Two Songs That Will Be Sung As Long As People Sing Songs: "Imagine" And "Blowing In the Wind"
The money shot is “how many roads must a man walk down before they call him a man?”. It is a complicated question made simple as hell; written in response to the civil rights movement on the early 1960s it is better, more important than “Yes, how many years can some people exist, before they’re allowed to be free ?” The reason being that the former is open ended and all encompassing and the other is specific: the more people you include, the better off you are in eternal song land. And since the answer is a metaphor it can always be sung.
I’ve been wondering at songs that are immortal, you know, like “Happy Birthday To You”, released during my life time, the rock and roll era, since 1956. You got to wonder. But “Blowin’ In The Wind” is immortal because it unites and attracts, it is inclusive, both the haves and have nots. Plus, the how many roads leapfrogs over all political aspirations and dreams to make the question rooted in the extremely personal. It wants to know what is a man and what makes a man a man. Figure it was 1962 and man was a contraction of mankind and the question evolves into how does one become a decent human being.
The song itself is a hook addled verse followed by a one line chorus and a solo guitar break. By the middle of the second verse, the hook on hook isn’t enough and he sweetens it further with “yes and…” before every question. The questions themselves straddle the line between imagery and political activism, between the two: the melody, the simple strum, the hooks, it is an immortal song.
So is John Lennon’s piano based ballad “Imagine”. Based on an Ononism, “Imagine the clouds dripping, dig a hole in your garden to put them in” and runs as far as you can possibly run with the concept. Some people think I use Lennon to beat McCartney, that sentimentality over his death cloud my thinking, but you know? I almost included “Give Peace A Chance” to this extremely short list. Really, “Give Peace A Chance” is just a mantra, easily sung and easily shared. But to sing it you have to really drop the verses and so it isn’t quite a song -but the sentiment is a universal aspiration. It’s just not quite a song.
“Imagine” is also a universal aspiration: the antithesis of jingoism, patriotism. I know, really, this is unfair, but compare it to McCartney singing “I will fight for my right to freedom” to get a feel for how huge a feeling it is. “Imagine” is a dream creamy joy of a song, never more so than during the bridge where Lennon sings “you-o-o-o”. It’s like that video of Lennon singing the song on a white piano: it is really asking you to imagine heaven on earth. The money shot here is “I hope some day you’ll join us…” The more people you let in, the more people will come in.
Dylan sounds old before his time, Lennon sounds timeless. Dylan is weary, Lennon hopeful, Dylan edgy, Lennon certain.
Both of these songs have nothing to do with nationality, anybody of any race and any country can sing these two songs: they are included, invited in. Both of them are peace anthems. “Nothing to live or die for” Lennon asks us to imagine, “how many times must the cannonballs fly before they are forever banned?” Dylan wonders.
Two immortal songs. How many more are there?