Imagine single artwork (UK) - John LennonWritten by: Lennon
Recorded: c.20-28 May, 4-5 July 1971
Producers: John Lennon, Yoko Ono, Phil Spector

Released: 8 October 1971 (UK), 9 September 1971 (US)

John Lennon: vocals, piano
Klaus Voormann: bass guitar
Alan White: drums
The Flux Fiddlers: strings

Available on:
Power To The People - The Hits
Live In New York City
John Lennon Anthology

Widely regarded as John Lennon's signature song, Imagine was the title track of his second album, and perhaps his best-known solo work.

Imagine - Imagine (Remastered)

[Imagine] is anti-religious, anti-nationalistic, anti-conventional, anti-capitalistic... but because it is sugar-coated, it is accepted.
John Lennon

Imagine conveyed Lennon's wish for world peace and harmony in simple terms, both musically and lyrically. It was inspired by Cloud Piece, an instructional poem dated Spring 1963 that appeared in Yoko Ono's book Grapefruit.

Imagine the clouds dripping.
Dig a hole in your garden to
put them in.
Yoko Ono

Lennon reproduced the words on the back cover of the Imagine album. Although Imagine's lyrics only bear a passing resemblance to Cloud Piece, such was Ono's influence that Lennon later admitted she should have been given a co-credit on the song.

The song was originally inspired by Yoko's book Grapefruit. In it are a lot of pieces saying, Imagine this, imagine that. Yoko actually helped a lot with the lyrics, but I wasn't man enough to let her have credit for it. I was still selfish enough and unaware enough to sort of take her contribution without acknowledging it. I was still full of wanting my own space after being in a room with the guys all the time, having to share everything.
John Lennon
All We Are Saying, David Sheff

Other lyrics were written by Lennon on various pieces of paper, including a Majorcan hotel bill and stationery from the New York Hilton, suggesting its gestation took some time.

Dick Gregory gave Yoko and me a little hind of prayer book. It is in the Christian idiom, but you can apply it anywhere. It is the concept of positive prayer. If you want to get a car, get the car keys. Get it? Imagine is saying that. If you can imagine a world at peace, with no denominations of religion - not without religion but without this my-God-is-bigger-than-your-God thing - then it can be true.
John Lennon
All We Are Saying, David Sheff

While the message of Imagine resonated widely, and was given added poignancy after Lennon's assassination in 1980, its message has since been derided by many who point out the contradiction of a multimillionaire asking the rest of the world to imagine no possessions. Mindful of this, during performances in later years Lennon substituted the words "I wonder if we can" for "I wonder if you can" - the change can be heard on the Live In New York City album.

The World Church called me once and asked, 'Can we use the lyrics to Imagine and just change it to "Imagine one religion"?' That showed they didn't understand it at all. It would defeat the whole purpose of the song, the whole idea.
John Lennon
All We Are Saying, David Sheff

The song is the antithesis of Lennon's previous single, Power To The People, and his later political sloganeering of the Some Time In New York City album. Imagine suggests that, instead of starting revolution right away, Lennon wanted "nothing to kill or die for" and a life of peace. As such, it harks back to the spirit of summer 1967 more than any of his other 1970s work.

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.
Jimmy Carter

25 responses on “Imagine

    1. Joe Post author

      No you’re not. I think there are two pianos, presumably both played by Lennon. Just before the vocals come in you can hear a second, positioned slightly wider in the stereo spectrum. And, of course, Spector added loads of echo so it was never likely to be crystal-clear.

        1. goshawk1957

          Im a big Fan of John’s and Nicky’s i would have thought that Nicky was the main piano player on Imagine,i love his piano on Oh Yoko,Crippled Inside,Jealous Guy and his Electric Piano on How Do You Sleep which I’ve recently had all these songs transcribed for Piano 100% Perfect.

  1. David [from Peru]

    Though not closely related, as many people has observed, it may worth (as a curiosity) to point out the similiraties between the lyrics of this song «Imagine there’s no heaven; it’s easy if you try» and of I’ll get you «Imagine I’m in love with you; its easy ’cause I know». Also, both songs’ bridges (or middle rights, not sure) have some resemblance, inasmuch as they both reflect the singers’ desire (or confidence) for the listener to change his/her mind.

  2. carlos

    Good point David. There´s only one piano (played by John of course). The fact is that they used ADT process. Remember that after the Beatles breakup John rarely doubletracked his voice or instruments because he felt boring doing the same thing time after time.

  3. Graham Paterson

    A great song and great title track to a great album. This is John Lennons most iconic song . I love it on the film Imagine with Lennon playing this on the large white piano. This song is one of the greatest of all time. What a way in 2012 when they played this at the closing of the London Olympics.

  4. Graham Paterson

    This is John Lennons most iconic song. A great opening to a great album. He and Phil Spector working together at their best.I loved it in the film Imagine where Lennon is singing this on the large white piano.IT was fantastic that they showed this at the closing of the 2012 London Olympics.

  5. David (from Peru)

    I’ve just posted a video on YouTube with a mix between Imagine and Watching The Wheels I’ve made yesterday. Both songs are great and share many (harmonic) similarities, so I said “It’s easy if you try”, worked for 8 hours straight with Audacity and made this little mixed version (WtW as the backing track + Imagine vocals). Hope you can check it out! It is at: /watch?v=HrIsTWyMNQg

  6. Knight

    The lyrics are beautiful. I’ve seen a lot of people saying bad stuff about it and the ideologies presented in it. A big argument I see about it is that it says that life in this utopia has no meaning. That’s completely wrong, as Lennon clearly said it’s about being happy. “Imagine all the people living for today.”

  7. Jonathan Steele

    I agree, a lovely song and poignant words. I have, for a few years now, tho I ve never seen or heard it said by anyone, often wondered if John ever read the poems of John Clare. I was born very near Clare’s birthplace of Helpston, and he was, to my mind, one of the greatest poets England has produced. He was a humble farm labourer, known in sniffy English society of the times then and since as the “peasant poet”. This would have appealed I’m sure to John!

    One of Clare’s poems is titled,I Am! Add “a gine” and there’s Imagine.

    “I long for scenes where man has never trod;
    A place where woman never smiled or wept;
    There to abide with my creator, God,
    And sleep as I in childhood sweetly slept ;
    Untroubling and untroubled where I lie;
    The grass below —above, the vaulted sky”

  8. August lake

    No religion too. Oh my, I was hoping John would be in heaven. But his belief system and this song make it fairly clear I will never met him. Now im bummed out for sure.

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