“You were the one who imagined it all, all those years ago,” sang George Harrison of John Lennon. 30 years ago on December 8, at around 10.50 pm, just as John and Yoko were returning to their New York apartment, Mark Chapman shot John four times in the back. Just a few hours before that he had autographed his new album, Double Fantasy for Chapman.
Within minutes of his death thousands of fans stood outside Lennon’s home in the cold, singing his songs to the accompaniment of portable radios and tape players. It is one of those moments many of us remember well – what exactly we were doing when we heard the news … Time seemed to stand still and conflicting emotions of grief, anger and incredulity stupefied us around the world. There was no funeral for John but Yoko called for a silent vigil at Central Park where his ashes were scattered too, and where the Strawberry Fields memorial was later created.
Imagine remains the song Lennon is most remembered by. It was voted by Rolling Stone magazine as #3 song of all times. The song’s most immediate inspiration appears to have been Cloud Piece, a poem by Yoko Ono from her 1964 book Grapefruit, but the themes of peace and love and dreams of Utopia can be found in earlier songs such as The Word, All You Need is Love and many more.
Imagine has left behind a cultural legacy that inspires so many people and organizations. The human rights organization Amnesty International‘s official song is Imagine. Liverpool’s airport, named after John Lennon has “Above Us Only Sky” painted on its ceiling. On January 30, 2003, the song was played to wake up the astronauts on the Space Shuttle Columbia during its ill-fated mission. It was used in the last sequence of the 1984 film, Killing Fields. It’s the universal song for Hope and Peace.