Julian Lennon once vowed to never perform his late father John Lennon's song "Imagine," but the war in Ukraine led him to make an exception to that promise.
The 59-year-old singer sang a stunning rendition of the song as part of Global Citizen’s social media rally, Stand Up For Ukraine, which is working to raise money for the embattled country amid Russia's brutal war. Lennon was accompanied by Nuno Bettencourt on guitar as they performed in a dark room illuminated by dozens of candles.
In the description of the video, Lennon penned a message where he explained why he made the decision to perform a song he had never planned to sing publicly.
"The War on Ukraine is an unimaginable tragedy... As a human, and as an artist, I felt compelled to respond in the most significant way I could," Lennon wrote. "So today, for the first time ever, I publicly performed my Dad’s song, IMAGINE. Why now, after all these years? — I had always said, that the only time I would ever consider singing ‘IMAGINE’ would be if it was the ‘End of the World’…But also because his lyrics reflect our collective desire for peace worldwide.”
“Because within this song, we’re transported to a space, where love and togetherness become our reality, if but for a moment in time… The song reflects the light at the end of the tunnel, that we are all hoping for…" he continued.
“As a result of the ongoing murderous violence, millions of innocent families, have been forced to leave the comfort of their homes, to seek asylum elsewhere,” Lennon concluded his message. “I’m calling on world leaders and everyone who believes in the sentiment of IMAGINE, to stand up for refugees everywhere! Please advocate and donate from the heart. #StandUpForUkraine.”
Lennon is the son of John Lennon and his first wife, Cynthia Lennon. The couple wed in August 1962, but split six years later in November 1968 when their son was only five years old. The former Beatle married Yoko Ono in 1969 and the couple had a son, Sean Ono Lennon, in 1975.
Ono Lennon has performed multiple of his late father's songs in the past. Most recently, he shared a cover of his 1970 song "Isolation" on his YouTube channel to honor what would have been his father's 80th birthday in 2020. At the end of 2018, he also joined Miley Cyrus and Mark Ronson on “Saturday Night Live” to perform his parents’ song “Happy Xmas (War Is Over).”
In 2017, Lennon released a children’s book called “Touch the Earth,” which became a way he could connect with his past after a tumultuous childhood and relationship with his father, who was killed in 1980.
It wasn’t until the early 1970s that John Lennon was involved with his son’s life, but the younger Lennon told TODAY in 2017 that he has made peace with his father's early absences.
"Forgiveness came to me a long time ago, on that front," Lennon explained.
In the decades since his father's death, Lennon has experienced what he describes as signs from his late father. One time in particular came when he was touring in Australia and met a group of Aboriginal leaders. One of the tribal leaders gave him a white swan’s feather, which he said caused goosebumps over his body.
“Dad had said to me that if there was a way of letting me know that he was going to be all right, or that we were all going to be all right, it would be in the form of a white feather,” Lennon explained.