It's So Hard

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"It's So Hard"
Its So Hard cover.jpg
Single by John Lennon
from the album Imagine
Released11 October 1971
Format7" vinyl
RecordedFebruary 1971 at Ascot Sound Studios, Ascot and July 1971 Record Plant East, New York
Songwriter(s)John Lennon
Producer(s)Phil Spector, John Lennon and Yoko Ono
John Lennon singles chronology
"Power to the People"
"It's So Hard"
"Happy Xmas (War Is Over)"

"It's So Hard" is a song written and performed by John Lennon which first appeared on his 1971 album Imagine. Shortly after the album's release, the song was released as the B-side to the single "Imagine." In Mexico it was released on an EP with "Imagine," "Oh My Love" and "Gimme Some Truth."[2] In 1986, a live performance from 30 August 1972 was released on Lennon's live album Live in New York City.

Lyrics and music[edit]

According to author John Blaney, the lyrics of "It's So Hard" represent a summary of Lennon's struggle with life problems.[3] The lyrics describe one of Lennon's attitudes toward life, complaining about difficulties and the need to eat and love, noting that sometimes things get so difficult he wants to stop trying.[4] He only finds solace with his lover.[3][4] Author Andrew Grant Jackson interprets the song as demonstrating the difficulty in achieving the utopia vision in his song "Imagine," which was released as the A-side of the single including "It's So Hard," due to the drudgery of everyday life.[5] The song incorporates double entendres such as "going down," which is used to mean "giving up" early in the song, but refers to oral sex later in the song.[4] Even the title phrase "it's so hard" serves as a sexual double entendre when used in the portion of the song describing when the singer is with his lover and things are good.[5]

"It's So Hard" is a hard rocking blues song.[3][4] Music critic Wilfrid Mellers actually considers the vocal line to be based on gospel and soul music, but states that the song's use of sharpened fourths and false relations gives it a "harsh rock-bottom reality comparable with that of genuine, primitive blues.[6] Rolling Stone Magazine critic David Fricke describes it as being "like 'Yer Blues' from The Beatles, with an ironed-out beat and hearty blasts of tenor saxophone."[7] The primary instruments are just Lennon on guitar, Klaus Voormann on bass and Jim Gordon on drums.[3] In addition, the instrumentals include strings played by the Flux Fiddlers and a saxophone solo played by King Curtis.[3][7]


"It's So Hard" was recorded on 11 February 1971 at Ascot Sound Studios, Ascot [8] and Record Plant East, New York.[2][9] It was the first song recorded at Ascot, as it was considered a good test for the new studio, being a simple blues song.[9] The Flux Fiddlers' part was overdubbed on 4 July 1971 at The Record Plant in New York.[10]

The saxophone was played by King Curtis who played on many jazz and pop recordings of the 1950s and 1960s, including The Coasters' 1958 hit "Yakety Yak". It was one of his final performances, as he was murdered just one month before the US release of Imagine.[5] His sax break for "It's So Hard" was recorded on 5 July 1971.[10]

Klaus Voormann, a longtime friend of the Beatles and designer of the Revolver album cover, plays bass on the song.[2]


Mellers praises the potency of the song's "barrelhouse piano style" and the compulsiveness generated by the song's ostinato.[6] Music instructors Ben Urish and Ken Bielen describe "It's So Hard" as "enjoyable enough" claiming that it "makes its simple point without belaboring it."[4] Author John Blaney claims that in inferior hands the song could have been "a maudlin song of self-pity" but Lennon's "bouncy arrangement" and "snappy rhythm/lead guitar" avoids this problem.[3] Author Robert Rodriguez calls it one of the "edgier tracks" on the Imagine album that forms the album's "real meat."[11] Music critic Robert Christgau describes it as an "unsung great song."[12] Jackson calls it "a funny rant about life that anyone who hasn't slept enough before another day at work can make his or her own," adding that "as banal as it is, no one before had ever kvetched in such a humorous way about how hard it was just to function as a human being."[5]

Other versions[edit]

On 14 January 1972, Lennon and Ono Lennon recorded "It's So Hard" backed by Elephant's Memory for an episode of The Mike Douglas Show which aired on 14 February.[9][11] Activist Jerry Rubin played percussion for this performance.[9] Lennon also played the track during a benefit concert at Madison Square Garden on 30 August 1972.[13]

The version from the Imagine album was included in the documentary Gimme Some Truth: The Making of John Lennon's 'Imagine' Album.[9] It was also included in a version of the film Imagine: John Lennon for a scene where Lennon and Ono attended a party at Allen Klein's New York home, but the scene was cut from the film.[9]

Chris Goss and Masters of Reality covered "It's So Hard" on their 2004 album Give Us Barabbas.[14]



  1. ^ Christgau, Robert (1981). "John Lennon: Imagine". Christgau's Record Guide: Rock Albums of the Seventies. Ticknor & Fields. ISBN 0899190251. Retrieved 2 November 2018.
  2. ^ a b c Blaney, J. (2005). John Lennon: Listen to This Book. p. 91. ISBN 9780954452810.
  3. ^ a b c d e f Blaney, J. (2007). Lennon and McCartney: together alone : a critical discography of their solo work. Jawbone Press. pp. 53, 54, 57. ISBN 9781906002022.
  4. ^ a b c d e Urish, B. & Bielen, K. (2007). The Words and Music of John Lennon. Praeger. p. 29. ISBN 978-0-275-99180-7.CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)
  5. ^ a b c d Jackson, A.G. (2012). Still the Greatest: The Essential Solo Beatles Songs. Scarecrow Press. pp. 41–42. ISBN 9780810882225.
  6. ^ a b Mellers, W. (1973). The Music of the Beatles. Schirmer Books. pp. 169–171. ISBN 0-670-73598-1.
  7. ^ a b Fricke, David (10 December 2010). "20 Underappreciated John Lennon Solo Songs". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 10 October 2019.
  8. ^ Madinger, Chip; Raile, Scott (2015). LENNONOLOGY Strange Days Indeed - A Scrapbook Of Madness. Chesterfield, MO: Open Your Books, LLC. p. 226. ISBN 978-1-63110-175-5.
  9. ^ a b c d e f Madinger, C.; Easter, M. (2000). Eight Arms to Hold You. 44.1 Productions. pp. 50, 69, 79–84. ISBN 0-615-11724-4.
  10. ^ a b Madinger, Chip; Raile, Scott (2015). LENNONOLOGY Strange Days Indeed - A Scrapbook Of Madness. Chesterfield, MO: Open Your Books, LLC. p. 247. ISBN 978-1-63110-175-5.
  11. ^ a b Rodriguez, R. (2010). Fab Four FAQ 2.0: The Beatles' Solo Years 1970–1980. Hal Leonard. pp. 153, 325. ISBN 978-0-87930-968-8.
  12. ^ Christgau, R. "John Lennon". Retrieved 19 December 2012.
  13. ^ Edmondson, J. (2010). John Lennon: A Biography. ABC-CLIO. p. 146. ISBN 9780313379383.
  14. ^ Prato, G. "Give Us Barabbas". Allmusic. Retrieved 26 November 2012.

External links[edit]