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Give Peace A Chance

by

John Lennon



Songfacts®:  You can leave comments about the song at the bottom of the page.

This was recorded May 31, 1969 at a "Bed-In" Lennon staged in room 1472 of Queen Elizabeth's Hotel in Montreal. John and Yoko stayed in bed for 8 days, beginning on May 26, in an effort to promote world peace. They got a great deal of media attention, which is exactly what they wanted to promote their cause. Some of the people in the hotel room who sang on this were Tommy Smothers, Timothy Leary, Allen Ginsberg, and Petula Clark. Smothers also played guitar on this. Along with his brother, Dick, Smothers had a TV show from 1967-1969 called The Smothers Brothers' Comedy Hour. The show was canceled after Tommy complained about CBS censoring their political skits.
This was Lennon's first hit away from The Beatles. It was credited to The Plastic Ono Band, the name Lennon used on many of his recordings.
Visitors to John and Yoko's bed-in, including reporters, staff, and celebrities, banged on everything from doors to tabletops for rhythm. John thought the first take sounded weak, so the next take added a group of Hare Krishna drummers. The drumming was remixed in the studio, because John came in too soon on the third verse. (thanks, Ekristheh - Halath)
This song quickly became the anthem of the anti-war movement as many Americans felt the country should not be fighting in Vietnam. On October 15, 1969, a multi-city demonstration called The Moratorium to End the War in Vietnam, took place, with protesters singing this song in mass. (thanks, Bertrand - Paris, France)
This was released on the album Live Peace In Toronto 1969. It was from a concert Lennon performed backed by Eric Clapton on guitar, Klaus Voorman on bass, and Alan White on drums.
With long notes and vocals sung in a choir screaming for attention, this is similar to Verdi's Opera-Choirs, for example "Va pensiero" or "The choir of the prisoners" in the opera Nabucco from 1842. Lennon often used elements of Classical music in his compositions. (thanks to Johan Cavalli, who is a music historian in Stockholm)
Yoko Ono recorded a new version for Wake Up Everybody, compilation album recorded to encourage people to vote in the 2004 US presidential election.
On 10th July 2008, Christie's auction house in London sold John Lennon's hand-penned lyrics to "Give Peace a Chance" for £421,250 ($834,000). Lennon had written the lyrics during the eight-day Bed-in and gave the sheet to 16-year-old Gail Renard who had sneaked into the Queen Elizabeth Hotel with a friend. The teenagers became friendly with Lennon and Yoko and the Beatle gave her several mementoes, including the lyrics, telling her: "One day they will be worth something." Renard is now a comedy writer and presenter.
According to Christie's, when Lennon saw television footage of nearly half a million anti-Vietnam War protesters singing this song outside the White House in November 1969, he considered it to be "one of the biggest moments of my life."
Paul McCartney and John Lennon had a very contentious relationship when The Beatles broke up, but McCartney has expressed his appreciation for Lennon's work and included this song in many of his later concerts, including his historic show in Tel Aviv on September 25, 2008.
John Lennon told Rolling Stone that he wrote this song to be sung during demonstrations such as The Moratorium to End the War in Vietnam. He explained: "In me secret heart I wanted to write something that would take over "We Shall Overcome." I don't know why. The one they always sang, and I thought, 'Why doesn't somebody write something for the people now, that's what my job and our job is.'"
In our 2013 interview with Yoko Ono, she said that the song's lyrical message rings true now more than ever. "I think all of us are giving peace a chance," she said. "It's a powerful time."
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Comments (50):

Gavin....Why wasn't "Cold Turkey" (also written and recorded in 1969) credited to Lennon and McCartney? Basically, in June 1969 John still thought of The Beatles as an active recording group. But by September of 1969, supposedly after he had offered the song to the group as a single (and was unanimously vetoed) he decided to record the song himself, and for the 1st time in over 12 years, not add Pauls name to the songwriting credit.....the true time of death of The Beatle, in my opinion.
- Perry, Portsmouth, NH
I agree with this song completely. The world as we know it is too chaotic. We seriously need to give peace a chance.
