Published on June 17, 2016
“Imagine” is a song written and performed by the English musician John Lennon. The best-selling single of his solo career, its lyrics encourage the listener to imagine a world at peace without the barriers of borders or the divisions of religion and nationality, and to consider the possibility that the focus of humanity should be living a life unattached to material possessions.
Lennon and Yoko Ono co-produced the song and album of the same name with Phil Spector. Recording began at Lennon’s home studio at Tittenhurst Park, England, in May 1971, with final overdubs taking place at the Record Plant, in New York City, during July. One month after the September release of the LP, Lennon released “Imagine” as a single in the United States; the song peaked at number three on the Billboard Hot 100 and the LP reached number one on the UK chart in November, later becoming the most commercially successful and critically acclaimed album of Lennon’s solo career. Although not originally released as a single in the United Kingdom, it was released in 1975 to promote a compilation LP and it reached number six in the chart that year. The song has since sold more than 1.6 million copies in the UK; it reached number one following Lennon’s murder in December 1980. In 1985, Central Park memorialized a portion of the park with a mosaic that reads “Imagine” in honor of Lennon
BMI named “Imagine” one of the 100 most-performed songs of the 20th century. The song ranked number 30 on the Recording Industry Association of America’s list of the 365 Songs of the Century bearing the most historical significance. It earned a Grammy Hall of Fame Award and an induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll. A UK survey conducted by the Guinness World Records British Hit Singles Book named it the second best single of all time, while Rolling Stone ranked it number three in their list of “The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time”. Since 2005, event organisers have played it just before the New Year’s Times Square Ball drops in New York City. Dozens of artists have performed or recorded versions of “Imagine”, including Madonna, Stevie Wonder, Joan Baez, Elton John and Diana Ross. Emeli Sandé recorded a cover for the BBC to use during the end credits montage at the close of the 2012 Summer Olympics coverage in August 2012. “Imagine” subsequently re-entered the UK Top 40, reaching number 18.