We all hope that our kids feel good about carrying on our legacy, but some legends feel too sacred to touch. Julian Lennon, son of musical icon John Lennon and his first wife, Cynthia Lennon, had pledged not to perform ‘Imagine,’ his dad’s famous anthem for peace. But the terrors of the war on Ukraine made him change his mind.
“The War on Ukraine is an unimaginable tragedy... As a human, and as an artist, I felt compelled to respond in the most significant way I could,” Lennon wrote when he posted the video to You Tube.
The video of Lennon’s performance with guitarist Nuno Bettencourt, which features dim lighting and dozens of white candles, was released last Friday as part of a social media rally, ‘Stand Up for Ukraine,’ organized by Global Citizen. The virtual rally, which also featured performances by Madonna, Billie Eilish, U2, Katy Perry, and others, has raised over $10 billion to aid refugees from the conflict.
“Why now, after all these years?” Lennon wrote. “I had always said, that the only time I would ever consider singing ‘IMAGINE’ would be if it was the ‘End of the World.’” The reality of what’s happening in Ukraine certainly qualifies as a threat to life on earth, and these events struck a chord for Lennon.
In order to achieve an end to war, we must first believe that such a world is possible. The song’s utopian images of a world without countries, religion, or possessions achieve this with a poetry that has touched generations of listeners.
“Within this song,” wrote Lennon, “we’re transported to a space, where love and togetherness become our reality, if but for a moment in time… The song reflects the light at the end of the tunnel, that we are all hoping for...”
‘Imagine’ was written by Lennon in 1971 and appeared on the record of the same name. The album has sold 21 million copies worldwide — and the song is one of the most performed songs of the century, with over 200 artists producing covers. It’s been named one of the greatest songs of all time by Rolling Stone, and it’s played every year before the ball drops in Times Square. It was penned with the help of his second wife, Yoko Ono, who recently received co-writing credit.
Fans watching the video, which is approaching one million views, may be able to detect a hint of the beloved icon in the timbre of his son’s voice — and it’s touching to watch a little of John Lennon’s vision of peace live on in his son’s performance.