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Friday, October 10, 2008

Happy Birthday, John Lennon

October 9 1940-December 8 1980

I have John Lennon on my mind, probably because it was his birthday yesterday. I smile sadly when I think of him.

Perpetually young, the talented musician and angry agitator, it's hard to believe that John Lennon has been dead for almost 28 years. Lennon was the originator and chief songwriter, along with Paul McCartney, of the Beatles until the group broke up in 1970. He was married most famously to Yoko Ono, had two boys, and was a notoriously free spirit. He was killed outside his apartment in New York City by a deranged fan waiting for him with a gun.

One of Lennon's most famous post-Beatles songs is *Imagine*; I've pasted the lyrics at the bottom of this entry. This song talks about a shining worldwide brotherhood, where no one fights or competes, and we all just love each other and live in peace.

Although beautiful both in music and lyrics, though, this song has always discomforted me in its lumping of people into a *group* where we *all* do all these things. In my mind, this seems to be a real dichotomy in society even today: there are people who believe in the strength of the individual to create and to choose how he will live, versus the people who believe in groups of people who are oppressed, or privileged, or whatever, and need one-size-fits-all solutions.

There is a monument to John Lennon on Videy Island, Reykjavik Iceland, that sends a bright column of light into the sky.

Imagine there's no Heaven
It's easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people
Living for today

Imagine there's no countries
It isn't hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace

You may say that 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

Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world

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


Jane Lebak said...

Ah, see, I hate that song. Imagine there's no Heaven, no religion, no meaning to life in general. "Nothing to die for" means life would have no meaning at all. Can you imagine a world in which you had NOTHING you cared about enough to give your life for?

Wouldn't you run through fire to save your children's lives? Nope, not in the "Imagine" world. In that world, your children's lives would be no more important than an overdue library book. Nothing worth dying for.

A world with no religion would be a world in which we were blind to the glory of God.

I understand you interpret the song differently, bu t it seems to me that Lennon is trying to create "peace" and "brotherhood" in this song by eliminating anything that makes life worth living.

Amy Deardon said...

You said this so much better! I've always thought of this song as an ode to Communism and the lack of any individuality, a Nirvana where we all are absorbed into the great uniform expanse. No, I don't like this world view either. I put the lyrics in here because the song is so well known, and probably reflects John Lennon's values (since this was a tribute to him, sort of. IMHO he's a tragic figure who didn't quite figure it out, but was very talented...)