This research is being submitted on May 20, 2015 for Levi Miller’s G380: Visions of America Since 1945 course in the Summer 2015 quarter.
Popular Music and Cultural Impact
Arguably one of the greatest contributions to popular music in human history, John Lennon’s “Imagine” is a serenely melodic ode to unity and world peace. Written and composed during the divisive Vietnam War era, Lennon’s song is a lasting hymn of comfort and promise that has carried mankind through periods of extreme grief and upheaval. An endless target for both accolade and criticism, “Imagine” continues to be one of the most consistently uplifting and optimistic musical compositions in popular culture.
“Imagine” is somewhat of a global phenomenon. If one were to ask any individual from any nation, if he or she had heard this song, the answer would most likely be YES. Widely considered an international peace ballad, “Imagine” transcends age, culture, religion, race, and all of the barriers that keep people apart. The central message of the song is “a united world and the brotherhood of all mankind.” This simple yet powerful song is cross-generational, cross-cultural, and completely accessible for each and every human being. If there were ever a musical composition that possessed the ability to unite the human race, it would surely be “Imagine.”
John Lennon, a British musician and well-known advocate for peace, had risen to fame with, perhaps the greatest musical group of all time, the Beatles. The 1960s and 1970s was a tempestuous period for the youth of the world, especially American youth. The war in Vietnam was claiming thousands of young lives daily, racial tensions were at a climax, and the whole world seemed to be in a state of violence and confusion. Meanwhile, an entire generation was rebelling against the established social confines of their predecessors, and at the heart of the movement was rock and roll. While rock music draws primarily from blues music popularized by African Americans, as well as American folk music, musical groups like the Beatles pioneered a cultural sensation. In fact, the hysteria associated with the Beatles became known as “Beatle-mania.” While there have been other similar fads and trends, none have been as important to popular music as the Beatles.
Lennon and his bandmates had an extremely successful career, churning out chart-topping hits about love, politics, drugs, music, and other complexities of the human experience. However, after the band dissolved, John Lennon became more involved with the peace crusade and his music began to more prominently reflect his social and political views. In 1969, he and his new wife, Yoko Ono, invited the media into their bedroom in Amsterdam to witness what Lennon referred to as “the bed-in.” While the newspapers and televisions were reporting about violence and war both domestically and abroad, John Lennon silently became the spokesman for organized peace and revolution.
A few years later, in 1971, he began work on the most important composition of his career. American youth was ensued in an ongoing battle with their both elders and the United States government, as they believed all of the social and political confines established before their time to be destructive and detrimental to the human race. They protested and assembled in the name of peace and love, while simultaneously being shipped over seas to die for a cause in which they did not believe. Lennon, who shared many of these ideals, took note and wrote one of the greatest ballads for peace and unity in human history. “Imagine” succeeds partly because of its pure simplicity. It speaks directly to the humanity within each of us, begging for justice, morality, and unity for all mankind. This song has a basic message that asks for freedom from hunger, religion, and suffering. Rather than