Shut Up And Sing: John Lennon And Yoko Ono, Ctd

A reader writes:

Regarding the “I wonder if you can" line in the song, when Neil Young performed it at the concert to honor the victims of 9/11, he changed the line to “I wonder if I can?”  Not so sanctimonious that way, but rather a humble challenge to himself.  That one word changes the whole song.

Another writes:

On Lennon's "Imagine," here's a vomit-mitigating factor: 

As he played it live (see: "Sometime in New York City"), he changed the line to "Imagine no possessions; I wonder if WE can." I give Lennon credit that he often knew if he was being sanctimonious and frequently turned his barbs toward himself in this way.  Similarly, he's claimed that his criticisms of Paul McCartney in "How Do You Sleep?" could apply equally to himself.  Either way, the point of "Imagine" seems to be a thought-experiment - to imagine a possibly-unattainable goal.


Something you wrote in the latest entry really irked me. To point out the hypocrisy in John Lennon’s “Imagine,” you wrote:

Lennon did not have to imagine, he could have sold every thing he owned to the poor as Jesus recommended to the rich young man. But life in the Dakota was somehow preferable.

This reminds me of the attacks that conservatives often use on wealthy Democrats who advocate for better policies for the poor. It brings to mind the attacks on John Edwards. Critics said that he had some nerve talking about poverty when he lived in a mansion. Now, I realize this is a bad example. Edwards’s character was worthy of criticism, to say the least. But what about FDR? What about Warren Buffett? What about the countless other millionaires who support tax cuts for the middle class and tax increases for the rich? These people understand that success in life is – to a great extent – about luck as much as hard work, skill, or talent.

John Lennon advocated for a world with no materialsm, no unnecessary war, and no bigotry and hatred posing as religious piety because he knew that people would listen to him. In this world, you have to have the means to get your voice heard if you want to make a difference. I could quit my job and stand on a street corner, singing “Imagine,” but I doubt that my voice would carry very far. But according to you, having those means renders him unsuitable to make the statement. In this world, the poor will never have a voice, and the rich will only get richer.