With a great song title like "Imagine" Johnny Lennon wins!
Also, it's a tricky song to expand into a solo piano piece. I've been busy at it, but not satisfied..
...His brothers in the marching band refused to yield..
Imagine; Over the years I've heard an awful lot of unremarkable cover versions of this song.
I think I know why: The song is greater than the sum of its parts, and was the right jingoistic anthem at exactly the right time by an iconic singer/songwriter.
Lyrically, the verses are a laundry list. Imagine this, Imagine that, etc. The Chorus is short and simple and personal. There is nothing wrong with a set of lyrics put together in this fashion. It's not Shakespeare, but it's full of great phraseology.
The Melody itself is also simple. The verse runs thusly: So, ti, la. So, ti, la. So, ti, la. So, ti, la.
The chorus is in an A, B, A, B-prime format.
Frankly, it's the bridge
between the verse and chorus, and the vocal hook at the end of that bridge that lifts the song from its singsongy verse and generic-formula chorus. There's also that very hook-y piano intro, and that piano link between the first chorus and the 3rd verse.
The lovely simplistic piano accompaniment is perfect as a backing, so perfect that one barely notices the tasteful bass guitar from Klaus Voorman
, or the nuance drumming of Alan White
. The overdubbed strings are merely block chords with an occasional passing tone here and there.
And, of course, there's John Lennon
's sympathetic and vulnerable vocal.
All of these elements are simple and brilliant
, and THAT's
why there's not been any covers of the song that have charted or gained any lasting attention, in spite of the many Rock Royals that have sung it. Elton John, Joan Baez, Blues Traveller, Yes, CeeLo Greene, Queen, Davie Bowie, Liza Minelli, Peter Gabriel, Madonna, Lady Gaga
, and Eva Cassidy
(to name just a few) have all sung the song, either live or in the studio.
Only one cover got any traction: When Seal, Pink
, and Jeff Beck
sang it on Herbie Hancock
's 2010 Imagine Project
, it earned a Grammy Award for Best Pop Vocal Collaboration.
Imagine FUN FACT
: This song charted in the Top Twenty all over the world in 1971 and 1972. Everywhere EXCEPT
for in the UK. It wasn't released in the UK until 1975 to promote the compilation album Shaved Fish
, and only reached Number 63. in 1980, the single re-entered the UK chart (following Lennon's assassination), finally reaching Number One, where it remained for four weeks in January 1981. "Imagine
" was re-released as a single in the UK in 1988, peaking at number 45, and again in 1999, reaching number three.