Flashback Friday: Dick Gregory, John Lennon, and “Imagine”.


John Lennon, Yoko Ono and Dick Gregory. (Image Source: Yoko Ono’s Twitter account)


Dick Gregory, comedian, entertainer, and civil rights activist, died last Saturday, August 19th, at the age of 84. There are many, many, many… MANY stories to be told about Gregory. His barrier breaking success as a Black comedian popular with White audiences over fifty years ago; his friendships with Civil Rights Leaders Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X; his vegetarian and nutritional lifestyle that helped him beat cancer.  But today, I just wanted to highlight his contribution to John Lennon’s “Imagine”, one of the most famous songs in Pop Music History.

From The Beetles Bible:

Widely regarded as John Lennon’s signature song, Imagine was the title track of his second album, and perhaps his best-known solo work.

“[Imagine] is anti-religious, anti-nationalistic, anti-conventional, anti-capitalistic… but because it is sugar-coated, it is accepted.”

John Lennon

Imagine conveyed Lennon’s wish for world peace and harmony in simple terms, both musically and lyrically. It was inspired by Cloud Piece, an instructional poem dated Spring 1963 that appeared in Yoko Ono’s book Grapefruit.

“Imagine the clouds dripping.
Dig a hole in your garden to
put them in.”

Yoko Ono

Lennon reproduced the words on the back cover of the Imagine album. Although Imagine’s lyrics only bear a passing resemblance to Cloud Piece, such was Ono’s influence that Lennon later admitted she should have been given a co-credit on the song.

“The song was originally inspired by Yoko’s book Grapefruit. In it are a lot of pieces saying, Imagine this, imagine that. Yoko actually helped a lot with the lyrics, but I wasn’t man enough to let her have credit for it. I was still selfish enough and unaware enough to sort of take her contribution without acknowledging it. I was still full of wanting my own space after being in a room with the guys all the time, having to share everything.”

John Lennon
All We Are Saying, David Sheff

Other lyrics were written by Lennon on various pieces of paper, including a Majorcan hotel bill and stationery from the New York Hilton, suggesting its gestation took some time.

“Dick Gregory gave Yoko and me a little hind of prayer book. It is in the Christian idiom, but you can apply it anywhere. It is the concept of positive prayer. If you want to get a car, get the car keys. Get it? Imagine is saying that. If you can imagine a world at peace, with no denominations of religion – not without religion but without this my-God-is-bigger-than-your-God thing – then it can be true.”

John Lennon
All We Are Saying, David Sheff



A 1972 Jet with Gregory, Ono, and Lennon on the cover. (Image Source


1577258 Bed In6

Gregory speaks with Lennon and Ono during their famous Bed-In. (Image Source)


Screen Shot 2017 07 13 at 6.46.49 PM


Check out the videos below for more.



Share your thoughts