[FOUNTAIN]Imagine that!Imagine there’s no heaven. It’s easy if you try ... Imagine there’s no countries. It isn’t hard to do ... No religion too ... Imagine no possessions. I wonder if you can.
John Lennon sang, in the peaceful world of “Imagine,” a message of atheism, anarchism and anti-capitalism, the slogans of 1970s activists. “Imagine” is one of the best-known anti-war songs and is beloved in England, the Beatles’ original home.
The lyrics were inspired by Yoko Ono, John Lennon’s widow, she said. The 70-year-old artist told the BBC in a recent interview that when she was taking refuge in the countryside during World War II, she would tell her frightened younger brother to “imagine” that he was eating his favorite food. From the imagination inspired by a fear of war and extreme poverty, Mr. Lennon and Ms. Ono created “Imagine” in 1971 to advocate their anti-Vietnam War stance.
Two days before Mr. Lennon was murdered in 1980, he spoke of Ms. Ono’s inspiration in an interview that was never published because of the tragedy. “Imagine” topped music charts around the world for the second time in 1980 as mourning fans remembered him through the song. The song returned to the top of the singles charts in 2001 right after the terror attacks. BBC wanted to make a documentary about Mr. Lennon and “Imagine,” and Ms. Ono finally started to speak about the role she played in Mr. Lennon’s artistic world, for which she deserves more respect.
Ms. Ono has kept silent about her part in Mr. Lennon’s achievements, largely because she has been a target of criticism, especially by Britons. In 1967, the artist covered the enormous lion sculptures by the statue of Admiral Nelson in London’s Trafalgar Square with white canvases, but the anti-war message hurt the pride of the British people and she was called a “black-haired madwoman.” After she married Mr. Lennon in 1969, she was accused of breaking up the Beatles. After Mr. Lennon’s murder in 1980, she was accused of having been a bad wife.
Twenty-three years later, Ms. Ono is no longer just the widow of the former Beatle, but has established herself as an avant-garde artist. An exhibition now open at the Rodin Gallery in Seoul will serve as a chance for Korean fans to rediscover the talented artist for what she is. At age 70, she is still driven by a gushing fountain of imagination.
by Oh Byung-sang
The writer is London correspondent of the JoongAng Ilbo.