Even though John Lennon’s “Imagine” was originally released in 1971, the song doesn’t sound dated, either lyrically or musically. “Imagine” has become a classic song, and is instantly recognizable when you hear the opening notes on the piano. Not only that, but the song has become iconic enough that it has been covered by a wide range of artists, and these cover versions have been released between 1972 and today.
It would be easy for a detractor to claim that the lyrics of the song are idealistic and not all that deep. However, in my opinion, while I can hear the idealism in the song, I can also hear a sense of wistfulness. And when I hear the song, the lyrics make me stop and think, and I try to imagine the kind of world that John Lennon signs about.
Some detractors would also try to claim that the song is anti-religion, with lines about imagining that there is no Heaven and no hell, and imagining that there is no religion. Personally, I don’t see these lines as being anti-religion. I interpret these lines as John Lennon asking the listener to think, and to wonder what the world might be like if these things didn’t exist. During the course of the lyrics, John also asks the listener to “imagine there’s no countries,” “nothing to kill or die for,” “no possessions,” and “no need for greed or hunger.” In addition to wondering what life would be like without these things, the lyrics also ask the listener to “imagine all the people living for today,” to imagine “a brotherhood of man,” and to “imagine all the people sharing all the world.”
When John wrote the lyrics for “Imagine,” you can hear in the chorus that he had the naysayers and the critics in mind as he was writing. In the chorus, John sings: “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.”
For me, this song took on a whole new depth and meaning in the wake of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, and with the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. I have a feeling that if John Lennon were alive today, he would be disappointed that the world really isn’t that much closer to the world peace that he talks about in the song in comparison to the time when “Imagine” was originally written. Even so, “Imagine” has become an iconic part of pop culture and pop music throughout the world, and can be listened to for comfort at times when the world may seem to be at its bleakest.