Writer(s): John Lennon (see lyrics here)
Released: October 11, 1971
First Charted: September 24, 1971
Peak: 3 US, 2 CB, 2 GR, 11 HR, 7 AC, 1 CL, 20 AR, 14 UK, 12 CN, 15 AU, 1 DF (Click for codes to charts.)
Sales (in millions): -- US, 1.79 UK, 1.96 world (includes US + UK)
Airplay/Streaming (in millions): 5.0 radio, 331.37 video, 338.98 streaming
Click on award for more details.
About the Song:
One morning early in 1971, Lennon sat at the white grand piano in his bedroom and virtually completed “his greatest musical gift to the world.” RS500 He considered “Imagine” to rate as high as anything he wrote with the Beatles. RS500 He wasn’t wrong. It was “a sweetened variant of the political songwriting that Lennon engaged in before and after.” TB This “is the record that saved John Lennon’s post-Beatles reputation.” TB
It “became something more than a pop song. It has become an anthem that people sing when they need hope for mankind.” TC It was “a simple but moving hymn-like creation” SS “geared to…people’s utopian ideals but designed to be palatable to the masses.” TB His wife Yoko Ono told Rolling Stone that it was “just what John believed – that we are all one country, one world, one people.” RS500 While Lennon is “advocating an atheistic, anarchist utopia,” TC he had the foresight to soften the message via his approach. Poetic lyrics, intimate instrumentation, and a heartfelt vocal provided an accessibility that “emphasized the song’s fundamental humanity.” RS500
Lennon told broadcaster Andy Peebles, that the song “should be credited as a Lennon/Ono song. A lot of it, the lyric and the concept, came from Yoko, but those days I was a bit more selfish…and I omitted to mention her contribution, which was right out of Grapefruit.’” HL That book of poems, published by Ono in 1964, used “imagine” as a recurrent word.
The song was produced by Phil Spector, known for his legendary “Wall of Sound” layering technique. SS However, for the “Imagine” song and album, he showed uncharacteristic restraint, because he trusted Lennon’s musical sense. It was recorded at Lennon’s home studio in his mansion just outside of London. Lennon sings and plays the grand piano while accompanied by Klaus Voorman on bass and Alan White on drums. Spector later added strings. SS
The song had an interesting chart life. It went to #3 on the U.S. charts in 1971, but took four more years to hit in Lennon’s native England, reaching #6. In the wake of Lennon’s murder on December 8, 1980, “Imagine” stormed the U.K. charts once again, this time going all the way to the top. In fact, as is more common on the other side of the pond, Lennon’s ode to the power of possibilities has been released a couple more times, landing in or just outside the top ten.
First posted 7/12/2014; last updated 4/14/2023.