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Imagine (song) - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Imagine (song)

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Single by John Lennon
from the album Imagine
B-side "It's So Hard" (US)
'"Working Class Hero" (UK)
Released 11 October 1971 (US)
24 October 1975 (UK)
Format 7" vinyl
Recorded 1971
Genre Rock
Length 3:01
Label Apple
Writer(s) John Lennon
Producer John Lennon, Yoko Ono, Phil Spector
John Lennon singles chronology
"Power to the People"
"Imagine"/"It's So Hard"
(US, 1971)
"Happy Xmas (War is Over)"/"Listen, the Snow is Falling"

"Stand by Me"

"Imagine"/"Working Class Hero"
(UK, 1975)

"(Just Like) Starting Over"

Imagine track listing
"Crippled Inside"

"Imagine" is a song written and performed by English rock musician John Lennon. It is the opening track on his album Imagine, released in 1971. "Imagine" was released as a single in the United States where it reached number three on the Billboard Hot 100. When asked about the song in one of his last interviews, Lennon declared "Imagine" to be as good as anything he had written with the Beatles.[1] The song is one of three Lennon solo songs, along with "Instant Karma!" and "Give Peace a Chance", in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll. Rolling Stone Magazine ranked "Imagine" the 3rd greatest song of all time.[2]


[edit] Background and composition

The song's refrain may have been partly inspired by Yoko Ono's poetry in reaction to her childhood in Japan during World War II. According to The Guardian, primordial versions of the song's refrain can be found in her 1965 book Grapefruit, where she penned lines such as, "imagine a raindrop" and "imagine the clouds dripping."[3]

In a 1980 interview with David Sheff for Playboy magazine, Lennon remarks on the message of "Imagine":

Sheff: On a new album, you close with "Hard Times Are Over (For a While)". Why?
Lennon: It's not a new message: "Give Peace a Chance" — we're not being unreasonable. Just saying "give it a chance." With "Imagine" we're asking, "can you imagine a world without countries or religions?" It's the same message over and over. And it's positive.[4]

Ono indicated that the lyrical content of "Imagine" was "just what John believed — that we are all one country, one world, one people. He wanted to get that idea out."[1] In addition, the content of "Imagine" was inspiration for the concept of Nutopia: The Country of Peace, created in 1973. Lennon included a symbolically mute "anthem" to this country on his album Mind Games. Also, inspiration for Yoko's Imagine Peace Tower in Iceland came from words in the second verse: Imagine all the people living life in peace.

In the book Lennon in America, by Geoffrey Giuliano, Lennon commented that Imagine was an "anti-religious, anti-nationalistic, anti-conventional, anti-capitalistic [song], but because it's sugar-coated, it's accepted."[5]

[edit] Music video

Directed by Zbigniew Rybczyński

[edit] Awards

  • 1987 - Rio de Janeiro - Special Prize
  • 1987 - Cannes, "Silver Lion" - Best Clip

[edit] Later release

"Imagine" was released as a single in the United Kingdom in 1975 (in conjunction with the album Shaved Fish) where it peaked at number six on the UK Singles Chart. Following Lennon's death in 1980, the single re-entered the UK chart and was number one for four weeks in January 1981. "Imagine" was re-released as a single in the UK in 1988 (peaking at number 45) and again in 1999 (reaching number three). "Imagine" was the sole John Lennon track included in a promotional-only various artists compilation album issued by Capitol records entitled "The Greatest Music Ever Sold" (Capitol SPRO-8511/8512). Distributed to record stores during the 1976 Holiday season, it was part of Capitol's "Greatest Music Ever Sold" campaign promoting 15 "Best Of" albums released by the record label. The song was also included on a six-disc boxed set commemorating Capitol Record's sixtieth anniversary that was issued in 2002.

[edit] Recognition

Since its release, "Imagine" has been included in a broad array of most-influential and greatest-songs-of-all-time lists. In 1999 BMI named "Imagine" one of the top 100 most-performed songs of the 20th century. "Imagine" ranks #23 in the year-2000 list of best-selling singles in the UK. In 2004, "Imagine" ranked #3 on Rolling Stone's list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time, behind The Rolling Stones' "Satisfaction" and Bob Dylan's "Like a Rolling Stone".

On 1 January 2005, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation named "Imagine" the greatest song in the past 100 years as voted by listeners on the show 50 Tracks. The song ranked #30 on the Recording Industry Association of America's list of the 365 Songs of the Century bearing the most historical significance. Virgin Radio conducted a UK favourite song survey in December 2005 and "Imagine" was voted into the top spot. It beat Beatles songs "Hey Jude" and "Let It Be" (both predominantly written by Paul McCartney, although credited Lennon/McCartney). In Australia, it was selected the greatest song of all time on the Nine Network's 20 to 1 countdown show on 12 September 2006 and voted eleventh in youth network Triple J's Hottest 100 Of All Time on 11 July 2009.[6] The song was named number one on Australia's MAX (Channel) channel's 5000 song countdown that went through the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Former US President 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."[7]