- Thebeatles, Areawesome, AL
I agree with you, Barry. The SHAVED FISH version stinks! I LOVE the original version, though
- CrazyC63312, Pittsburgh, PA
I totaly agree with this title, everyone should give peace a chance! I miss John alot, imagine what he could have said about the world today. May he rest in peace.
- Breanna, Henderson, NV
On the album SHAVED FISH (Lennon's first 'best of compliation in 1975) the track only lasts about 20 seconds. To this day I still don't understand why EMI couldn't present the entire song as it was originally released.
- Barry, New York, NC
To Luana, from Perth, Australia: Your mama is right! This song was featured in the movie "The Strawberry Statement", (1970). I saw the movie 30 years ago and I still remember it. Great movie, great music, a work of art! The soundtrack to this movie is absolutely great!! Neil Young, Crosby Stills and Nash, Buffy St. Marie, Thunderclap Newman, John Lennon and others.
- Ulianova, Nueva Esparta, Venezuela
I remember this being re-recorded and re-released in the late 80s/early 90s, either with the same lyrics or different lyrics. I also remember a bunch of young people were singing it, with a backdrop of a wall with a lot of graffiti promoting peace.
- Patrick, Bremen, GA
My dad always sings this song to make my stepmom go freaking crazy. My sister and I sing along to incourage the frustration. HA HA!
- amy, st.louis, MO
I think that John Lennon was the most talented Beatle, But frankly I hate this song.
- Matthew, Melbourne, Australia
I don't know why so many people don't like this song. I think it's brilliant, and one of John's best.
- Ian, Lethbridge, Canada
Anyone else notice this song's ID is 1111?

That and the song being one of Lennon's greatest really made my day!
- Sarah, Rochester, MN
For those people who state quite "knowingly" that peace will never happen because of our instincts; you are wrong. We as humans have the ability the shape the world in which we live. It is the people that say peace is impossible that slow down its development. If people really wanted peace we would have it but thats the probelem; people do not, they are all too concerned about money, in my opinion an enemy of the world. I hope that one day people will realise that we are all humans and all live on the same world in which we all need to work together and get along as ONE, as john said. All you need is love.
- jonn, liverpool, England
Yes nobody really know him but himself. But there r people who work with him for such along time thye know so much about him like Paul McCartney. himand Paul went all they back to the mid 50s. Ringo knows so stuff but not a lot before The Beatles because he didn't join until 62,63. Cynthia knows cause she lived with him for 8 years. There is a lot of stuff people don't know about him. But we should be happy with what we know.
- Krissy, Boston, MA
John , I have read a couple of books on John Lennon. Yes he was not really a peaceful person until Yoko Ono came along. Yoko change his life a lot just like he changed ours. She made him a peaceful person and John tried to make everyone else one. He was giving peace a chance and we should now. Now that he has been murdered it is up to us to make the world peaceful like he wanted. I love John Lennon he was an amazing man. Everyone wants everybody else to love eachother and be peaceful but hardly nobody will admit. Please give peace a chance. Peace and love.
- Krissy, Boston, MA
Don?t get me wrong, peace is good and everything, but Wes is also right. Osama bin Laden has been trying to get revenge on us ever since his tribe was massacred by the Soviet Union in the Afghanistan War because we promised and failed to give him air support. "We gave peace a chance and this is what we got."
- Eamon, Nashua, NH
It's an amazing song. We all should try to give peace a chance. He did so much and change some many people. We should let him live in our hearts forever. Thats the least we could do. After all he has done and tried to do.
- krissy, Boston, MA
Whats that wobbly sound? Is that a piece of plastic?
- Allen, Bethel, AK
one of the definitions of peace is "freedom from dispute or dissension between individuals or groups." let us all keep that in mind
- Alison, St. Charles, MO
For some unknown reason, Capitol/EMI only included a portion of this song - not the complete version - on John's 1975 greatest hits album "Shaved Fish".
