John Lennon’s “Imagine” As a Social Commentary

ImageOn October 11, 1971, the song “Imagine” was released, and it quickly climbed atop the charts. It is often highly regarded as one of the greatest singles of all time. Despite its success, the song found itself surrounded by much controversy. In the song, Lennon proposes a world without a heaven, hell, a country, politics, hunger, and other social dilemmas. Many religious fanatics disliked the message of the song due to the idea of a world without a heaven. In an interview with David Sheff in 1980, Lennon talked about how a certain religion wanted him to alter his song:

The concept of positive prayer … 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 … 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 [me] they didn’t understand it at all. It would defeat the whole purpose of the song, the whole idea.

Subtly, I think he is trying to make the point that religion has brought more catastrophe and negativity into the world than chaos. People have this preconceived notion that one religion is better than another. People should not be separated and prejudiced simply due to their beliefs. He envisions a world of peace, and ironically this idea is opposed.

I think he is trying to engage the listener into believing that people should not be bounded by their country, politics, wars, etc. People should be “one” with each other and live in harmony. This song was also popular during the Vietnam War and Civil Rights Movement. Lennon may not have been necessarily attacking religion or the war in general through his song. However, he is challenging us to think about how the world would operate without certain constraints (social norms and man-made organizations such as religion or politics).

I think the song touches on two key aspects of “defining taste.” One can argue that the song has both explicit and implicit meanings. As stated previously, Lennon explicitly proposes a utopia without certain elements in our current world. Implicitly, one can argue that Lennon is jabbing at religion, government, and general greed. These things have often brought more bad into than world than they have brought good. In regards to the second aspect of who the song is designed to cater to: I think the song caters to everyone. The song really makes a person think about how peace can truly be achieved. Can we fully trust our religion and government that one day world peace can be achieved? One can argue that there isn’t a particular audience Lennon wants to address. Instead, he wants to address all people in the world.


Also, I think the song title is highly significant. When a person imagines something, often it is something that seems impossible to achieve. In the song, Lennon states:

You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will be as one

Lennon knows that he is one of the few believers that people can achieve world peace. He hopes someday that you, the listener, can open your eyes and join his mission in stopping negativity in the world to achieve unison with all people. The song is a favorite of mine, and it has the potential to challenge your own set of beliefs and perceptions of the world.



4 thoughts on “John Lennon’s “Imagine” As a Social Commentary

  1. The lyrics are explicitly, anarchistic/communistic…he was a regular contributor to the workers revolutionary party in the US according to a couple of biogs and those that were associated with the party that I know personally. It wa voted the most popular song of the 20th century I believe. The “Greatest speech ever told” is pretty accepted as such…..until you mention what they represent, then its the usual “hysteria” and mob violence. From what I can tell dung beetles have more sense than most people. They don’t get sucked in by conspiracy theories and believe every stupid thing that is told to them….dung beetles have their shit together…and we are not even close. It might be just Australia…I am aware of the utter delight we are for those that visit, and many don’t even leave the airport, just get on the next flight out….any flight to anywhere……

  2. Pingback: Imagine by John Lennon - Modern Human Race

  3. The sentiments reflected in this song, like so many things in this world sounds good until you scratch beneath the surface. In fact, many people today do live a life where they imagine there is no heaven or hell, noting to kill or die for, living only for today. But far from leading to a world of peace, it leads to self indulgent living, alcohol, drugs, and free sex. Such lives ends in misery and end up with a personal hell on earth.

    Utopian dreams are just that, dreams. It has nothing to do with reality. All the imagining in the world will not fix this broken world. Only those who understand reality and work based on fact can fend off chaos. But this is a never ending battle that has no end. The moment good people stop fighting evil in this world, it will plunge into darkness like it did in WWII.

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