John Lennon's 'Imagine': The Staggering Number of Copies His Defining Song Has Sold

Named the “Song of the Century” in 2017 by the National Music Publishers Association, John Lennon’s “Imagine” has been covered and performed by countless other artists from Diana Ross to Pink to Neil Young.

The ballad, a call for love and peace released in 1971, is generally considered the former Beatle’s greatest song.

The almost 50-year-old tune has only gained in popularity and its incredible sales numbers prove it.

The number of copies ‘Imagine’ has sold

According to ChartMasters, since 1971 “Imagine” has impressively sold almost 21 million copies worldwide – this includes “physical single, download, ringtone, and streaming, as well as its share among sales of all albums on which it is featured.”

In an interview with Rolling Stone three days before his death, John Lennon elaborated on the philosophy behind what has become his trademark song.

“We’re not the first to say “Imagine No Countries,” but we’re carrying that torch, like the Olympic torch, passing it hand to hand, to each other, to each country, to each generation . . . and that’s our job,” Lennon said.

“Not to live according to somebody else’s idea of how we should live – rich, poor, happy, not happy, smiling, not smiling, wearing the right jeans, not wearing the right jeans.”

Yoko Ono was given proper credit for cowriting ‘Imagine’

In 2017, at the National Music Publishers Association ceremony naming “Imagine” the song of the century, Lennon’s wife Yoko Ono, now 87, was in attendance. She was caught by surprise when it was announced that the song would now carry her name as collaborator.

At the event, a clip from a BBC interview with Lennon was played in which he explained that Ono’s book “Grapefruit” had inspired him in penning “Imagine” and that he should have given her songwriting credit from the beginning.

“Actually that should be credited as a Lennon-Ono song because a lot of it — the lyric and the concept — came from Yoko,” he said in the video. “But those days I was a bit more selfish, a bit more macho, and I sort of omitted to mention her contribution. But it was right out of ‘Grapefruit,’ her book. There’s a whole pile of pieces about ‘Imagine this’ and ‘Imagine that.’”

John Lennon would have been 80 years old this year

In 2020, Lennon would have marked his 80th birthday on Oct. 9. The cofounder of The Beatles was killed by a lone gunman on Dec. 8, 1980 in New York City at the age of 40.

His son Sean, born in 1975, shares his father’s birthday.

In April 2020, Sean took his Twitter followers to task for their constant quoting of “Imagine” in their responses to him.

“Although delightful, please know it is not absolutely necessary to quote the lyrics of “Imagine” to me as a response to each and every tweet I make,” he tweeted.

“It may come as a shock to you,” he continued, “but I am vaguely familiar with both the music AND the lyrics of this tune. Thank you.”

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