- Ken, Louisville, KY
I like the line, ?gall we are saying is give peace a chance?h. The line has a powerful message to all over the world, and it was the message of ?gBed-in?h from John and Yoko.
- Taishi, Fujisawa, Japan
You have a point there, Ekristheh...a good point. Maybe we are the least advanced species on the planet...so behind in the race, that we actually think we're ahead.
- Kevin Murphy, Ridgewood, NJ
Kevin, you don't know that humanity are the only creatures to be able to conceive of the advanced concepts you describe. Since we do not yet have the ability to understand animal language, we don't know what they are thinking. Everything that we do know points to animals being able to understand abstract concepts. Judging by behavior alone, I might conclude that animals are wiser than humans since animals don't destroy their own environment.
- Ekristheh, Halath, United States
Stefanie, Rock Hill,SC. I was not refering to you. Your post was not put in an aggressive manner, so I did not mean to include you. By the way, I've seen many of your postings and I like your taste in music. ROCK ON!
- Jon, Oakridge, OR
John, I assume you were refering to a comment I posted as well. I was putting some of Wes's other posts as well, only because the post on this messageboard was a negative one. While I still don't agree with what he said, I could have nicer about it. He doesn't seem to understand the definition of peace. I realize, we don't have to put people down because they disagree with us, but unfortunately it's part oof human nature, and also unfortunately, it helps cause more fighting.
- Stefanie, Rock Hill, SC
I agree Joey, but on the other hand, we're the only animals in the world with the ability to intectualize an afterlife, a meaning to life, and a supreme being. I think that if we all get in touch with our inner spirit, we can be unified on the basic level of love. The world is filled with distractions to pull us away from this perfect state, and Lennon's lyrics make that clear: "Everybody's talkin' bout (this distraction, that distraction, this distraction and that distraction)! All we are saying is give peace a chance!"
- Kevin Murphy, Ridgewood, NJ
To Ashleigh, Hammond, IN and clayton, US, IN. I am a fan of John Lennon's music, and I don't think you guys are promoting your peace movement by criticizing others in such a negative way. You can still apreciate someone's music without necessarily agreeing with them. I'm sure the prejudice remarks you made are helping Wes a lot.
- Jon, Oakridge, OR
Jody, Pittsburgh, PA I could not agree more. It's sad really, but humans will always be at odds with each other. It's our natural hostile like instincts.
- Jon, Oakridge, OR
Louis Armstrong covered this on his last record.
- fyodor, Denver, CO
you know what i think? i think that sitting here speculating will not make any difference. everyone just thinks that because we are not fighting or whatever is being peaceful. Peace will never exist because we are not designed to react like that. We are animals, and that is a natual instinct. Defend. Defend. Defend
- Jody, Pittsburgh, PA
I wonder if John Lennon sang with a church choir on this song? The group of people singing sounds like Paul McCartney and a london church choir.
- Annabelle, Eugene, OR
No, John had to give Paul Credit because when Lennon wrote this, he was still a Beatle, and all songs John Lennon or Paul McCartney wrote while they were technically still Beatles were credited to Lennon-McCartney.
- Mike, Germantown, MD
Gaura,your note was extremely interesting. Wouldn't it have been a different world if John Lennon had followed the same life stream as George Harrison. Unfortunately, the bios all seem to indicate that John suffered from what we now call ADD. He couldn't stick with anything for very long. He was interested in Hinduism, but it was challenging and he grew bored with it. He grew bored with wealth, bored with his family, bored with the Beatles, bored with music, even bored with Yoko for a while. Thanks for your interesting historical note. By the way, I've always thought Hinduism would find more followers in the west if its practitioners would find a more accessible way to express things like "We find from the history of Mahabharata that the battle of Kuruksetra was because of the belligerent attitude of Duryodhana." ...Huh?
- dirk, Nashville, TN
he gave paul credit for this song because paul helped him in the ballad of john and yoko even though paul had nothing to do with it
- zach, philly, KS
Harrison played a lot of great slide guitar parts on Imagine. Dylan never played with Lennon or McCartney, not that I know of, but he did play with Harrison a lot, even in a band, The Traveling Wilburys.
