It is said that John Lennon was obsessed with the number 9, which he always said was his lucky number. It is a number that followed him throughout his life from beginning to end. He was born on October the 9th, as was his son Sean. In his 9th studio album with the Beatles he created the experimental ‘Revolution 9’, in which the phrase ‘number 9’ was repeated over and over again. In his 9th solo album he sang the other worldly ‘Number 9 dream’. Many people have tried to interpret these abstract songs and the significance of the number 9 with multiple complex interpretations, whereas Lennon often dismissed them simply as ‘Jokes’ or ‘random dreams’ he had.
Cruelly on this day 40 years ago, the 9th December 1980, the headline of the New York Post read ‘John Lennon shot Dead’. It was the kind of shocking news that shook the world and temporarily made time stand still. To try and capture the significance of this tragic loss, his most iconic song ‘Imagine’ was re-released for Christmas. Unlike his abstract number 9 songs, ‘Imagine’ had a very clear message for the world. The song challenged people to conduct a simple thought experiment. To stop for a second and imagine a different kind of world.
A world with no countries, no wars, and no greed. A world of peace, where we would all live as one. It was a humanitarian plea for peace and unity. Lennon’s musical thought experiment was considered by many critics to be ‘idealistic’, ‘fanciful’ and ‘utopian’. Despite its powerful message, ‘Imagine’ did not make Christmas number 1 in the UK in 1980. That honour went to St Winifred’s school choir with the song ‘There’s no one quite like Grandma’. I’m sure Lennon would have enjoyed the irony.
Forty years on from John Lennon’s death, the lyrics to ‘Imagine’ seem to have a strangely poignant resonance to the current climate we find ourselves in. 2020 has been a year of loss and change for us all, yet we have also had the rare opportunity to stop and re-imagine what is really important to us. We have had the space to reflect on how we want to live our lives and, most importantly, how we choose to relate to one another. Time can only tell if Lennon’s vision of empathy and unity were that of a fanciful ‘dreamer’ or maybe, after all our experiences this year, ‘he’s not the only one’.
Here is a reminder of what he had to say;