Keith Urban joined artists from around the world in a surprise appearance during the opening ceremony for the Tokyo Olympics on Friday, July 23, joining the event in a pre-recorded virtual performance. Urban joined John Legend, Alejandro Sanz, Angélique Kidjo and the Suginami Junior Chorus to perform John Lennon and Yoko Ono's "Imagine" in an arrangement by Hans Zimmer.
In a behind-the-scenes clip of Urban recording his performance, the Australian star reflected on what "Imagine" means to him. "It's one of those songs that feels like it's just always been there," he said. "It's sort of like a spiritual classic. It's almost more of a hymn than a song." When asked what lyrics stand out to him, Urban joked, "Just the ones between the beginning and the end."
"It's an amazing song," he said. "Some of the deceptively simple lines, I think. 'You may say I'm a dreamer.' That's an extraordinary, powerful line that speaks to me. The real definition of optimism and hope right there in that one line. Even if you don't speak English and you don't know what's being said... you can feel it. You can feel that song."
In addition to the 2021 rendition, "Imagine" previously got the Olympic treatment when a group of Korean singers also covered the song during the opening ceremony of the 2018 PyeongChang Games. It was also performed by a children's choir to close the 2012 London Olympics, Peter Gabriel sang it at the 2006 Turin Olympics and Stevie Wonder performed it in 1996 at the games in Atlanta.
On Friday morning, Ono tweeted a photo of herself and Lennon and wrote, "John and I were both artists and we were living together, so we inspired each other. The song 'Imagine' embodied what we believed together at the time. John and I met — he comes from the West and I come from the East — and still we are together."
After the 2021 performance aired during Friday's ceremony, a number of people on Twitter compared it to Gal Gadot's infamous "Imagine" video from last year, in which she recruited a number of celebrities to sing the song at the beginning of the pandemic.