To mark the anniversary of John Lennon’s death, we’re reposting some of our archival pieces about Lennon’s life and work, both as a Beatle and as a solo artist
Below you can read John Lennon’s 30 best songs, as chosen by an all-star panel
Iceland, October 9, 2007. Yoko Ono is in Reykjavik to unveil a tribute to John Lennon, the Imagine Peace Tower, on what would have been her husband’s 67th birthday. Located on nearby Videy Island, the tower consists of nine beams of light, rising up from a white wishing well that’s inscribed with the words “Imagine Peace” in 24 languages. Also attending the ceremony are Olivia and Dhani Harrison, Sean Lennon and his half-sister, Kyoko – and Ringo who, clearly feeling the bitter cold, suggests Yoko “have the next one in the Caribbean.” The ceremony climaxes with the crowd leaving the site to the strains of Lennon’s “Give Peace A Chance”.
We meet Yoko the night before the ceremony, in the grand presidential suite of her hotel, where despite suffering from extreme nerves she chats enthusiastically about John’s songwriting, particularly his formidable collection of peace songs.
“In 1965, I put the light house down as part of the sales list in my book Grapefruit,” she begins, explaining the origins of the Imagine Peace Tower as part of a conceptual art show. “In 1966, I put some prisms in the Indica Art Gallery as part of the light house. I met John there, and in 1967, he invited me to his house, Kenwood, to talk about it. It was funny: the light house was conceptual and it took John to visualise it. Now it’s a reality.
“About three years ago, I had to think about what to do with all the wishes that people tied to the wish trees at my museum shows. We have more than a million wishes. I thought, ‘I need a tower.’ Then I thought, ‘Oh… that should be John’s light tower.’ The light stands for empowerment, and for energy and wisdom. The wishes will be buried around the tower in capsules.
“It’s called Imagine Peace Tower because the word ‘imagine’ was a very important word between us. It’s very special because of John’s song ‘Imagine’, as well. I was there when he wrote it. We were in Ascot, in our bedroom upstairs. Because we were both artists, we showed each other everything. If I scribbled something I’d show it to John. He would scribble something and show it to me. That’s how he wrote his songs, too. He wasn’t one of those writers who’d write from ten until 12 in the morning. He used to think of an idea when we were in a plane or something. He just writes it down. And at the time he writes it down, he’s already got the melody.
“John didn’t have a narrow talent. He had all the different emotions he was able to express in his songs. If you want to analyse it, his mum wasn’t around, and his dad wasn’t around, and he wanted someone to listen to him when he was a little boy. When I went to Liverpool, to his childhood home, I cried, because I saw the little bedroom where it all started.
“‘Imagine’ is my favourite of John’s peace songs. I think he thought just like I do now – world peace is an inevitable thing. What are we going to do? Kill ourselves? We’re not that dumb.
“I think ‘All You Need Is Love‘ was the beginning of John’s peace writing. You notice that even when he was a Beatle, he wanted to dabble in different things, especially anti-war songs. But The Beatles were so successful he felt he couldn’t.
“‘Give Peace A Chance‘ is basically John’s idea. I might have thrown some words in. It happened spontaneously in the hotel room [Montreal’s Queen Elizabeth Hotel, during the 1969 Bed-In]. I thought it was great. But, you know, it’s a political song. When John writes something extremely artistic like ‘Scared‘ [from Walls & Bridges], that’s a different story. I really admire it, it’s fantastic. But with ‘Give Peace A Chance’, it’s very important when you try to communicate on a very wide level you have to choose very simple but powerful words to get the message across.
“Thank you Uncut for your continuing support of John’s work and for playing your part in keeping his spirit alive. It is important that new generations continue to discover John’s music and the message behind it. IMAGINE PEACE!”