John Lennon’s “Imagine” Was Turned Into a Comic Strip, and the Result is Incredibly Beautiful.
In 1970, after the official dissolution of The Beatles, John Lennon, who was increasingly influential on youth around the world because of his political views and his pacifist and anti-war commitment, began his solo career, which would eventually include other new songs that would also become classics.
In 1971 he published a new album, “Imagine”, which contained what is undoubtedly his most famous song, the pacifist anthem “Imagine”. The song was created in October of that year by John, and was produced by him and by Yoko Ono, his wife. John told that it was one morning in ’71, in his room in Ascot, England. Yoko was watching him carefully while he worked on his piano and was able to finish the song, with a serene melody.
He knew he had written something special. He even said in interviews that it was the best thing he had ever written.
John Lennon’s political tendencies had been evident since the time of The Beatles, but they were exacerbated by his songs, for example.
That year, when the musician decided to move from London to New York, he had trouble getting a visa because of the U.S. government’s reluctance to accept his pacifist attitude and influence on youth, as well as his alleged financial contribution to the liberationist, anti-racist group the Black Panthers.
He finally managed to settle in the city, from where he would start several highly politicized campaigns with concerts and demonstrations in favor of peace, which would earn him the title of “Persona non grata” in the city.
The song “Imagine” was chosen by the British at the end of 2005 as the best song in history, according to a survey organized by Virgin Radio in which 7,000 listeners participated.
The song, which over the years has become a peace anthem, topped the list of 500 songs.
Rolling Stone magazine placed it on the podium of The Best Songs in the History of the 21st Century, ranking third after Bob Dylan’s Like a Rolling Stone in first place and The Rolling Stones’ I Can’t Get No, Satisfaction in second place.
On October 8, 2010, a series of objects owned by the singer were stored in the time capsule of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in Ohio, USA, where the capsule will remain until October 9, 2040, the date on which Lennon would turn 100.
Imagine” is one of the compositions of contemporary light music with a higher position in the international charts where you can find “the best songs in the history of music”. Rolling Stone magazine considered it, in 2004, the third best song in history after “Like a Rolling Stone” by Bob Dylan and “I Can’t Get No, Satisfaction” by The Rolling Stones.
(I) THE SOCIO-POLITICAL CONTEXT IN WHICH IT WAS COMPOSED
In 1970, after The Beatles’ separation and driven by their individual concerns, each of its members embarked on their own solo journey. Paul, John, George and even Ringo – the latter always with the small (great) help of his friends due to his limited faculties as a singer and even more so as a composer – released, after the dissolution of the group, a series of songs that would eventually become true classics, not only of rock but also of music history. Imagine is a good example.
Lennon and his socio-political commitment
John Lennon exerted an ideological influence on the youth and on certain progressive and reactionary sections of the late 1960s and early 1970s by adopting a pacifist and highly socially committed stance that some considered incongruous with his status as a billionaire but many more saw as sincere in the essence of his postulates.
The Beatles, more famous than Jesus Christ
In any case, it was not only because of his compositions that Lennon became a reference for several generations, but also because of his provocative and unrepressed political and religious opinions.
Let us recall an anecdote. Shortly before The Beatles began their third tour of the United States, many religious and conservative groups in that country promoted a campaign against Lennon (with the burning of records of the quartet encouraged by fanatical preachers) for having said in an interview that “the Christian religion was in decline, and that The Beatles were, at that time, more popular than Jesus Christ”, something that Lennon did not have to retract arguing that he had been misunderstood. (“I didn’t say that The Beatles were better than Jesus Christ, I said that we are more popular, as television or anything else can be.)
Lennon persecuted by the FBI and declared “persona non grata”
In the same year that he composed Imagine, John Lennon and Yoko Ono decided to move from London to New York and the US government put many obstacles in their way (at least for him) with the processing of the visa because of the pacifist attitude of the musician, his “negative influence” on the youth and, above all, his “negative influence”, for the alleged financial support that the former Beatle had given to the anti-racist liberation group known as the “Black Panthers”, a movement inheriting the ideas of Malcolm X that carried out programmes to improve the standard of living of the Black Community in the United States and which was declared public enemy number one in 1969 by the FBI.
However, Lennon finally obtained his visa and settled in New York, where he dedicated himself to promoting political campaigns, concerts and demonstrations in favour of peace, which earned him the title of “persona non grata” in the city where he would be killed years later. Although the Nixon administration did its best to expel him from the country on the grounds of his status as an “undesirable alien”, it was never able to do so.
(II) THE SONG
The album “Imagine” (1971)
In 1971, John Lennon published a long play which he named “Imagine”, the same title as the first cut of the Face A of the vinyl, a song that would eventually become his most famous song as it became a universal peace anthem representative of the last three decades of the 20th century and an icon of peace that still endures and will continue to do so forever.
The album Imagine was a remarkable departure from Lennon’s previous productions recorded with the Plastic Ono Band, avant-garde songs, rare for many and with a sound difficult to assimilate and accept by those who expected compositions closer to his time as a beatle. That is why Imagine could be seen as a concession from Lennon to his followers as it contains some melodies and harmonies that are at the antipodes of his previous works. The musician himself, without pretending to be cynical, at least apparently, said that in Imagine there was a “chocolate bath for public consumption”, alluding to the warmth and support provided by the string arrangements that appear on the album.
Imagine, the song
Lennon composed Imagine one morning in 1971 while Yoko Ono watched as he worked sitting at his huge white piano, an instrument that ended up being as famous as the song.
Lennon said after composing Imagine, “I finally managed to finish a song with a serene and peaceful melody that gave me the feeling that I had written something special. And after a few years he defined it as: “an anti-religious, anti-nationalist, anti-conventional and anti-capitalist song, but with such a sweetness that it was immediately accepted by society”.
Some say that John’s inspiration in composing this song was influenced by a 1965 writing by Yoko that said “Imagine a raindrop” and “Imagine the clouds dripping”, but, according to Lennon himself, it was the “inner peace” that he managed to achieve that allowed him to compose Imagine and all the other songs on an album full of sensitivity, melody and deep, thoughtful lyrics.
Was Lennon a hypocrite when he wrote Imagine?
Although Lennon spread the word that Imagine was the consequence of a change in her inner world, many detractors criticized it for its sentimental content and the frontal attack it made on certain institutions such as religion. To these opponents, Imagine and Lennon’s pacifism were nothing more than pamphletary idealism, allegedly pacifist and full of anti-capitalist slogans that belied the pace of life of a billionaire and eccentric apostle of austerity who proclaimed an equitable distribution of wealth while he enjoyed immense fortune.
It was inevitable that Lennon’s charisma would give rise to a Black legend and foster a campaign against him from the most ultra-conservative quarters, supported by the Nixon Administration, the FBI and the CIA, who saw Lennon as a danger because of his power to mobilize the masses.
Lennon was also the object of criticism and envy by some of his fellow professionals, as was the case with Elvis Costello when in his song “The Other Side of Summer” he ironically asked himself : “Was it a billionaire who said ‘Imagine there are no possessions’?
Nevertheless, and controversies aside, it is unquestionable that Lennon was a myth, a great musician and that Imagine was born impregnated with a special magic and peace that, from the moment it was composed, predestined it to reach the most remote corner of the planet and to endure in time.