What do you think of when you hear the name John Lennon? He’s an icon and an innovator, but he is so much more and has created a legacy that will last for the ages, both with The Beatles and in his solo career.
Without him, so many songs would have gone unwritten and music history would be drastically different. His 1971 album Imagine is just like him, a moving piece of artistry punctuated with famous singles and strong messages that are a testament to history.
Before even talking about the music on the album, I have to first talk about the man behind the songs. Lennon is one of the greatest musicians of his time. His abilities shone when he was with The Beatles, co-writing many classics with Paul McCartney. After the band broke up between 1969 and 1970, Lennon embarked on a solo career. Imagine, his second solo album, was released in 1971, with massive social upheaval from the ‘60’s coming to a close but still prominent enough that major themes carried over into the message of many tracks.
The overall tone leans towards almost bitterness throughout the album, about both the tensions between Lennon and McCartney at the time and antiwar sentiments. It may be hard to reach, as it seems to be a more conventional album in my opinion with softer tones on some of the songs. The message is there, but I think it is meant to be searched for, rather than given to you like so many pop songs.
“I Don’t Wanna Be A Soldier Mama” is one example of where the theme is very clear, and can be deciphered just from glancing at the title. Although the lyrics are short – just 30 words total – there doesn’t need to be much variation to get a point across when it comes to John Lennon. Musically, it is a definite instrumental piece, with around a four minutes or so lacking vocals-which can be refreshing. Another one of my favorite songs is “Oh My Love”, the album’s only love song. It takes on a light air, giving a reprieve from the heavier rock and angrier side. It flows through the melody as a cool summer song and is soft and gentle, and is one of the songs I’ll take away remembering most.
Poignant and beautifully written, the titular track “Imagine” was a major hit. It has become one of the most popular songs of all time and an anthem all over the world for peace. It’s an amazing song, between the deep lyrics and piano riff. My favorite aspect of this song is the history behind it-and the whole album, in fact, and its impact on the musical side to it. Lennon supposedly came up with the song with a slight bit of help from Yoko Ono; whether anyone thinks this is fact or not is up to them, but it gives backstory. Lennon composed the song while at his piano over the course of a single morning. Lennon intended the song’s theme of world peace to be less sugar-coated that it is often considered to be. The lyrics describe how it would mean no war or strife if we were all equals, taking on a more anti-capitalistic stance. Regardless, it is as iconic as Lennon himself, as its music video, which was an early example of the medium. It’s a simple song and a simple video, but the impact it made with the piano riff seen throughout the song and its influence is incredible.
The rest of the album is just as memorable, with Lennon accompanied on several tracks by fellow Beatle George Harrison. Imagine is certainly a remarkable album, and not boring in the slightest. It is a must-listen for any Beatle fan or classic rock enthusiast. Its legacy will continue on as the anniversary of this groundbreaking solo album for John Lennon is celebrated.