Powerful Meaning Behind “Imagine” by John Lennon (Song Meaning & Lyrics Analysis)

It would not be an over exaggeration to call John Lennon a visionary and a pure genius of musical prowess. The musical revolution John Lennon was able to create in the 70’s in unparalleled. In this same era, he created another gem of a piece of music, which is loved and adored and honored to-date. The track is titled “Imagine” and it is more relevant to today than it was for 30 years ago. In that sense, John Lennon was a visionary beyond his times.

“Imagine” was the most successful single off of John Lennon’s career. The song is acclaimed as one of the greatest songs of the history of music. And it’s also one of the most commercially successful records of the past. “Imagine” was released in October 1971 on Vinyl, that included “It’s So Hard” and “Working Class Hero” on the back side of it.

Cover art for "Imagine" by John Lennon

Cover art for “Imagine” by John Lennon

Watch John Lennon Perform “Imagine”


Download “Imagine” Single by John Lennon on iTunes / Amazon


It’s such a simple song, yet it has a powerful and deep meaning underneath those simple lyric lines. It is so worth to take a closer look at the lyrics of the song. If you are interested, keep reading.

Song Meaning of “Imagine” by John Lennon

The song is one massive flow of beautiful and thoughtful wordings. The process begins from the very first verse itself.

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…

Beautiful and simple lyrics right? Yes, and quite deep at the same time. John Lennon asks us to imagine that there’s no heaven and hell. He says we may have to try a little-because we have been spoon-fed that above us is the heaven and below us is the hell from our very childhoods. So it may need a little effort, but you can imagine it. And who teaches us of heaven and hell? Well, the religion. I’m not hating on any religion, but the chaos we have brought upon this world in the name of ‘religion’ is beyond justifiable under any faith. It’s as if, the world would have been a better place without religions.

We go to heaven or hell ‘tomorrow’-not today. What if people focused on the present? Living in the present? How would that impact our behavior? Would we treat people differently if we knew we had to endure the consequences of our actions today? We go to heaven or hell after our death. Well, what if we had to pay off our debts in this life itself? Would we still be doing all the inhumanities that we do today?

Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace…

John Lennon asks us to imagine that there are no countries. Why? Well, what are countries? Goggle defines a country as “a nation with its own government, occupying a particular territory.” That’s a red sign right there. How many wars have been fought in the name of patriotism, sovereignty, imperialism and territory? What if the whole world was one nation? Would people still fight for boundaries? Wealthy and powerful nations thrive on acquiring and pondering smaller and weaker nations. ‘Peace’ is the shield they use to cover their dirty hands.

We take pride in saying “we are willing to die for our country”. True, there’s nobility in that, because we are already divided into territories. But what if there were no territories? Would people still have to die for a piece of land? Probably not!

“Imagine” music video features a Red Indian woman. Red Indians were the initial occupiers of the land that we call today-United States of America. The early white settlers slaughtered and massacred the Red Indians-the whole civilization-and built the great nation of United States. Showing this Red Indian woman shedding light to the room where John Lennon plays his piano is a subtle slap to the great nation. And this Red Indian woman is John Lennon’s spouse-a Japanese-Yoko Ono!

In the second verse, John Lennon emphasizes on ‘religion’ as a thing that has created a lot of evil in the world. I kinda have to agree.

You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will be as one

Keep dreaming, we could say and shrug off Lennon. But this is not John Lennon speaking. This is him speaking on behalf of all of us. This is a common dream we all have. A world of peace. But world peace requires the contribution of everybody. I mean everybody. If there’s even a single spoke that is bent or broken, this wheel would collapse.

Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world…

John Lennon gets a little spiritual in the third verse. Imagine a life without possessions. What are possessions? Well, pretty much everything that we love and adore and cannot let go. Can we imagine a life without our smart phone? Probably, we can’t. And that’s why John Lennon says he wonders if we are capable of such a feat.

John Lennon invites us to let go of worldly possessions. There’s no need for greed over material things-we leave it all behind when we have to go. We have to share our things with the less fortunate. That’s how we end world hunger. Imagine a world where the USA did not dump tons and tons of crops in to the ocean without giving it to the poor, just to keep the market prices stable. Imagine, what would have happened if we shared our excess food with the less fortunate. World hunger would probably end overnight.

It’s interesting to see the change of tonality in the imaginations by Lennon.

Imagine there’s no heaven
It’s easy if you try…

Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do…

Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can…

Imagining there’s no heaven? Pretty easy. Imagining there’s no countries? Not that hard. Imagining a world without greed for material things? Not so easy!

Heaven is a concept. It will be easy to let go of it. Country is part of our livelihood. It has been carved in to our bones. It won’t be easy to let go. But we can do it. We do it when we migrate. How about letting go of your computer, smart phone, comfy chair, favorite book? Not so easy. But that’s where we should be at to achieve world peace. Nothing belongs to you. Everything was made out of the nature and it shall return to the nature. It’s as simple as that.

The chorus repeats with just one change in the last sentence “And the world will live as one” and this amazing song comes to an end.

“Imagine” is loved and praised as one of the most influential songs in the history of music. The plain lyrics may hide the powerful message behind it, but it’s not difficult to see it if you have an inquiring mind.

If you have your own interpretations of the lyrics of the song, do let us know in the comments below. Let us know what you think about the song and the artist.

RIP John Lennon!

Adam McDonald

Hi! I am the founder and lead author and editor of Justrandomthings music community. A vast range of personal interests from Hip-Hop to Country to Hard Rock and Punk music will keep you entertained.

