Why no uproar about John Lennon’s “Imagine”?

John Lennon’s “Imagine” started

Imagine there’s no heaven
It’s easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people
Living for today…
Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too

This expresses some blatantly anti-religious sentiments, saying we’d all be better off without religion to fight over. Yet the song was played countless times on the radio and on TV programs with no outcry from religious leaders, censors, fundamentalists or anyone else that I can remember.

This contrasts sharply with the huge reaction to his “The Beatles are more popular than Jesus” remark.

Why the difference? Surely the same people who were offended by the Jesus remark would have had a similar reaction to “Imagine”. Why was there no protest to this song being played to the youth of America over the public airwaves?

There was a reaction…just not as widespread or as loud as there was for the “Jesus” remark. I remember an episode of WKRP that dealt with religious censorship, where the pastor quoted the lyrics of “Imagine” to Carlson, and demanded that the station stop playing the song. Carlson told him to take a hike. :smiley:

The “we’re more popular than Jesus” remark was perceived (spun) as a statement of excessive ego. Imagine is essentially a song of peace. Hard to get outraged about that.

My dad hates John Lennon because of that song. He thinks he’s a commie pinko. :slight_smile:

I think bnorton’s right, but there was also a lot of water under the bridge, sociologically speaking, between 1966 and 1971.

Actually, Carlson read off the lyrics that had been written down by Johnny Fever, and when the pastor ageed that that song should be banned too, it was then that Carlson decided to fight him.

I suspect that most folks who get into uproars over songs don’t bother to actually listen to them, but just go by the title. But the title “Imagine” isn’t itself offensive, so nobody noticed.

Imagine was one of the “the music industry is controlled by Satanists” crowd’s most frequently referred to songs.

Sympathy for the Devil, Imagine, and American Pie (American Pie!?) were practically the unholy trinity in “Rock music is evil” tracts and tirades in the early eighties.

Sure, there wasn’t a lot of that outside of the lunatic fringe, but that’d be because a song that’s about brotherly love is pretty hard to condemn for most people.

Unfortunately, so did J. Edgar Hoover and Richard Nixon. They were wrong, of course. Lennon was too rich to be a commie. :smiley:

And, of course, even the most blinkered ideologue is going to hestitate about saying “That guy implied that religion creates division and strife. Get him!

Well, for whatever it may be worth, we tried to have “Imagine” played at our wedding, as one of the musical interlude pieces played while the guests are milling about and finding their seats in church (before the whole Dog & Pony Show started). The Catholic monsignor who married us objected, for fairly obvious reasons. So we had to settle for John Lennon’s “Grow Old With Me” instead (and “Love Me Tender,” if you can possibly believe that).

I have no problem with the song. And I agree with what Lennon said:


I think the Beatles got hammered most unfairly w/regards to the “more popular than Jesus” statement. I’ve seen transcripts of the interview in which the comment was made and it was pretty obviously NOT a “We’re more popular than Jesus, isn’t that cool?!” sentiment so much as a “Popular culture and celebrity status is bloody ridiculous. The Beatles are now more popular than Jesus, isn’t that ludicrous?!”.

I don’t know why they didn’t do a better job of defending themselves when they got flamed for it. It’s actually the kind of sentiment one would expect the brimstone preachers themselves to be making from the pulpits.

I remember that here in the UK Imagine was banned during the first Gulf War.

They probably didn’t like the bit that went:

As the flames climbed into the night
To light the sacrificial rite
I saw Satan laughing with delight
The day the music died

Of course, they didn’t understand that it meant Satan would be happy if rock music went away.

Yeah, I remember that episode, with that actor that looks just like Jerry Falwell. (Talk about being typecast!)

The pastor argued that the song should be banned because it said there was no heaven, etc. And Carlson corrected him, “No, it says *imagine * there’s no heaven.” And that difference has always stuck with me. The song isn’t saying “this is the way it should be”, merely “what if”. But of course lots of people don’t see it that way.

See? If they would release this show on DVD, I could have checked that before I posted it! :smiley:

The song Imagine was used for the closing of the movie The Killing Fields, about Cambodia during the takeover by the Khmer Rouge. The lines about “no possessions” and “no religion” struck me ironically as just what Pol Polt imagined for Cambodians.

A lot of water went under the bridge between the “we’re more popular than Jesus” thing and “Imagine”. The whole world (well the US anyway) was much more open and accepting of different ideas and lifestyles. When the “Jesus” thing came out, you still had the fear of getting your ass kicked by a bunch of rednecks that hated longhairs, by the time “Imagine” came out, the rednecks had longer hair than the old hippies.

Well I’m sure while the song’s on the charts the uproar will continue to be big news. But just be patient; these things tend to die down after a while.