Julian Lennon Reveals Why His ‘Imagine’ Cover Was so Hard to Record

Aside from his famous last name, Julian Lennon’s ties to The Beatles aren’t overly strong. He largely grew up without his father, John Lennon, since the famous frontman and his first wife, Cynthia, divorced when Julian was young. Julian Lennon did spend some time with his father, even playing drums on one deep cut as an 11-year-old, but he was otherwise removed from his dad and The Beatles. He’s been revisiting some Beatles songs, and now he’s turning his attention to more of the catalog. Lennon’s “Imagine” cover provided several challenges, including how to put a personal spin on what might be his dad’s most famous song.

Julian Lennon announces his Lennon Collection: The NFT Collection in January 2022, months before his 'Imagine' cover went to help the Ukraine relief effort.
Julian Lennon | Valerie Macon/AFP via Getty Images

Why 2022 was the right time for Julian Lennon to cover ‘Imagine’

When he posted the video of his “Imagine” cover on social media, Lennon acknowledged why now, after decades in the music business, was the best time to go back on his promise and record the song. 

The Ukraine war and the resulting refugee crisis were on Lennon’s mind. The melancholy yet hopeful lyrics in “Imagine” almost took on a new meaning of peace and hope, as he wrote on Twitter:

“[The] lyrics reflect our collective desire for peace worldwide. Because within this song, we’re transported to a space, where love and togetherness become our reality, if but for a moment in time… The song reflects the light at the end of the tunnel that we are all hoping for… As a result of the ongoing murderous violence, millions of innocent families, have been forced to leave the comfort of their homes, to seek asylum elsewhere.”

Lennon’s heartfelt cover had the desired effect among his fans. One Twitter user wrote, “Absolutely stunning, Julian. It’s as if your father wrote this song for you to sing at this moment in time. You are multi talented, your photography is amazing. I’m so glad you chose music at this moment in time.” Another user responded to the video by writing, “I’m not crying, you’re crying!” with two sobbing emojis.

As it turns out, breaking a promise wasn’t the hardest part of Julian Lennon’s “Imagine” cover.

Why Lennon’s ‘Imagine’ cover was so difficult

First, there was a broken promise about not recording the song. Then there was tackling one of the most recognizable pop songs of all time. As it turns out, there was another element to Lennon’s “Imagine” cover that made it so hard.

During a discussion with Elton John on his Rocket Hour podcast, Lennon revealed his emotions contributed to the challenge.

“Since I’ve been in the business, I’ve been dreading the day,” Lennon told John. “I know it’s been said I would only cover it if it was the end of the world, in many respects, and after watching what’s been going on over the past couple of years, and especially recently with Russia and Ukraine, the people of Global Citizen said, ‘Got anything up your sleeve?’” 

“[I] just felt, this is it. And once I’d said yes, if I had anxiety before, once I’d said, yes, I went, ‘Oh my God, how am I going to do this, that honors it, and is different and is my own take, but still respects it in every way, shape or form? For me, the only way to do that was to take it away from the piano, the plunky piano, and do it as raw, as unproduced, and as heartfelt as possible. For me, that was the way to do it.”

Julian Lennon

It wasn’t just that he went back on his word, but Lennon’s “Imagine” cover triggered some anxiety and nerves when he had to figure out how to put a personal spin on it. 

Lennon ends hiatus with 2022 album ‘Jude’

Julian Lennon makes his return in 2022. 

His last album, Everything Changes, came out in 2011, but Lennon’s hiatus will end soon. He signed a contract with BMG and plans to put out an album titled Jude before 2023 arrives. He’s been writing new music for some time, but now is the perfect time to record and release what he’s been working on. 

Julian Lennon gave us a taste of what his new tunes could sound like with his “Imagine” cover. Now we just have to wait for the album to drop in September 2022, his mother Cynthia’s birthday month, as he told Elton John.

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