The 25th anniversary of John Lennon’s death in New York drew a big article in Newsweek by Jeff Giles, filled with all the normal liberal genuflections: "the man who wrote ‘Imagine,’ ‘Give Peace a Chance’ and ‘All You Need Is Love,’ which amount to the greatest ad campaign for brother- and sisterhood in history." In between that and Sinead O’Connor’s scary metaphors for Lennon ("He was my breast milk, you know?") was a series of rock star tributes to their favorite songs. Dave Matthews bowed deeply to the genius of "Imagine," his utopian anthem about imagining a world without religion, without possesions, without countries, and without anything to kill or die for:
But this is an absolutely stellar song. It's wrenching. Even if he'd written only "Imagine," he would have been the greatest songwriter of all time. Nobody in a position of power had ever made that clear a statement. It's very hard to look at that song and not say, "Well, you know, he's right" even though he wasn't saying "I'm right." He's just asking you to think about something, which is the genius of it: imagine if everything we take for granted as unchangeable was not there, imagine what the world would be like. And he does it in such a beautiful, humble way that you have to be an insane person not to go, "Touche."
At the very least, we ought to agree that you can listen to the lyrics of this song and disagree with them without being insane. Many of us are quite fond of imagining Heaven, and don't see it as the slightest bit practical that we give up the idea of nations, and think it's funny to hear multi-millionaire Lennon singing about giving up possessions. It could be argued the song is more "insane" than its critics. But its atheist, anti-materialist, pacifist strains are just the kind of philosophy that gets you hailed in Newsweek.