- John Dylan, Blah, MS
Lennon claims that he and Yoko wrote the song, but he angrily and reluctantly credited Paul instead due to some unspecified fault of Paul's. I, however, think he is lying and it was really a Lennon/McCartney joint.
- John, Mechanicsburg, PA
To chuck, Joppa, he did play with Paul McCartney after the beatles split. Several jam sessions at John Lennon's house and one jam session with Bob Dylan.
- Mark, Barrow-in-Furness, England
I think Wes is slightly misunderstanding the word "Peace". It means you will not attack countries for purely monetary or political reasons, like Vietnam or Iraq. But does not mean you can't defend yourself when you're attcked, like 9-11.
- Nathan, Defiance, OH
Seems Wes, like you don't like the message John Lennon tries to send to us in his songs. I have seen several of your postings, all of which have been very dirogatory.
- Stefanie, Rock Hill, SC
Thank you, Clayton. As for you, Wes, why the hell are you listening to John Lennon in the first place? Obviously, you're one of those white, conservative, Christian-fundamentalist hypocrites with no mind of his own, so from now on, do us all a favor and refrain from posting on message boards about music that you clearly can't even begin to comprehend. Do you honestly think that we ever gave peace a chance? The U.S. government can hardly go ten years without blowing up a third-world country or at least getting some military action in some lesser region of the world. Peace doesn't bring terrorist attacks. Sorry, Wes, if you must look for someone to blame for 9/11, look for someone other than John Lennon.
- Ashleigh, Hammond, IN
Hey Wes,
Sir this is for all those people like myself, John Lennon,and, Yoko who Push for peace You Sir...are a complete moron. There was no Peace and never Has been Just becuse this fascist country was dosile for a few years did not mean that there was any peace.. the true definition of peace is all humand and animals living in harmony with out violence or self absorbed reasons and misconseptions..
- clayton, US, IN
I wonder where I was when all this pre-9/11 "peace" was going on. Just because there wasn't a fully declared war doesn't mean there was peace.
- Miki, Vancouver, Canada
gavin Gavin, Gavin! The beatles did not break up in 1971. They broke up in 1970. how could you not know that?
- Stefanie magura, Rock Hill, SC
We visited Ground Zero (former site of the World Trade Center) in New York City not too long ago. Somebody had marked on a plywood barrier, "We gave peace a chance and this is what we got." I couldn't agree more.
- Wes, Springfield, VA
my mum is convinced this has featured in a movie, anyone know which one?? or is she really crazy after all??
- Luana, Perth, Australia
While the official lyrics have the word "matication" John admits that he actually sang "maturbation" when the song was recorded.
- Ken, Louisville, KY
Whos to say John was bitter and confused... I feel like he knew what he was doing. It just took him a while to figure it out.
- Carly, San Diego, CA
Lennon said that he gave McCartney credit for this song because McCartney helped him record "The Ballad of John and Yoko". Lennon was my favorite of The Beatles, but while he was known for promoting "peace"...he was a bitter old cuss. Very sarcastic and very confused.
- Roger, Bristol, TN
Actually, Lennon played with George Harrison (on "Instant Karma") and Ringo Starr (percussion on "Plastic Ono Band" and "Imagine"). In fact, the only Beatle he DIDN'T play with WAS PAul McCartney.
- Chuck, Joppa, MD, MD
Lennon/McCartney is a wonderful songwriting duo. This song was cretited to Lennon/McCartney because it was witten and recorded in 1969. Also, McCartney did play in some later recorded versons of the song, though he was never credited as having played on the albums. This was the only time that John Lennon played with ANY of the former Beatles after their 1971 break up. This is one of my favorite lennon songs of all time.
- gavin, hampden, MA
WHile with the Beatles, John Lennon and Paul McCartney has an agreement to always credit all of their songs as Lennon/McCartney, no matter who wrote them. After being in the Beatles for so song, he credited this song to Lennon/McCartney even though the Beatles had broken up. It is the only Lennon/McCartney post Beatle song.
- Paul, Tulsa, OK
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