"She's talking through him," admits Dan Richer, one of the collaborators of John Lennon before the camera Michael Epstein. The filmmaker recomposes in the documentary John and Yoko the months of work that led to Imagine through unpublished recordings taken at Tittenhurst Park, the country house where the couple was isolated to record the album.
Published in 1971, the message of peace that he sent with his songs resuscitated more strongly than ever when Lennon was murdered on December 8, 1980. In addition to crowning the charts again, it became his most recognizable legacy.
The film, which has the approval and participation of Yoko Ono, claims the authorship of Lennon's widow in much of what is the most successful work in the solo career of the musician. Ono achieved official recognition as coatuora of the song in the summer of 2017, with little media coverage.
It was acknowledged by Lennon himself days before he died in a radio interview on the BBC with Andy Peebles: "(...) For example, Imagine It should have been credited as a Lennon and Ono song because she created a lot of her lyrics and her message. At that time I was much more selfish than I am now and I avoided mentioning all their contributions. " Ono only appeared until the moment credited next to Lennon in one of the ten songs of the album, Oh my love.
One of the unpublished images of the process of creation of Imagine which can be seen in the documentary, with George Harrison, John Lennon and Yoko Ono
John and Yoko It goes further and points to the artist as the author of a good part of the album and not just of the song. "Without detracting from Lennon's musical genius, many of the ideas that build the whole project come from it. She was involved in every aspect of the album and created a new language for him. It is evident that the Lennon of previous songs as I Am The Walrus or In My Life It is not the same as the one in Imagine. Without Lennon's shadow, she could have been a Janis Joplin, "says Epstein over the phone.
The documentary, that Movistar + emits As of December 19, it is commissioned by the British channel Channel 4 to Michael Epstein, Oscar nominee for The Battle Over Citizen Kane (1996) and that he had already signed in 2010 a documentary about the life of Lennon in New York. In it only direct witnesses of what happened during the recording of Imagine, like Julian Lennon and photographer David Bailey.
Fleeing the noise
The couple met in 1966, in a gallery in London in which she, a well-known artist, exhibited her works. Their relationship became public shortly thereafter and, from that moment, the musician went from being a universally recognized idol to a divorced and questioned man. His image continued to deteriorate when in 1969 he returned to Isabel II the Medal of Member of the Order of the British Empire, which he had granted four years before with his group companions.
His move to Tittenhurst Park in 1971 was a flight from the noise that surrounded them and an opportunity to recover Julian, the son of Lennon with whom he had lost contact for some time after the love scandal. "It was his response to everything that had happened in their lives in previous years. They found a place to take refuge and in which to create something beautiful, "says the director of the documentary. It was also the stage where the last photos of The Beatles were taken.
In the huge country house, the Briton gathered his trusted people, among whom was his former bandmate George Harrison, to build a mysterious project that ended up being Imagine. His first album away from The Beatles had been a sales failure a year earlier, so he decided to keep the political message with a much more commercial sound.
"It was also Ono's idea to shoot everything that happened in the house and then to release a film in 1972 related to the project," recalls Epstein. John and Yoko incorporates part of the unpublished material that was never used in it.
Would your relationship be as controversial now as it was at the time? "I hope we have evolved and that we no longer consider a manipulative witch a strong woman with a voice of her own. In fact, they had something to do with the fact that now we come to understand that a man and a woman can be partners under equal conditions, "the filmmaker defends.
In the documentary, Ono claims in his own way the authorship of a good part of Imagine: "Looking at it with perspective, I think John and I met to make this song."