"Within this song, we’re transported to a space, where love and togetherness become our reality, if but for a moment in time."
In 1971, a year after the break-up of the Beatles, John Lennon released his most important piece of music, the song “Imagine.” The song is an appeal to humanity’s better angels and urges the listener to "join us" in visualizing a world without war, hunger or greed.
The song provides a glimmer of hope in that if we can visualize a perfect world, then maybe one day it will be achievable.
Over the past 50 years, the song has become a secular hymn that can conjure hope in the aftermath of the most tragic events. The song was played by Queen at Wembley Arena after Lennon was murdered in 1980. Steve Wonder sang it at the closing ceremonies of the 1996 Olympics to honor the lives of those lost at the Centennial Olympic Park bombing. Neil Young played it at the 9/11 Tribute to Heroes concert.
“Imagine” is also seen as Lennon’s signature song that encapsulates his artistic persona. No small feat given the earth-shattering effect the songs he wrote with the Beatles have had on the world.
Given the song’s incredible power, Lennon’s son Julian vowed never to perform it in public. Julian has had success as a musician over the years, most notably with his 1984 hit, “Too Late for Goodbyes.” He’s also a philanthropist who has produced numerous documentaries.
The war in Ukraine pushed Julian to break his vow and he performed a beautiful rendition of “Imagine” as part of Global Citizen’s social media rally, “Stand Up For Ukraine” on April 8. The campaign is working to raise money for the war-torn country.
Julian was accompanied for the performance by guitarist Nuno Bettencourt, who is best known as the lead guitarist of the Boston rock band Extreme and a member of Rihanna's touring band.
"The War on Ukraine is an unimaginable tragedy... As a human, and as an artist, I felt compelled to respond in the most significant way I could," Lennon wrote. "So today, for the first time ever, I publicly performed my Dad’s song, IMAGINE. Why now, after all these years? — I had always said, that the only time I would ever consider singing ‘IMAGINE’ would be if it was the ‘End of the World’…But also because his lyrics reflect our collective desire for peace worldwide.
“Because within this song, we’re transported to a space, where love and togetherness become our reality, if but for a moment in time… The song reflects the light at the end of the tunnel, that we are all hoping for…" he continued.
“As a result of the ongoing murderous violence, millions of innocent families, have been forced to leave the comfort of their homes, to seek asylum elsewhere,” Lennon concluded his message. “I’m calling on world leaders and everyone who believes in the sentiment of IMAGINE, to stand up for refugees everywhere! Please advocate and donate from the heart. #StandUpForUkraine.”
Lennon’s decision to never play “Imagine” was a wonderful way to honor his father’s legacy by respecting the power of his song. But John would probably be proud if he knew that he sang it at a time when we all need to imagine “all the people living life in peace.”
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