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Yoko Ono to be credited alongside John Lennon as songwriter of 'Imagine'

 (Joel Ryan / Associated Press)
(Joel Ryan / Associated Press)

It's been 46 years since the release of John Lennon's iconic song "Imagine," and Yoko Ono may finally be receiving the credit she deserves for her part in writing it.

At the National Music Publishers Assn. annual meeting Wednesday, when Ono and son Sean Ono Lennon received the Centennial Song award for "Imagine," it was announced that steps had been taken to officially give Ono songwriting credit.

Before sharing the news, NMPA Chief Executive David Israelite shared a 1980 video clip of Lennon speaking about Ono's contributions to the song.

"There's a lot of pieces in it saying 'imagine this' or 'imagine that,'" Lennon said, referring to Ono's 1964 book "Grapefruit." "I know she helped on a lot of the lyrics, but I wasn't man enough to let her have credit for it. I was still selfish enough and unaware enough to take that contribution without acknowledging it."

He continued: "I was still full of wanting my own space after being in the room with four guys and always having to share everything." The song, he said, "expresses what I learned through being with Yoko and my own feelings on it."

Though in a wheelchair due to a flulike sickness, Ono declared, "This is the best time of my life."

Though the move to credit Ono on "Imagine" may stick in the craw of those who still cling to the idea that the artist was the reason the Beatles disbanded, Paul McCartney has long been on the record as dispelling those rumors.

"She certainly didn't break the group up, the group was breaking up," he said in a 2012 interview with David Frost. 

McCartney added that without Ono, later Lennon songs like "Imagine" may never have existed.

"I don't think he would have done that without Yoko," he said, "so I don't think you can blame her for anything."

For the record, 12:51 p.m. June 16: An earlier version of this article cited Variety and stated that the addition of Ono would extend the copyright on “Imagine” to 70 years after her death, as dictated by current copyright law. Because “Imagine” was published in 1971, it abides by prior law that dictates that standardizes the length of its copyright to 95 years after publication.


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