Give Peace a Chance

“Spring passes and one remembers one’s innocence.
Summer passes and one remembers one’s exuberance.
Autumn passes and one remembers one’s reverence.
Winter passes and one remembers one’s perseverance.”

Yoko Ono

It was the year 1969 when Canada welcomed John Lennon and Yoko Ono. As icons of the peace movement, John and Yoko were at the height of their popularity.

Even from my vantage point in Northern Manitoba, I watched with excitement and expectation as John and Yoko staged their unforgettable “BED-IN FOR PEACE” event from May 26 to June 2, 1969, at the upscale Queen Elizabeth Hotel in Montreal, Quebec.

Journalists and musicians were there for political discussions, singing and creative endeavors. It was during this amazing week that the iconic “Give Peace A Chance” was recorded with the help of local Quebecois musicians.

It has been over 50 years since John and Yoko visited Canada, and yet the memories are firmly entrenched in social memory.

Join me as I head back in time to remember, thanks to the excellent exhibition at the Vancouver Art Gallery: Yoko Ono Growing Freedom – The instructions of Yoko One, The art of John and Yoko

69 Thoughts

  1. And now there is a new movie, approved by the still living Beatles, by the director of The Lord of the Ring series. I listened to teasers and saw some photos, and listened on NPR to a guy who has a PhD in music history who specialized in the Beatles. (It’s NPR) It was when the band was super creative, but fracturing. There was the four making music in a circle, with Yoko sitting in the circle.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. I agree – our generation watched as the Beatles redefined music. The late 60’s and early 70’s were extraordinary times. It was music that brought us together. I am delighted that you joined me at the Vancouver Art Gallery.

      Liked by 4 people

      1. Thank you for passing along the article, Rebecca. I just read it. What I remember most about that time period, which the article didn’t address, was the official language debate in Quebec.

        Liked by 2 people

      2. Yes – that was a very difficult conversation and we continue to build on that discussion. I did a mini-research on how many languages that are on the edge of extinction. According to “The Language Conservancy” website, 41% of our 7,000 languages, worldwide are in danger. With the loss of languages we will lose the diversity and richness that those languages brings us. I am heartened by the steps that are being taken to revive language. Consider Gaelic in Wales and Scotland. And here in BC, Simon Fraser University is revitalizing and preserving the Indigenous language heritage. Exciting stuff!! https://www.sfu.ca/fnlc.html. Thank you, Liz for being a writer, to love the words and language that gives hope and meaning to us all.

        Liked by 2 people

    1. I am so grateful for your visit, Shey. The exhibition was a chance to look back and see how much has changed and yet hasn’t changed. In Canada, the years 1968 and 1969 were remarkable for the amount of creativity that was produced, from Margaret Atwood’s poetry, to Farley Mowat and Mordecai Richler’s books. In 1968 David’s Suzuki won the UNESCO’s Prize for science writing. Pierre Trudeau became Prime Minister (he was in the video with John and Yoko). In 1969 Marshall McLuhan came out with Counterblast. All of these events in the arts/literature spoke to the complexity of that age.

      Liked by 4 people

      1. Well, it’s wonderful to see.and to chart how short the span actually was from when the Beatles burst on the scene to this point. What I remember was my older sister coming home from spending the summer working in a hotel with this pile of 45s, hauling me aside and going, ‘You have to listen to this,’ Now bear in mind Elvis was banned in our house. The staple ‘modern’ diet, was Bali Hi and Guy Mitchell…oh and of course everything I had grown up on cos mum and dad were deeply into big band music. So she put on Twist and Shout and I had never heard ANYTHING like it. That wa sin the few seconds I got of it before the mam stomped in and yinked it off.

        Liked by 3 people

      2. Oh my goodness, “Twist and Shout” was amazing. I just looked it up and found the background story, which you will enjoy. “The Beatles used this to end many of their early live performances. It was always a huge hit when they played it in concert, and was chosen as their opening song at their Shea Stadium performance on August 15, 1965 – the first rock concert held in a stadium.” Check out this link: https://www.songfacts.com/facts/the-beatles/twist-and-shout. I forgot how many screams were in the background. The Beatles were so so very young.

        Liked by 3 people

  2. Dear Rebecca,
    thank you very much for this GREAT post.
    You still hear the Beatles’ music f.e. when one goes shopping in the supermarket. Their music is pleasant to hear after all these years. It’s played even in Classic FM, it’s a classic indeed.
    With love and hugs
    The Fab Four of Cley
    🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I am delighted that you joined me at the Vancouver Art Gallery! I remember the first time that I saw the Beatles play. It was a Sunday night on Ed Sullivan’s Show. One of my favourite Beatle Songs, was “Let it Be” which was a profound foreshadowing of what was to come. A month after its 1970 release, Paul McCarney announced the band had broken up. I was reading that their music incorporated classical elements Aldo be with traditional pop forms. And their recording techniques were innovations that were soon adopted by other musicians. Sending many hugs and love to love to my dear friends, The Fab Four of Cley!!!!