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11 Responses

  1. Steve says:

    Terrible song written by another cultural marxist. IF you want to “imagine” the hellish paradise that Lennon describes in this song, just look at what happened to CHAZ (or CHOP if you will). Their lofty ideals of paradise without God and morality ended up in violence and failure.

  2. Dian says:

    Very interesting explanation.I agree with you, that religion causes conflict, violence, discriminations etc. Faith is a human right, we need to respect each other.In my opinion, this Music is an art which represents the Universe.Its my prayer that the world will change and restart in these situation.

  3. C Target says:

    A deeper rendition of interpretation is applying the lyrics to the individual, where the individual who changes within lives in a world where there is no “religion” or countries or love of possessions, but the spiritual thirst replenished in much the way the Buddha or Christ preaches. When the individual can accomplish this “nirvana” or – a rebirth of the spirit – Deo concedente with the freedom do so – then the sum of individuals can exact a regenerated society. As Carl Jung put it so beautifully – WITHOUT exclusion to the intellect (as interpreters of this song often do):

    “It is, unfortunately, only too clear that if the individual is not truly regenerated in spirit, society cannot be either, for society is the sum total of individuals in need of redemption. I can therefore see it only as a delusion when the Churches try – as they apparently do – to rope the individual into some social organization and reduce him to a condition of diminished responsibility, instead of raising him out of the torpid, mindless mass and making clear to him that he is the one important factor and that the salvation of the world consists in the salvation of the individual soul. It is true that mass meetings parade these ideas before him and seek to impress them on his mind by dint of mass suggestion, with the melancholy result that once the intoxication has worn off the mass man promptly succumbs to another even more obvious and still louder slogan. His individual relation to God would be an effective shield against these pernicious influences. Did Christ, perchance, call his disciples to him at a mass meeting? Did the feeding of the five thousand bring him any followers who did not afterward cry with the rest, “Crucify him!” when even the rock named Peter showed signs of wavering? And are not Jesus and Paul prototypes of those who, trusting their inner experience, have gone their individual ways in defiance of the world?”

    What republics and democracies create are individuals. Communism binds the individual, enslaves him/her. And I write this because many of the younger in our generation – who have never known the freedom of creative power like John Lennon – and who never had the education to understand our constitution, which most of Lennon’s generation had – believe this song means an “extroverted” change in the world must take place for the “world to live as one,” rather than an “introverted” change of the heart and soul of free individuals. The song “Imagine” is “poetry” and “metaphor” and I believe John Lennon was writing in the spiritual sense. That he called it a “communist manifesto” was in John Lennon’s comment when he described “Imagine” as “virtually the Communist Manifesto [but then added] “even though I am not particularly a communist and I do not belong to any movement…. But because it is sugarcoated, it is accepted.”

    Clearly, he accepted his song “Imagine” as being interpreted as such by those who do not understand poetry – but he denied himself as belonging to any movement whatsoever, and – as poetry always is – he was clearly writing from the heart about something much much deeper than a communist manifesto.

  4. Mcivor Randy says:

    Imagine is a religion itself. I herein christen it Imaginism. John Lennon as martyr Yoko as High Prophetess and myself as having now just abandoned it ( somebody has to be the Judas ), heretic in Chief!

  5. Mcivor Randy says:

    This is blatantly communist and hypocritical, look at how Yoko treated John’s first son Sean with all those riches at her disposal she would not share. He had to sue and she relented giving him $20,000,000. out of hundreds of millions. It also anti Jesus, what would he have replace heaven? The song cheapens human life. Anybody could kill and what would be the consequences? There would have to be order to enact justice. Thus the need for laws, there would have to be police.judges and yes lawyers. The fact of sin would have to disappear. Science does not recognize sin, and because of this it runs rampant. Imagine would have the sin in man run wild. Only sinful human nature would rule. We would be reduced to the time before the flood. Look at what happened then it would happen again today. Sin would be the rule, and the ruler. This is without a doubt the most subtle attack on man and heaven. Evil will as end with this Satanic anthem.

  6. SisterCH says:

    If you do a little more research you will find that this was really the communist manifesto sugar coated. If you think communism is a good thing, speak to people who have managed to get out of a communist country and read about the millions killed by Mao and Lenin.

  7. Rhinoceros says:

    Interesting analysis, I enjoyed it, learned a lot from it, and agree with most of it.

    I think, though, in his verse about intolerance (countries + religion), I read somewhere that Lennon once mentioned that it’s not that the world would be better without religion per se, but that the world would be a much happier, healthier place without this “my-god-is-better-than-your-god” attitude that many religious people have. I myself am not a believer, but unlike you I don’t think religion is the cause of a lot of evil in the world. I believe intolerance is the cause of a lot of evil, not people’s belief systems. There are many intolerant atheists in this world as well who only cause harm to those different to them. If you’re a violent person, you will find violence in the Bible, the Quran, your non-belief system, etc. If you are a peaceful, loving person, you will find peace, love, and inclusivity in the Bible, the Quran, and your own personal (non-)beliefs.

    Thoughts?

    • I agree with you 100%. I used “religion is the cause of a lot of evil” in the most loose sense possible. Religion is a beautiful thing and has helped keep the world from burning out many centuries ago. But the people who are not true followers of their religion only try to defend their religion. Religions don’t need saving, it’s the people who need saving.

      The people are the cause of all problems. But “in the name of religion” a lot of people have been murdered and that’s what I was trying to point out here. John Lennon was correct in his remark that the world would be a happier place without religion-but it’s not the religion that distorts the world-it’s the people who follow religions blindly.

      So I do agree with your remarks.

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