to return to large-scale success after a relative vacuum.
Yet, at the time, his message seemed to be diluted in the tranquility of harmonies.
A nice song, that’s all.
Over time, Imagine will acquire a special status.
As the years go by, it seems to represent more than just a song, that it is a hymn in its own right with a message that transcends time…
On December 8, 1980, Lennon was interviewed by Dave Sholin, a DJ from the RKO station. At the same time, a lunatic watches out for the Dakota building where the Lennon couple resides, his revolver buried in a pocket of his parka. After a chaotic inner journey, the mental fool Chapman ended up self-persuading that he had to eliminate John
It is by leaving this world that Lennon reveals how precious he was. A few days after his death, 100,000 fans gathered in Central Park and in front of the Dakota building in a final tribute to the missing Beatle. Everyone sings the peace anthem « Give peace a chance ». 10 minutes of silence are observed and thousands of white balloons are released into the sky.
For its part, New York City is committed to celebrating Lennon’s memory on a larger scale. In Central Park, near the building where Lennon lived, a mosaic is placed on the floor with the word Imagine.
In England, the single was released in 1975 but only reached the 6th position. Shortly after Lennon’s death in 1980, he emerged and ranked #1 for three weeks. He was only dislodged by Lennon himself and the single « Woman ».
In 1982, WABC, one of the leading American radio stations – it was born in 1921 – decided to change its format and no longer broadcast songs, only talk shows. A long internal debate is organized to decide on the very last song to be played by the station. Imagine was chosen.
In 1988, the film Imagine: John Lennon recounted the singer’s story and brought the song back to life. It includes a sequence in which Lennon performs this track on his great white Steinway piano.
In the very popular film Forrest Gump, released in 1994, thanks to the magic of computer graphics, Tom Hanks found himself facing John Lennon in a television show and the singer talked about a place where there would be « no possessions », « no religions ». The reference to Lennon’s favorite song is explicit.
As the years go by, it becomes clear that Imagine’s popularity continues to grow and that the song has become universal.
As the millennium changes, as the rankings increase, it will gradually become clear that Imagine has a special place in the hearts of the public.
On December 9, 2004, Rolling Stone magazine published its list of the 500 best songs of all time. Imagine is ranked 3rd behind Bob Dylan’s « Like a Rolling Stone » and the Rolling Stones’ « Satisfaction », far ahead of the Beatles’ first song in this ranking, « Hey Jude » which is in 8th position.
The song is also the subject of many covers and quite often during events in support of a humanitarian cause.
This song is also a strong political message that is sugarcoated in a beautiful melody. Lennon realized that the softer approach would bring the song to a wider audience, who hopefully would listen to his message.
Could Lennon, who wished to leave behind a message of universal brotherhood, dream better?