Forty-six years after its release, Yoko Ono will receive an official songwriting credit for the hit 1971 song “Imagine,” co-written by her husband John Lennon.
In a 1980 BBC interview, Lennon said the song “should be credited as a Lennon-Ono song because a lot of it — the lyric and the concept — came from Yoko.” He said he received inspiration from Ono’s 1964 book “Grapefruit.”
Ono, 84, and her son Sean Ono Lennon accepted the Centennial Song award for “Imagine” Wednesday at a National Music Publishers Association ceremony in New York, where CEO David Israelite announced that Ono will be added as a co-writer, Variety reported.
During the event, Israelite played parts of the BBC interview with Lennon and Ono, which has the former Beatles musician explaining how his wife’s book was inspiration for the song and why she was originally left off the credits.
“There’s a lot of pieces in it saying imagine this or imagine that,” Lennon said in the video. “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 added.
Under U.S. copyright law, a song enters the public domain 70 years after its creator dies. Lennon died in December 1980 after he was shot by Mark David Chapman in New York City. Adding Ono to “Imagine” will extend the song’s copyright by 70 years past her death. Ono is already a beneficiary of Lennon’s estate, so how royalties from the song are distributed likely will not change significantly, according to Variety.
Yoko accepted the award in a wheelchair, noting that a recent illness provided her with a different view of the famous song.
“This is the best time of my life,” Ono is quoted as saying as she accepted the award.
During the award ceremony, Patti Smith sang an emotional rendition of “Imagine” with her daughter playing the piano.
Sean Lennon said on Instagram that the event was the “proudest day of my life.”
“When they officially acknowledged — through my father’s account — that my mother co-wrote Imagine, the song of the century, it may have been the happiest day of mine and [my] mother’s life,” Sean Lennon told Billboard magazine.