Rock and roll has not lacked its fair share of protest songs. Ever since rock and roll has been around, there have been people who have used the guitar as a form of resistance, constantly pushing the boundaries to make points that touch on something other than party music. Some of them are so good that they also manage to slip them under your nose.
For most of these songs, people wouldn’t even understand they were protesting something if they weren’t told. The subtext behind these songs is quite easily hidden, leaving the listener to have their own interpretation of what they think the song means as well. There is a clear target in each of these songs though, and they aren’t exactly subtle when you actually break them down.
For every song you might think would be a happy rock delight, there’s another one just around the corner bubbling with anger, and these are the ones you seek out when you want to see change in the world. They might not be the easiest to decipher from word to word, but they weren’t meant to be skin-to-heart protest songs. These are the songs you had to dig on before you got it.
When John Lennon started working on Imagine, he knew he was creating something the whole world needed to understand. And it’s not like the rest of the world hasn’t followed suit, almost adopting the song as a message of peace whenever it’s used in promotional events. It’s just that… this song isn’t really supposed to be about peace and love for the whole world.
As John explained at the time, it was actually meant to defend something that had a much more militant tone, saying that half of the words were taken directly from the Communist Manifesto. Although it is easy to grasp the central idea of the living world as one, you must also consider these lines where he imagines no country either, with everyone living in peace and brotherhood without any possession in their name. To be fair, John knew he had to disguise that mood a bit, saying he had “coated” the melody to make the rest of the song flow easily.
There have been a lot of people since trying to tear it up in the mud for getting political, but this song was never meant to start a revolution. We’re just supposed to picture that kind of utopia in our minds and think about what it must be like without any cares in the world.