[edit] Cultural legacy

What, for example, is “the message” of the Greco-Roman mosaic of the word “Imagine” that was donated to New York City’s Central Park in memory of John Lennon? See NYC Brief 18; App. to id., at A5. Some observers may “imagine” the musical contributions that John Lennon would have made if he had not been killed. Others may think of the lyrics of the Lennon song that obviously inspired the mosaic and may “imagine” a world without religion, countries, possessions, greed, or hunger.
  • The song is referenced in George Harrison's song "All Those Years Ago". One of the lines is "You were the one who imagined it all, all those years ago."
  • The song was used in the last sequence of the 1984 film The Killing Fields.
  • In a 1990 episode of Quantum Leap, the time-traveling protagonist Sam Beckett plays the song to his sister Katie in 1969, to convince her that he is from the future. This version of the song is also on the soundtrack of the series.
  • The lyrics to the song were featured in the "Clean Up Radio Everywhere" episode of WKRP in Cincinnati, which dealt with censorship.
  • When the Liverpool airport was named after Lennon, a phrase from the song, "above us only sky" was painted on the ceiling of the terminal.
  • "Imagine" is the official song of Amnesty International.
  • A humorous telling of this song's origin appears in the 1994 film Forrest Gump where the song is inspired by what Forrest Gump said about his trip to China. The main character Forrest Gump is a guest on The Dick Cavett Show alongside John Lennon. Forrest recounts his experiences playing ping pong in China; he claims the Chinese do not have much stuff ("no possessions") and don't congregate in churches or synagogues ("no religion too"). Dick Cavett responds, "It's hard to imagine," whereupon Lennon says, "It's easy if you try, Dick."[8]
  • "Imagine" and other songs by John Lennon were used in the 1995 movie Mr. Holland's Opus.
  • On 30 January 2003, the song was played to wake up the astronauts on the Space Shuttle Columbia during their ill-fated mission.
  • The song was included in the list of songs deemed inappropriate by Clear Channel following the September 11, 2001 attacks.
  • In 2003 Bill Clinton joined Liel and 40 Jewish and 40 Arab children at the 80th birthday of Shimon Peres in Tel Aviv to sing "Imagine".[9]
  • In the Iranian left movement, the song usually relates to Mansoor Hekmat and his Worker-Communist Party of Iran. The WPI plays the song in all of its meetings and demonstrations and in its TV channel. Within Iran the song is sometimes sung in protests and symbolises the left movement, especially the WPI[citation needed].
  • Ben & Jerry's offers a brand of ice cream called "Imagine Whirled Peace," which contains chocolate peace symbols.[10]
  • The song is played repeatedly throughout every episode of the Freedom from Religion Foundation's, Freethought Radio.
  • The song is featured in the Miami Vice Season 3 Premiere Episode "When Irish Eyes are Crying."
  • The song is referred to in Richard Dawkins book The God Delusion, as well as the line "Imagine no religion" being used alongside a picture of the twin towers in one piece of advertising for the book.
  • The song's lyrics, translated into Spanish, appear next to a statue of Lennon in a park in Havana, Cuba, referred to as John Lennon Park.
  • The song was used as an entrance song by MMA-fighter Jeff Monson.

[edit] Cover versions

"Imagine" has been frequently covered by a wide range of artists. Notable examples include:

In addition, the song has been sampled and included in derivative works, including:

[edit] Notable live cover interpretations

The iconic nature of "Imagine" has made it a popular choice for performing at charity concerts and other milestone occasions. Notable examples include:

[edit] Notes

  1. ^ a b "Imagine". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2009-04-09. 
  2. ^ "The RS 500 Greatest Songs of All Time". Rolling Stone. 2004-12-09. Retrieved 2009-07-17. 
  3. ^ Barton, Laura (2005-06-13). "Age becomes her". The Guardian.,,1505281,00.html. Retrieved 2006-12-03. 
  4. ^ Sheff, David. "Playboy Interview: John Lennon and Yoko Ono". Playboy. Retrieved 2006-12-03. 
  5. ^ Gilmore, Mikal (2005-12-05). "Lennon Lives Forever: John Lennon". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2006-12-02. 
  6. ^ "Hottest 100 Of All Time". 
  7. ^ Elliott, Debbie (2006-11-05). "Carter helps monitor Nicaragua presidential election". All Things Considered (NPR). Retrieved 2006-12-03. 
  8. ^ "Memorable quotes for Forrest Gump". IMDB. Retrieved 2009-07-03. 
  9. ^ "Shimon Peres 80th birthday". 
  10. ^ Gaskell, Stephanie (2008-05-28). "Ben & Jerry's new flavor a salute to John Lennon". New York Daily News. 
  11. ^ "Katie Targett Adams". 
  12. ^ "Jefferson's Tree of Liberty". Allmusic. 
  13. ^ "All-star telethon raises $150m". BBC News. 2001-09-25. 
  14. ^ "'Tribute to Heroes' Set for CD, Video". 
  15. ^ "Imagine A World With Good Covers". 

[edit] External links

Preceded by
"There's No-one Quite Like Grandma" by St Winifred's School Choir
UK number one single
10 January 1981 - 31 January 1981
Succeeded by
"Woman" by John Lennon