      Liked by 3 people

  3. That had to be a fantastic experience for you, dear Rebecca, in those active years. At that time in Iran, I could only watch all these from a distance! Though honestly, I have never found any friendly feelings toward Yoko Ono. Anyway, for me, John Lennon was and still is an idol as a freedom and peace seeker.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I am grateful that you joined me at the Vancouver Art Gallery. John and Yoko met at an art gallery on November 9, 1966 in London, where she was exhibiting her work. I haven’t had a chance to look back into Yoko’s bio, but I am first starting with her book of poetry, Acorn.

      Liked by 3 people

    1. What was interesting to see Marian, was how young people viewed this exhibition. While I had vivid recollections of that time, they could only imagine through the artwork and stories of something that happened 50 years ago. Thank you for joining me at the Vancouver Art Gallery!

      Liked by 3 people

    1. I understand completely, GP. It was a time of great transition, but when hasn’t humanity been in a time of transition?!! In 1968, our Prime Minister, Pierre Elliott Trudeau rode a wave of popularity called Trudeaumania, which was analogous to the Beatlemania of the era. What I appreciate about art is that it crystallizes time and place, allow us to reflect on our personal histories. Many thanks for your visit and comments – very much appreciated.

      Liked by 3 people

    1. The late 60’s and early 70’s were transformative years for Canada, indeed for the world. Each generation has moments that they remember with clarity, especially when it has great meaning for them at the time. The exhibition brought out all ages, but I was most fascinated by how the those who had not lived during this time reacted to the story and messages, especially when John and Yoko spoke in videos.

      Liked by 3 people

    1. When I was walking through the exhibition, I was thinking back to the first time I saw the Beatles on Ed Sullivan to the day of John Lennon’s death. So much has happened over this time period from technology, to education, to politics, to social media. What I find most interesting about the phrase “Give peace a chance” is the plea from one person to another to take the risk, the chance of embracing peace. The exhibition reminded me of John and Yoko’s dedication to the task of peace building. Like you, I believe that peace is more important than ever. Thank you so much for stopping by and for your comments – very much appreciated.

      Liked by 4 people

      1. I remember them on the Ed Sullivan show too! And Lennon was my first and only crush on a famous person. My mom comforted me and told me there would be other rock stars as I got older, but none quite measured up. His message is just as strong today.

        Liked by 2 people

      2. Oh Diana – that was the most amazing Ed Sullivan show. My favouite was George Harrison! I love your mother’s wisdom that there would be other rock stars as you grew older. I have a quote by John Lennon that is a perfect addition to your heartwarming comments: “When I was 5 years old, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down “happy.” They told me I didn’t understand the assignment and I told them they didn’t understand life.” You are right his message is just as strong today.

        Liked by 3 people

  4. Thanks, Rebecca, for your deep and beautiful post “ Give Peace a Chance”. You present it so strongly and calmly. Every word counts and is important.
    I only wish that the message wasn’t equally needed today. I didn’t know about Yoko On’s poetry but
    found what you quoted so true and harmonic.

    Thank you for the invitation to this exhibition, oh, I like cappuccino too.

    Miriam

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Oh Miriam – I am delighted that you shared this moment at the Vancouver Art Gallery with me. I was not aware of Yoko’s poetry until quite recently. I just found “Acorn,” her book of poetry on Kindle. This is the blurb from Amazon:

      “It’s nearly 50 years ago that my book of conceptual instructions Grapefruit was first published. In these pages I’m picking up where I left off. After each day of sharing the instructions you should feel free to question, discuss, and/or report what your mind tells you. I’m just planting the seeds. Have fun.” —Yoko Ono

      Thank you for your visit and heartwarming comments – very much appreciated.

      Liked by 2 people

  5. Rebecca, I greatly enjoyed your on-site reporting on this exhibit! John Lennon and Yoko Ono were/are incredibly creative people (in different ways) with strong social consciences. Lennon could have just enjoyed his huge fame and wealth without engaging in political activism, but, to his credit, he did engage.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. Thank you, Dave for your thoughtful comments: “Lennon could have just enjoyed his huge fame and wealth without engaging in political activism, but, to his credit, he did engage.” I agree wholeheartedly. In so doing, he took enormous risk, as did Yoko. My sense throughout the exhibition was that they were an incredible duo, with diverse backgrounds that found a common theme – peace within a complex world. Their message “give peace a chance” was delivered in a way that challenged but with compassion. You will be interested in Yoko’s latest project: Water Event 1971/2021. The initial project was in Syracuse, New York in 1971. Check out the link.

