This weekend, Yoko Ono unveiled an English Heritage blue plaque at the first home she shared with John Lennon in London. This adds yet another tribute to celebrate the music legend’s 70th anniversary of his birth this month (born: 9 October 1940). In fact, 2010 has steadily glimmered with “in remembrances of” the much-adored former Beatle too many to count: from movies (Nowhere Boy) to benefit concerts, museum exhibits to walking tours, and even time capsules.
All these efforts stem from, and are directed towards, a common desire: to re-create the magic of Lennon’s troubled soul, or to scratch the surface to inch oneself closer to the wild and woolly genius of a man who still pervades the music landscape today. No doubt, any such Lennon-inspired endeavor is an ambitious, formidable calling to embark on; and with “Imagine” widely helmed as one of the greatest songs of this generation (with even an ice cream to commemorate its spirit) there is much that could go wrong or fall flat in a cover of the 1971 classic. Not many singers could dabble with such an iconic song without making the most innocent of radio listeners cringe.
So imagine my surprise to chance upon a recently released, and so hauntingly appropriate, cover of “Imagine” from Antony & The Johnsons. Sung from a first-person perspective and also a futuristic perspective, Antony Hegarty breathes — and then evaporates — a much-yearned for freshness into the overexposed chart-topper. And just like that, “Imagine” is reborn: what a delicately explosive way to bring back Lennon from the future, right-hippy-centre into our memories.
With its spine chilling tone, Hegarty admits that his cover of “Imagine” is bleaker than Lennon’s original, and supposes that it is “not the most hopeful version of the song you can imagine.” But on the contrary, its as hopeful as it could ever be; for in reminding us that as talented singers as Antony Hegarty are living among us today, it gives us pint-fulls to cheer about.
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