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Yoko Ono May Get a Songwriting Credit for ‘Imagine’

John Lennon Yoko Ono
Evening Standard, Hulton Archive, Getty Images

Administrative efforts are underway to officially add Yoko Ono‘s name to the songwriting credits for John Lennon‘s 1971 classic “Imagine.”

Variety reports that the news comes out of this year’s annual meeting of the National Music Publishers Association (NMPA), where Ono and her son with Lennon, Sean Ono Lennon, were on hand to accept the association’s Centennial Song Award for “Imagine” on Lennon’s behalf. At the meeting, NMPA CEO David Israelite is said to have played video footage from 1980 in which Lennon said Ono’s “influence and inspiration” on the song deserved co-writing credit. Wheels are now in motion to fulfill those wishes.

Israelite initially told Variety that adding a credit for Ono would extend the copyright, keeping “Imagine” out of the public domain longer. Later, however, he corrected himself – noting that since the song was published in 1971, its copyright lasts for fixed period of 95 years after publication. The current law, established later in 1978, only extends the copyright 70 years past the last author’s death.

“We are delighted to have worked with the National Music Publishers’ Association in recognizing Yoko Ono’s contribution to this extraordinary song,” said Justin Kalifowitz, CEO of Downtown Music, which administers both Lennon’s and Ono’s solo work. “It was truly a historic evening for sharing credit where credit was due.” Ono isn’t quoted as commenting on the decision at the ceremony, which also featured a performance of “Imagine” courtesy of Patti Smith, who sang while her daughter Jessie played piano.

As Beatles fans are no doubt aware, the “Imagine” addition isn’t the first time songwriting attributions have been retroactively altered on one of the former Fab Four’s albums: In 2002, Paul McCartney made headlines — and incurred Ono’s public displeasure — when he switched the order of the longstanding “Lennon/McCartney” credit on a number of Beatles tracks performed on his Back in the U.S. concert LP.

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