Give Peace a Chance – Plastic Ono Band

Simple as it sounds, the message everyone is praying for.

2016 has been a shocking year so far, from the critical situation that is still raging in Syria, to the increase of racial issues in the United States, from Brexit to the ongoing mass migration of refugees from the Middle East and Africa to Europe and from Central America to the US, from the ISIS attacks in Europe to the totalitarian outbreak of Turkey, only to cite a few. All one could shout out loud is “give peace a chance”. And that is exactly what was going on in John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s minds almost 50 years ago, in 1969.

Lennon, the unforgettable member of the pop band The Beatles, that changed music forever, and Ono began their love and artistic relationship in 1968, using their bizarre lifestyle to bring media attention to issues they considered important. One of the most famous event, that marked their commitment against the war in Vietnam, was the so called Bed-in, a two week press release and media outreach that took place in 1969 in the presidential suite of the Hilton Hotel in Amsterdam, right before their wedding in March, and in room 1742 of the Queen Elizabeth Hotel in Montreal, Canada, in May.

The two artists called for world peace in their pyjamas and it was during the Montreal Bed-in that the song “Give Peace a Chance” was composed and recorded with the use of only four microphones and with personalities such as Timothy Leary, the rabbi Abraham Feinberg, Joseph Schwartz, Allan Rock, Rosemary Woodruff Leary, Petula Clark, Dick Gregory, Allen Ginsberg, Murray the K, Al Capp e Derek Taylor playing the choir in front of dozens of journalists.

Despite the fact that the song is almost completely lacking significant content, in fact the verses don’t follow any logical discourse, it became one of the most sung peace anthems during anti-war demonstrations. The primary randomness of the verses and the sarcasm of references to apparently casual words (i.e. Bagism, Shagism, Dragism, Madism, Ragism, Tagism) and people, such as the actual personalities that were singing in the bedroom with them, are used to underline the real message of the song that points out how meaningless everything is compared to the need of peace. The chorus becomes a nursery rhyme to repeat over and over again until it will be instilled among governments, stakeholders and media.

The Plastic Ono Band was the name under which Lennon and Ono released their solo and collaborative projects, and featured a series of eminent musicians like Eric Clapton, among others. “Give Peace and Chance”, first credited to Lennon-McCarthy, was actually the first solo single of Lennon, even though at that time he was still a Beatles member, and was later included in the album Shaved Fish compilation by John Lennon and the Plastic Ono Band.

The song reached number 2 in the UK Singles Chart, and number 14 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the US. Folk singer Pete Seeger led 500 thousands people who sang the song demonstrating at at the Vietnam Moratorium Day in Washington, D.C. on 15 November 1969, calling for Nixon’s action in ending the Vietnam war.

Today, the simple message of “Give Peace a Chance” remains more relevant than ever, and even if a loud and clear message sung from a bed by two extremely prominent figures as Lennon and Ono can’t in reality make wars stop, it certainly can raise awareness, enter the world’s consciousness and be a constant reminder of the importance of peace.

Lyrics

Two, one two three four
Ev’rybody’s talking about
Bagism, Shagism, Dragism, Madism, Ragism, Tagism
This-ism, that-ism, is-m, is-m, is-m.
All we are saying is give peace a chance
All we are saying is give peace a chance
C’mon
Ev’rybody’s talking about Ministers,
Sinisters, Banisters and canisters
Bishops and Fishops and Rabbis and Pop eyes,
And bye bye, bye byes.
All we are saying is give peace a chance
All we are saying is give peace a chance
Let me tell you now
Ev’rybody’s talking about
Revolution, evolution, masturbation,
flagellation, regulation, integrations,
meditations, United Nations,
Congratulations.
All we are saying is give peace a chance
All we are saying is give peace a chance
Ev’rybody’s talking about
John and Yoko, Timmy Leary, Rosemary,
Tommy Smothers, Bobby Dylan, Tommy Cooper,
Derek Taylor, Norman Mailer,
Alan Ginsberg, Hare Krishna,
Hare, Hare Krishna
All we are saying is give peace a chance
All we are saying is give peace a chance.

Categories
Sounds from the Bucket
Francesca Aloisio

Francesca is both an International Relations graduate and a dancer living in Rome. She is particularly interested in international issues, intercultural learning and culture sharing, as well as music and arts. She is currently a consultant for the UN agency IFAD (International Fund for Agricultural Development) in the communication division.

One Comment
  • The sound of resistance under Trump
    10 February 2017 at 4:55 pm
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    […] Even if the song that originally contained the chant is now credited, the chant has taken on a life of its own. It already happened most famously with the Plastic Ono Band’s Give Peace a Chance. […]

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