In response to the hundreds of anti-LGBT violent occurrences, with trans women and LGBT people of color being hit the hardest, and as a follow-up to his anti-bullying single “Kiss All the Bullies Goodbye” featuring Taylor Dane, philanthropist Sir Ivan has done it again! His new release is an EDM version of John Lennon’s song, “Imagine,” in hopes that people might focus their attention on world peace and to help those affected by violence, in particular the LGBT community.
The single is the first to be released off Sir Ivan’s new 10-track album, “Peaceman Shines.” Partial net proceeds from the single and the album will be donated to the Anti-Violence Project (avp.org), New York City’s non-profit organization created to end violence against the LGBT community. Both can be purchased on iTunes, Amazon and other major digital music venues.
In light of the work that Sir Ivan has done and continues to accomplish, Get Out! is proud to bestow The Humanitarian Award to Sir Ivan on June 1 at The Get Out! Magazine Awards. We shared some questions and answers with Sir Ivan about the new release: why he did it and his strong hopes for world peace.
So, Sir Ivan, why “Imagine,” and why now?
We have to go back in time, to 2001, when I first did “Imagine,” and was signed by Tom Silverman, the owner of Tommy Boy Records. I did that song then, and it came out September 4, exactly one week before September 11. Many people thought that I had done the song in response to September 11, but that was not the case. I actually recorded the song in 2000, but by the time the distribution cycle came to release my song, it happened to come out on that day. By 2000, and the late 1990s, I had gotten almost like a prophecy, a sick feeling in my stomach, because of three major things that I saw that made me think that the world was not the way it should be. The first thing was the brutal murder of Matthew Shepard. I couldn’t believe that in this country, after having the gay rights movement in the ‘60s, that in the late 1990s in America they were still murdering gays. The next one was the lynching and murder of James Byrd, a black man in the South who was dragged while alive to his death behind a pickup truck. It reminded me of the lynchings that took place in the South years ago. How could America still be murdering people because of the color of their skin? The third evil thing that was taking place was the almost daily suicide bombings in Israel. At the time it was suicide bombers going on to fully loaded buses and blowing them apart, killing everyone aboard, with heads and arms and legs and children blown to bits.
I remember that time.
It was happening daily, weekly, monthly, and as the son of an Auschwitz surviver, I saw a mini Holocaust taking place in Israel, meaning the mass murder of Jews, and the world was just going on living like it’s like brushing your teeth or having coffee in the morning. Instead of reacting or responding to the terrorism in a way that would have been proper, and condemning it, and doing everything to stop it, they were saying to Yitzhak Rabin to just make peace with Yasser Arafat. The man they picked for Israel to make peace with had a long history of mass murders and terrorism himself. So how could that possibly come to a happy ending? Those are the things that made me feel that I must do “Imagine” for a whole new generation. It was exactly 30 years since the original had been released. The kids dancing in the clubs weren’t even born in 1971, when it had been released the first time.
When it first came out, I felt that those lyrics best described the way I felt. Every word of the song, I believe in the meaning of it all, almost literally, stronger than maybe even John Lennon himself. I saw John Lennon as a prophet, and the song almost as a prayer, with instructions for what we should do for peace on Earth. We obviously ignored it, because here we are 15 years later, after the first time I did it, and the world is just as bad, if not worse, than where I left it. Terrorist bombings taking place again, weekly, monthly, in a horrible fashion, in Paris, in Turkey, now in Brussels. I was thinking, what better time, because things have gotten worse, not better. Now it’s 15 years later, and it’s almost another generation that can learn the words and try and follow the advice that John Lennon gave us. It’s my thinking because of this Islamic terrorism that takes place everywhere, in Malaysia, in Kenya, in Libya, in India. It’s gotten so bad.
You might be thinking that how could a song change the world, how can a song help anybody? How can a song prevent the bloodshed?
My answer is simple: We forget that it was music, the revolutionary lyrics, that helped put an end to the Vietnam War. It proved then that the pen was mightier than the sword. We all know of the revolution and the protesting that took place, and the pressure that was put on politicians, the government, to get out of Vietnam. It played a role. So now you say what can political lyrics, social justice lyrics, peaceful lyrics, play in the world? My thinking, is that there are like a billion Muslims in the world. Tens of thousands are identifying with this suicide bombing religious fanaticism. In my thinking, if only one Muslim is on the fence and thinking, “When I grow up, do I want to strap dynamite and bombs to my chest, and try to kill men, women and children and babies, or do the lyrics from the song penetrate my heart and soul, and maybe change the way I look at the world, and see that there are options and alternatives?” If I change one potential terrorist from blowing himself up and committing mass murder, then I potentially saved who knows how many lives.
Who knows? You never know what causes somebody to change their mind. Maybe they like the words that John Lennon wrote, and that Sir Ivan sang, that they heard somewhere in a club. So that’s why I did it, that’s why I do it, and as always I can simultaneously bring awareness to my Peaceman Foundation and the many good causes it supports.