“Imagine” is possibly the most famous and enduring song by any of the Fab Four in their post-Beatles years. It wasn’t a massive hit when it first came out in 1971, only making the Top 10 in both the UK and the US, although it did make Number One in the UK following John Lennon’s tragic death in December 1980.
That seems like a slightly underwhelming initial response to a song which would pick up plenty of recognition in the years since its release. The BMI recognised it as one of the most performed songs of the 20th Century. “Imagine” has been inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame. And Rolling Stone magazine put it very firmly in the upper reaches of their 500 Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll listing.
It probably didn’t help that John Lennon was seen as quite a divisive figure in 1971. Many people hadn’t got over his “the Beatles are bigger than Jesus” remark. And probably more people were angry that “he’d broken up the Beatles”.
John Lennon didn’t always come in a media-friendly package. And he was a deep thinker in the world when deep thinking wasn’t held in great esteem back in 1971. Goodness knows what he’d make the world today…
Like a lot of clever people, I suspect at its root he just got a bit exasperated with others who couldn’t see the world in a way that was face-smackingly obvious to him.
Thankfully there was one way John Lennon could communicate exceptionally well, and that was through the lyrics of his songs.
Put any controversy about John Lennon and his attitude on one side. There aren’t many greater lyrics in pop music than…
You, you may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope some day you’ll join us
And the world will be as one
I’ve always felt dreamers get an unfairly bad press. Being “too much of a dreamer” is an expression rarely intended as a compliment.
Yet the world needs dreamers…people who don’t go with the crowd…people who lift their eyes up from the task in hand to imagine a better tomorrow and build a path to take us there.