“Imagine” Receives NMPA Centennial Song Award

Last week, the National Music Publishers’ Association (NMPA) celebrated its Centennial Annual Meeting at the Cipriani 42nd Street in New York City -- a night honoring achievements in the songwriting community and elevating calls to action for music publishers. The night culminated with John Lennon’s iconic song “Imagine” being named the most influential song of the last 100 years with the Centennial Song Award.

In a surprise twist of events, Yoko Ono was recognized as a co-creator for the song. In an interview with BBC just two weeks before Lennon's death, he revealed how the song should have always been credited as a Lennon-Ono song as she helped develop the initial concept and lyrics (read the script below). “This is the best time of my life,” Yoko Ono said after being named co-writer and presented with the same award that had just been presented to Lennon for the song. Following the award, Patti Smith and her daughter, Jesse Paris Smith on the piano, performed an impassioned cover of “Imagine.”

From John Lennon’s 1980 interview with BBC Radio 1:

“Actually that should be credited as a Lennon-Ono song because a lot of it—the lyric and the concept—came from Yoko. But those days I was a bit more selfish, a bit more macho, and I sort of [adopts a mock censuring tone] 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.” … But if it had been Bowie, I would have put “Lennon-Bowie,” you see. If it had been a male, you know…. Harry Nilsson—“Old Dirt Road,” it’s “Lennon-Nilsson.” But when we did [“Imagine”] I just put “Lennon” because, you know, she’s just the wife and you don’t put her name on, right?”

Also during the meeting, New York City Commissioner of Media and Entertainment Julie Menin announced a Mayoral Proclamation designating New York Songwriter Week, a recurring event that will take place each June during New York Music Month. The newly announced New York Songwriter Week formalizes what has grown into one of the most important weeks for songwriters, music publishers, and related businesses in the United States, including the NMPA Annual Meeting, the Songwriters Hall of Fame Induction Gala, and the Association of Independent Music Publishers' (AIMP) newly launched Indie Music Publishing Summit.

Downtown Music Publishing proudly represents Lenono Music and Ono Music, home to the song catalogs of John Lennon and Yoko Ono, respectively.

For the past four years Downtown has had the extraordinary privilege of managing the song catalogs of John Lennon and Yoko Ono. From early on, it was a company mission to see Imagine more widely recognized for its unending cultural impact. The story behind its creation, its initial success and its continued power and universal message are simply unmatched. Last night, at the 100th Anniversary of the National Music Publishers Association, my good friend and NMPA CEO @disraelite presented Yoko and Sean with the Centennial Song Award for Imagine--the first-ever award given by this organization to a song. But that turned out to be only part of the story. In front of an audience of almost 1000 songwriters and music publishers, we then played a rarely-heard BBC interview from 1980 where John said Yoko was, in fact, a co-writer of Imagine. This was something he'd claimed he omitted in 1971 because he was a "bit selfish, a bit macho" and that had he written this with anyone but his wife they would have been credited. Almost 37 years after that interview and 46 years after Imagine was first released, David then handed Yoko her own award for co-writing this masterpiece. The legendary Patti Smith, and her daughter, Jesse followed with a stunning rendition of Imagine. Not a dry eye in the room for this most historic night of sharing credit where credit was due.

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Other honorees of the evening included Pharell with the Centennial Songwriter Icon Award, Martin Bandier with the Lifetime Service Award, Paul Williams with the NMPA Industry Legacy Award, and more. Key speakers included Smokey Robinson, Steve Boom of Amazon, and NMPA CEO, David Israelite.

Read more about Yoko Ono's involvement in the creation of "Imagine" on: Variety, NY Times, Rolling Stone, Billboard, NPR, and The Guardian, among several other sources.