Does “Imagine” by John Lennon have an impact? Sure, I mostly agree with the KISS words, but I notice that my favorite phrase from it is
No hell below us
Above us only sky
and everything else in it is pretty abstract.
Does it really make anyone “imagine”? Does anyone see anything when they hear this song beside John and Yoko in the video sitting at a piano? Not a single other image comes to my mind when I hear that record. (I enjoyed the bumper stickers “Visualize Whirled Peas”, making fun of the earlier bumper stickers “Visualize World Peace”.
It’s not even a very catchy tune. Did anyone ever have trouble getting an “Imagine” earworm out of their heads?
Maybe “Imagine” is too intellectualized? To be fair, it’s effective as a social glue, an anthem for people who are already of like mind. And, although I doubt it was his goal, it actually was effective marketing for Lennon himself.
Compare with the music of his contemporary Bob Dylan, who was usually concrete and vivid, often telling a story. Well, that’s not fair, because his songs are not generally marketing some message, just music. (“Hurricane” is a good counterexample.)
On the other hand, I’d argue that “All we are saying is give peace a chance” is more effective marketing than “Imagine”, yet it’s no more emotionally powerful and evokes no images. More fun though and the chorus is good for a group chant.
Likewise the nostalgic “Penny Lane (is in my ears and in my eyes)” by McCartney doesn’t grab me like “Strawberry Fields Forever”, despite that it’s much more vivid, and has a nice melody. Well, no not ‘likewise’, because neither of them is marketing a message — as with Dylan, they’re just music.
How many message songs have really changed minds? Hymns, jingles? Well, yet again I learned something by writing my thoughts down. As usual things are not as clear as I thought when I started typing.