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'Imagine' at 50: Why John Lennon's ode to humanism still resonates

24 Comments
By Phil Zuckerman

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It's one of the most over-hyped, over-played dirges ever.

-9 ( +3 / -12 )

He is missed. One can only imagine what he would have produced had he lived longer.

10 ( +11 / -1 )

" above us only sky?"

Those lyrics smack of shallowness , above us is infinity , far beyond the skies. The limited realm described in the songs lyrics are of a confined space as seen by one lacking imagination.

-13 ( +2 / -15 )

Commie drivel.

Lennon had some great music, but Imagine isn't among it.

-11 ( +2 / -13 )

It's an incredibly moving, very powerful song.

7 ( +11 / -4 )

above us only sky?

Those lyrics smack of shallowness

Nope. He’s making a clear, concise point about the silly, childish idea of heaven.

Again, it’s one of those songs which is so familiar it’s easy to lose sight of how good it is.

Beautifully crafted song.

6 ( +10 / -4 )

The bishop’s totalitarian anthem: “imagine all the people living in their lives in peace…” Hmm, not sure what the problem is.

But maybe we should all listen when he speaks of moral and political chaos.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

Here's a great video where Ben Shapiro, the "cool kid conservative", tries to argue against John Lennon, a dead man, on the anniversary of his death, with no way for Lennon to argue back (as he is dead), in complete control of the situation, and somehow still losing the argument.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=npnrOBac3Qg

3 ( +7 / -4 )

Indeed, secular people in general exhibit an orientation that is markedly tolerant, democratic and universalistic – values Lennon holds up as ideals in “Imagine.”

I think removing divisive ideas is a positive.

One very sinister thing religion allows is the idea ‘I don’t disapprove of/dislike/hate ( insert a group/behaviour here ), god does’.

A get out of jail free card for intolerant people across the world.

0 ( +4 / -4 )

I'm not really a fan of this song. To me it's a maudlin, mawkish piece of work. But no matter what I think, one thing's for sure. Imagine is sincere, and a genuine attempt by one of the world's greatest songwriters to express something that doesn't usually get expressed in a pop song, and it came from Lennon's (and Yoko's) heart. And it continues to have a positive effect on a lot of people. So my opinion on it doesn't really matter, and (for once) I'm happy with that.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

Commie drivel.

Commie? John Lennon? On the basis of what? That all "Commies" are atheists, therefore all atheists must be Commies?

3 ( +5 / -2 )

Imagine was top of the list for songs that are banned when a new war is started:

https://www.wussu.com/humour/abbagulf.htm

Yes, it's a bit maudlin and mawkish but Lennon's sincerity shines through, and it's reached millions of people which is a great achievement.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

Atheists never had a song of their own. Now, thanks to Lennon, they do.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Maybe I'm being pedantic but I'd describe it as agnostic song rather than atheistic. "Imagine" implies uncertainty, atheism to me implies certainty - there is no god. The person who coined the word "agnostic" wrote of not knowing the cause of existence. He also advised not believing in anything unless there is evidence and reason to support it. So not believing in god (or religion) is not quite the same as believing there is no god.

I like the song, but my wife is not a great fan. I suspect her opinion is related to her attitude to Yoko Ono - the spoiled rich girl as she would put it.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

I really hate John Lennon. Not for his political views or his songwriting, but basically because he was a jerk to his own son. As a father myself, that just really makes me hate his guts on a very deep level. The Beatles song Hey Jude is really a song about how bad Lennon hurt his kid.

So Imagine just really rubs me the wrong way for that reason. Musically its not a bad song, but coming out of his sanctimonious cake hole I just can’t listen to it.

McCartney was the best Beatle.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

@rainyday

In his defense, he did admit to being an a##ehole and tried to improve on it.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

In his defense, he did admit to being an a##ehole and tried to improve on it.

Yeah, but that was after his kid had already grown up and the damage was done.

I got sympathy for dads who screw up fatherhood because they are down on their luck, lose their job (or have to work two and don’t have time), etc. But some jackass popstar who doesn’t have time for his kid because he’s too busy cheating on his kid’s mom with Yoko Ono is a slimebag in my books.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

...he was a jerk to his own son. 

And because he was murdered at the tender age of forty, John never had the chance that other fathers could have to make it up to their sons and find forgiveness in reconciliation. He himself had suffered as a child from parental neglect and the tragic early death of his mother. The trajectory of John Lennon's life appeared to be on the upswing as he was becoming ever more conscious of his personal failings when his life was suddenly cut short by a psychopath against the background of a hysterical culture war fueled by vindictive Nixonian politics. Imagine, for all its failings as a song with a mawkish melody and sentimental lyrics, expresses John's disappointment in the follies of our fragile humanity while appealing to our better selves to change and make all lives matter. His senseless death only underscores the pathos of the song which still resonates in the hearts of millions of us whose lives have been touched by the music of the lads from Liverpool.

0 ( +4 / -4 )

But some jackass popstar who doesn’t have time for his kid because he’s too busy cheating on his kid’s mom with Yoko Ono is a slimebag in my books.

