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John Lennon - Give Peace A Chance
October 9, 2009
"Give Peace a Chance" is a 1,969 single by (John Lennon's) Plastic Ono Band that became an anthem of the American anti-war movement at that time.
A different song with the same name, written by Leon Russell and Bonny Bramlett, was sung by Joe Cocker.
Writing and recording
The song was written during Lennon's Bed-In honeymoon: when asked by a reporter what he was trying to achieve by staying in bed, Lennon answered spontaneously "All we are saying is give peace a chance"; Lennon liked the phrase and set it to music for the song.. He sang the song several times during the Bed-In, and finally, on 1 June 1,969, in Room 1,742 at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel in Montreal, recorded it using a simple setup of four microphones and a four-track tape recorder rented from a local recording studio. The recording session was attended by dozens of journalists and various celebrities, including Timothy Leary, Rabbi Abraham Feinberg, Joseph Schwartz, Allan Rock, Rosemary Woodruff Leary, Petula Clark, Dick Gregory, Allen Ginsberg, Murray the K, Al Capp and Derek Taylor, many of whom are mentioned in the lyrics. Lennon played acoustic guitar and was joined by Tommy Smothers of the Smothers Brothers, also on acoustic guitar.
The song was credited to Lennon/McCartney (John Lennon and Paul McCartney) and published by Northern Songs (now Sony/ATV Music Publishing). On some later releases of the song, only Lennon is credited; viz. the 1,990s reissue of the 1,972 album Live in New York City, the 2,006 documentary The U.S. vs. John Lennon (in which the song appears), and the 1,997 compilation album Lennon Legend: The Very Best of John Lennon (and its DVD version six years later). Lennon later stated his regrets about being guilty enough to give McCartney credit as co-writer on my first independent single instead of giving it to Yoko, who had actually written it with me.  However, it has also been suggested that the credit was a way of thanks to McCartney for helping him record "The Ballad of John and Yoko" at short notice.
The "Give Peace a Chance" single (with Yoko Ono's "Remember Love" as the B-side) was released on 45 RPM vinyl in the UK (on APPLE 13) on July 4, 1,969 and July 7, 1,969 in the US (on Apple 1,809). The track's first full-length album appearance was on the Lennon hits compilation The John Lennon Collection issued November 1, 1,982 in the UK (EMI/Parlophone Records) and November 8, 1,982 (originally on Geffen Records, since re-released on Capitol Records). A significantly truncated version of the Montreal session and a snippet of the One to One Benefit concert performance of the song appear on Lennon's Shaved Fish hits compilation from 1,975. "Give Peace a Chance" was the first "solo" single released by a member of the Beatles while the band was still intact, though, technically, the artist was credited as Plastic Ono Band, not John Lennon.
The song reached number 14 on the pop charts in the United States and was kept out of the top slot in the UK by The Rolling Stones' "Honky Tonk Women".
The song quickly became the anthem of the anti-war movement, and was sung by half a million demonstrators in Washington, D.C. at the Vietnam Moratorium Day, on 15 October 1,969. They were led by the renowned folk singer Pete Seeger, who interspersed phrases like, "Are you listening, Nixon?" and "Are you listening, Agnew?", between the choruses of protesters singing, "All we are saying ... is give peace a chance".
The original last verse of the song refers to: "John and Yoko, Timmy Leary, Rosemary, Tommy Smothers, Bobby Dylan, Tommy Cooper, Derek Taylor, Norman Mailer, Allen Ginsberg, Hare Krishna".
In the performance of "Give Peace a Chance" included on the Live Peace in Toronto 1,969 album, Lennon openly stated that he couldn't remember all of the words and improvised with the names of the band members sharing the stage with him and anything that came to mind: "John and Yoko, Eric Clapton, Klaus Voormann, Penny Lane, Roosevelt, Nixon, Tommy Jones and Tommy Cooper, and somebody."
The third verse contains a reference to masturbation, but Lennon changed this to "mastication" on the official lyric sheet. He later admitted this was a "cop out" but wanted to avoid unnecessary controversy.