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

When I was in (So. Baptist) Sunday school, one of the teachers said that Imagine was an evil song because of that bit about no heaven. When I’d grown up and heard the song again, I couldn’t believe how wrongly they’d interpreted it to us poor impressionable kids. Bastard.

I remember there being a minor uproar at the time. That song angered a lot of people. When I was in college one of the looney travelling preachers (Brother Jed) said that Lennon was in hell because of that song.


Of course, those of us who saw the original Dick Cavett show when John Lennon was on as Forrest Gump recalled what he observed in Red China knew that was what the song was about.


Seriously, there was/still is some fuss. Lovely music, banal & stupid lyrics, nor worth troubling oneself over IMO. Tho when I was a teen fundy & wrote my LEFT BEHIND novel in 1979, I had IMAGINE as the anthem of the New World Order.

There were a couple differences between 1966 and 1971 as well:

  1. I recall the Beatlemania documentary that mentioned that by 1966, the climate in the U.S. was primed for a backlash against the Beatles. They had dominated the radio for years and the uproar over them was so out of proportion that they were due for a fall. The Jesus crack gave anti-Beatleites the sword to swing at them.

  2. I suspect also that, given the limited means by which information was transmitted, that it would prove very easy for the words to get twisted about. After all, back then you only had radio stations and a few television networks, and I doubt ABC, CBS and NBC would bother reporting John’s words until after the uproar began.

  3. By the time '71 rolled around, not only had the country shifted radically, but so had John and how we perceived him. The Jesus crack came from a group that, long hair aside, were thought to be pretty wholesome. It’s quite a shock to hear something so heritical coming from that sweet boy John. I don’t have the chronology straight in my head, but I would guess that by the time “Imagine” came out, John had already done things like the “Two Virgins” album cover and songs like “Cold Turkey” and “Woman is the Nigger of the World.” The increase in shock value from that to “Imagine” is infinitestimally small.

Of course, that didn’t stop the fundys from attacking the song, but the rest of us either liked the song, or didn’t get too bent over it.

I can guarantee you that John Lennon believes in a literal Holy God now. :frowning:

I’m surprised there wasn’t a huge uproar over it being used in the opening (or was it closing) ceremonies of the Olympics in Atlanta. I’m shocked that it got onto the program at all. I’m glad it did though.

Really? :dubious:

From the 1966 article by Maureen Cleave:


And the preacher said, “That would be blasphemy,” I think.

I think the reason American Pie hit the banned list is because no one knew what it really meant, and no two people had the same interpretation. That’s a sure sign of Satan to some. Like the lyrics to Louie, Louie, which even the FBI found unintelligable.

You guys forgot the real point of that WKRP episode. A group was protesting music they considered offensive and had a list of songs they wanted banned. The DJ’s were arguing for freedom of expression. Carlson was debating which side was right. He met with the reverend who said that many people were offended by these songs and he was only a representative. Carlson and he discussed the issue and then Carlson showed him the lyrics. The reverend said he would add that song to the list. Carlson then told him he would not honor the ban, not because he saw the specific value of John Lennon’s lyrics, but because the reverend had just shown that the list was the result of one individual’s choices not a majority of listeners.

Right. Carlson said, “That decision was made by one man.”

It was a powerful episode, and gutsy. Rarely do sitcoms tackle this kind of subject.

As has been aswered well, by the time Lennon came out with Imagine, he was no longer more popular than Jesus. He had become relatively insignificant in the pop mind.

However, the idea that those who reacted negatively to the song were overreacting because “it’s just a peace song” is just dumb.

The song should be offensive not only to religious people, but to non-religious ‘believers,’ too. Lennon is blaming all the wars and woes of the world not only on religious institutions, but also on theistic faith (‘imagine there’s no heaven’).

Then he goes on to blame the existence of nations for all the wars and woes.

If only we could get rid of all that bad stuff, then we can live as one.

Right. Like there’s never been any crimes or fights on atheistic communes. What a load of naive bullshit.

[Disclaimers: Yes, people have used religion and nationalism as justifications for violence. Justifying violence is the bad guy here, not necessarily religions or nations. No, just because I believe the song is offensive do I condone censorship. Leave me out of the WKRP discussion.]


If you’re implying what I think you’re imply, then that’s a horrible thing to say!

I still love “Imagine”, even if it is kinda korny. It’s a nice, soothing song. I really love John Lennon-I was a HUGE Lennon fan in high school.


I think the answer to the OP is that there has been a lot of water under the bridge between 1971 and today. There was no 700 Club or Fox News to fabricate controversies over music that the offendees would never listen to in the first place.


Hardly. The Beatles had only split up a year ago. And if I’m not mistaken, “Imagine” was his best selling solo album.

Ahhhh but there is justice in this world.
On August 13, 1966 radion station KLUE in Texas (fervently anti-Beatle because of John’s remark) was struck by lightning.

Guess God is a Beatles fan.

Perhaps this is the reason people were not as “outraged” by Lennon’s song 5 years later? :smiley:

Also, the final verse created some controversy:

And the three men I admire most
The Father Son and Holy Ghost
They caught the last train for the coast
The day the music died

Among the interpretations of this lyric are that the Holy Trinity literally abandoned the world (remember the frequent “God is Dead” references made during the late '60’s and early '70’s) or that Don McLean is blasphemously equating Buddy Holly, Richie Valens, and The Big Bopper to the three aspects of the Christian Divinity.

In an earlier verse, the mere questioning of God’s worthiness was sufficient cause for some to condemn the song and the singer:

Did you write the book of love,
And do you have faith in God above,
If the Bible tells you so?

Liberal! The apocalypse is upon us! How can it be that you and I both agree on the same thing???

Ahhhhhh, I’m melting…


Oh? And how do you guarantee that?