Sure, because if a presumably unhappy Lennon had just stayed home with Cynthia in a loveless, broken-down marriage, everything would have been peachy for "his kid". Life just isn't sunshine and roses behind the white picket fence for everyone.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Sure, because if a presumably unhappy Lennon had just stayed home with Cynthia in a loveless, broken-down marriage, everything would have been peachy for "his kid". Life just isn't sunshine and roses behind the white picket fence for everyone.

Oh cry me a river.

I’m not saying he had to stay in a broken down marriage (which broke down because of him of course, but whatever). Getting divorced isn’t an excuse for neglecting your child, lots of divorced dads are good dads. Lennon wasn’t, and he didn’t have any valid excuses, nothing was preventing him from both leaving the marriage AND devoting at least some of his time to his kid.

Anyway, I don’t expect everyone to agree with me on this - there are a lot of other things to judge a person by and he has other stuff going for him - but its my opinion of the man.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

I’m not saying he had to stay in a broken down marriage (which broke down because of him of course, but whatever). Getting divorced isn’t an excuse for neglecting your child, lots of divorced dads are good dads. Lennon wasn’t, and he didn’t have any valid excuses, nothing was preventing him from both leaving the marriage AND devoting at least some of his time to his kid.

I couldn’t agree more. Lennon was especially a horrible father to his first born and when you hear how he talks or better yet, watch his life documentary (Julian Lennon) you get a glimpse of how this guy suffered emotionally for wanting to have a decent relationship with his dad, he tried so hard to get along with Yoko, he said once Sean was born his father became more distant and Yoko was more adamant about Julian and John’s relationship. She was responsible for a lot of that mess, but John could have said to her, that’s my son and no matter what, he’s my blood and I want to be there for him, he didn’t do that. He could have been father’s to both kids simultaneously, that didn’t happen.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Oh cry me a river.

Hey buddy, you're the one who's been doing that, since 5.50 pm yesterday.

Getting divorced isn’t an excuse for neglecting your child, lots of divorced dads are good dads. Lennon wasn’t,

I have no doubt that Lennon could be, and was in some aspects of his life, an a**hole. I don't think even he would have argued with you about that.

he didn’t have any valid excuses, nothing was preventing him from both leaving the marriage AND devoting at least some of his time to his kid.

I agree, he should have done better. But that doesn't justify dismissing a man who meant so many things to so many people as a "slimebag", as though all there is to judge him by is this one particular aspect of his life that he screwed up.

Anyway, I don’t expect everyone to agree with me on this - there are a lot of other things to judge a person by and he has other stuff going for him - but its my opinion of the man.

And fair enough. I don't expect you to agree with me either. But at least in this last paragraph you seem prepared to demonstrate a more nuanced attitude towards one man's life and character than you have in your previous posts.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I couldn’t agree more. Lennon was especially a horrible father to his first born and when you hear how he talks or better yet, watch his life documentary (Julian Lennon) you get a glimpse of how this guy suffered emotionally for wanting to have a decent relationship with his dad, he tried so hard to get along with Yoko, he said once Sean was born his father became more distant and Yoko was more adamant about Julian and John’s relationship. She was responsible for a lot of that mess, but John could have said to her, that’s my son and no matter what, he’s my blood and I want to be there for him, he didn’t do that. He could have been father’s to both kids simultaneously, that didn’t happen.

Exactly. The more you know about how he treated Julian, the harder it becomes to not dislike the guy.

I agree, he should have done better. But that doesn't justify dismissing a man who meant so many things to so many people as a "slimebag", as though all there is to judge him by is this one particular aspect of his life that he screwed up.

Hey, its just my opinion of the guy. Some people like him and I’m fine with them liking him. Personally I hate his guts to the core. To me he is a slimebag (or some similar term).

Its not a minor side note to his life to me like it is to others, it speaks directly to what kind of a person he was. As a father, when it comes down to it the only thing I really care about in my life is making my kids happy. Everything else is just background noise. I cannot feel anything but scorn for a guy who puts his own selfish desires above the wellbeing of his kids. Its says so much about a person’s character, all of it bad.

Again, I have to stress that there are a lot of dads out there who fail their kids and that is just life and not always their fault and it does not make them bad people. But Lennon was just a selfish jackass who didn’t give a crap about his kid. That makes him just an awful human being in my books. So when I see him lionized by his fans buying into his hypocritical, sanctimonious BS songs I understand why they feel that way but I can’t feel that way myself.

Its one of the reasons I like Paul McCartney, he kind of stepped in to help Julian get through how rotten his father was to him. To me that says a lot about what kind of a person he is and makes me respect him. Lennon I have nothing but scorn for, and I don’t really care if his fans disagree with me.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

1glennSep. 17  09:42 am JST

He is missed. One can only imagine what he would have produced had he lived longer.

The posthumous 'Milk and Honey' album came out in 1984 and there are some new wavish touches to it. He was listening to the B-52's and to ska bands like the Selector and Madness.

BigYenSep. 17  12:57 pm JST

Commie drivel.

Commie? John Lennon? On the basis of what? That all "Commies" are atheists, therefore all atheists must be Commies?

'Commie' is an ignorant churlish bullting term that neo-cons in the West use to put down others who live or think different than they do. Just like 'queer' or 'liberal' or even 'Muslim'. Just because somebody has an idea or opinion you don't like or agree with doesn't make that person any of those things. So many people throw those words around with no clue what they mean, and they look absolutely stupid.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

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