      “For the iteration at the Vancouver Art Gallery, Ono has requested to work with local Indigenous artists to reflect the significance of water to these local communities, past and present, and to create specificity in the work that acknowledges and amplifies the Indigenous communities on whose land the Gallery resides.” https://www.vanartgallery.bc.ca/exhibitions/yoko-ono-water-event

      Liked by 3 people

  6. Rebecca, I remember that time in history as though it were yesterday. What a worldwide extravaganza their stance for peace became. Or should I say ‘bed-in’ for peace.
    I’m reminded that Yoko bore the brunt of some Beatles’ fan’s anger who, in error, blamed her for the Beatles’ break-up. This, of course, was far from the truth. They had just outgrown each other and needed to go in different directions. This happens to many relationships.
    However, what a legacy they left. I still love their music.
    I also loved the video. Particularly Yoko’s poetry. One sentiment made my heart sing. I may be paraphrasing:
    “Think of your friends as planets and watch them orbit and shine.”
    How delightful.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I have just downloaded Yoko’s latest book of poetry and am looking forward to delving into it for 2022. Her thoughts brought the exhibition together and added greater understanding to the art as well as Yoko and John’s mission. I read that the members of the Beatles were tired of the constant touring and relentless nature and excitement of the fans that became known as Beatlemania. The noise throughout their performances was to loud that they couldn’t hear themselves playing. I agree with you that each of them had outgrown each other and need to express their creativity in different ways. But what a marvelous legacy!! Thank you so much for your visit to my side of the world and for your insightful comments. Very much appreciated.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I was one who contributed to that noise! I didn’t get to see them when they performed. However, Rebecca, I was one of the schoolgirls in school union who greeted them at the Sheraton Hotel in Sydney during their stay in 1964. Hahah..

        There were many truants, their first day in particular. Most Sydney schools thought it best to turn a ‘blind eye’. We all thought, at the time, we would be in detention for weeks.

        That’s how much influence they had – even then!

        I’m already looking forward to your thoughts, and Yoko’s poems. I know they will inspire and entertain.
        xoxoxo

        Liked by 2 people

  7. I was sick for days when Lennon was assassinated.
    I miss the protest songs, the movement toward peace, artists whose art I didn’t like, but encouraged all kinds of artists whose arts I did like.
    I have always and believe now that artists (paint, music, dance, poetry, photography, creative writing, etc) have a role to play in making this a better world for all. Sometimes I think it goes beyond a role to play. It’s a responsibility.
    John and Yoko embraced the responsibility.
    Thank you for this!
    Wish you were here for the Klimt exhibition. You would do a bang up piece for that!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I remember the exact time and location when I heard this tragic news. I didn’t believe it at first!!! Too dreadful to contemplate. I agree – it is a responsibility, and one that you have embraced with creative exuberance, Resa. Your latest post on the adventures of the AGM’s”Other World Redux” was outstanding. https://artgowns.com/2021/11/29/otherworld-redux/

      I wish that I could beam on over to your side of Canada. I would have loved to have seen the Klimt exhibition!!!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Thank you for this walk with you through a very interesting “look back”. I remember those days when these two made a huge impact on their world. John and Yoko made their own contribution in their own way, Thank you for including the photo of the page with very small words, I took the time to read! And, also thank you for her poem at the beginning. It is good that she writes poetry, looking forward to her book. And so sad for his sad death committed, I am sure, because he took a stand for what he believed. You included some great photos of the two, thank you.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Do you remember the first time we watched the Beatles first performance on Ed Sullivan Show together!? I just downloaded Yoko’s book of poetry “Acorn” and will share it with you the next time we meet for coffee. Sending hugs!

      Liked by 2 people

  9. Fond memories of their stay in Montreal, but that was, at least for me, another life.Thus so when “give peace a chance” you thought thru this kind of rhetoric from the likes of these then young and gentle people as well as many others of their wishful ilk, this could not help but happen. Like you said this was 50 years ago… when since then, me myself and I and the rest of the sane world are still waiting for a chance of real peace. Ever hoping this may come to pass the while I am alive!

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    1. I share your aspiration, Jean-Jacques. Hope is a fundamental idea that keeps us ever moving forward. I think that peace comes to us at unexpected moments when we are in sync with ourselves and reconcile ourselves to the complexity of our shifting, ever changing environment. I find encouragement in our conversations and in our friendships that ignite a kindred spirit of generosity and compassion.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Lovely post, Rebecca. We saw the same exhibit in Montreal in 2009. John’s piano, Yoko’s all white chess board, etc. It was fun. Have you seen the new Beatles show on the Disney channel? Having grown up with them thanks to my father, I thought it was truly amazing.

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    1. The all white chess board, and the all white ladder with “yes” at the end was riveting. Those heady days of Beatlemania seem, like the song say, “Yesterday.” I haven’t seen the Beatles show on the Disney Channel, but I know it would be amazing. Thank you so much for your visit and comments, Jennifer!!

      Liked by 2 people

  11. While visiting my grandmother in Vancouver in the early sixties, I worked for my aunt and uncle at the Pacific National Exhibition that summer. My uncle gave me a ticket to an “event” at the stadium so I went. It was a front-row, center seat for The Fab Four from Liverpool. The girl sitting next to me took me backstage where her father was working and I briefly met them. I shook their hands but couldn’t get my mouth to work.
    Years later, a cousin in the north gave me a small book of Lennon’s poetry. She knew he was my favorite Beatle.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Oh!! How exciting! I didn’t know that the Beatles were at the PNE! To be in a front-row seat was amazing enough, but to go back stage and actually meet The Fab Four from Liverpool was extraordinary. Serendipity is indeed alive and well. Thank you for joining me virtually at the Vancouver Art Gallery. So much has happened over these past decades. How wonderful it is to look back and remember.

      Liked by 1 person

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