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"Give Peace a Chance" is a song written by John Lennon and originally credited to Lennon/McCartney (John Lennon and Paul McCartney). However, when Lennon's posthumous live album with Elephant's Memory, Live in New York City (recorded in 1972), was reissued in the 1990s, "Give Peace a Chance" was credited solely to Lennon. End credits of the 2006 documentary The U.S. vs. John Lennon (in which the song appears) and its appearance on the 1997 compilation album Lennon Legend: The Very Best of John Lennon (and its DVD version six years later) also list Lennon as the sole writer of this song. On the topic of co-writing credits 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.”

A different song named "Give Peace a Chance", written by Leon Russell and Bonny Bramlett, was sung by Joe Cocker.

"When I sung "I Want To Hold Your Hand" millions of people heard it, and when I sing "Give Peace A Chance" millions of people will hear it"

-- John Lennon

Writing and recordingEdit

Early in the Bed-In, a reporter asked John what he was trying to do. John said, "All we are saying is give peace a chance," spontaneously, but he 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 1969, recorded it using a simple setup of four microphones and a four-track Ampex tape recorder rented from RCA Victor in Montreal.

It was recorded by John Lennon and issued as a single under the name Plastic Ono Band. To maximize media exposure, newlyweds John Lennon and Yoko Ono originally intended to host their second "Bed-In" event in New York City (the first was held in Amsterdam), but U.S. immigration officials refused to allow Lennon in the country because of his November 1968 drug conviction in London. The couple instead chose Montreal because it was close to the U.S. border. The song was recorded on 1 June 1969 in Room 1742 at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel in Montreal, Canada. The recording session was attended by dozens of journalists and various celebrities, including Timothy Leary, 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. It was recorded with Yoko Ono.

Commercial releaseEdit

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 July 4, 1969 and July 7, 1969 in the U.S. The track's first full-length album appearance was on the Lennon hits compilation The John Lennon Collection issued November 1, 1982 in the UK (EMI/Parlophone Records) and November 8, 1982 (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 1975.

PopularityEdit

"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. It 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 as many as half a million demonstrators in Washington at the Vietnam Moratorium Day, on 15 October 1969. 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 last verseEdit

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 1969 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.

Chart performanceEdit

Chart (1969) Peak
position
Germany 4
Netherlands 1
UK Singles Chart 2
U.S. Billboard wikipedia:Hot 100 14

RemixesEdit

On June 1, 2008, the 39th anniversary of the song's recording, the first of three digital-only (and thus environmentally friendly) singles was released through Twisted Records exclusively on Beatport with remixes featuring a newly recorded vocal by Yoko Ono. It reached #1 on the Billboard Hot Dance Club Play chart on 16 August, 2008. It should be noted that these are not the first remixes Ono has done of this song: in 2005, she did a new version recalling the events of the September 11 on Peace; and one of the first remixes with the lyrics used in this mix was released on the Open Your Box remix album. The last installment was released February 18, 2009, Yoko's birthday.

Track listingsEdit

Mindtrain/Twisted TW50066 (Released June 1, 2008)
  1. Dave Aude Club Mix (8:26)
  2. Dave Aude Dub (8:26)
  3. Johnny Vicious Warehouse Dub (8:23)
  4. Mike Cruz Dub (8:40)
  5. Tommie Sunshine Vocal Mix (6:41)
  6. Morel’s Pink Noise Vocal Mix (6:42)
  7. Morel’s Pink Noise Dub (7:09)
  8. Double B Full Vocal Mix (6:57)
Mindtrain/Twisted TW50069 (Released July 1, 2008)
  1. Phunk Investigation Mix (7:45)
  2. Eric Kupper Vocal Mix (8:50)
  3. Mike Cruz Extended Vocal Mix (10:25)
  4. DJ Dan Dub (8:53)
  5. Tommie Sunshine Give Peace a Dub (6:40)
  6. Morel’s Canister Dub (7:23)
  7. Mike Cruz Vocal Edit Mix (8:40)
Mindtrain/Twisted [TW50070] (Released February 18, 2009) [The International Remixes]
  1. Blow-Up Popism Mix (5:00)
  2. Blow-Up Electrono Mix (6:44)
  3. Kimbar Vocal Mix (8:11)
  4. Kimbar Dub Mix (6:54)
  5. Tszpun Remix (8:17)
  6. Tszpun Dub Mix (8:11)
  7. Alex Santer Peaceful Mix (6:11)
  8. DJ Meme Club Mix (9:54)
  9. Findo Gask Time for Action Dub (5:56)
  10. CSS Mix (4:12)
  11. Richard Fearless Reach Out Mix (7:05)
  12. Karsh Kale Voices of the Tribal Massive Mix (5:55)

Subsequent tribute or politically motivated performances and referencesEdit

  • The song has been used in motion pictures, television shows and theatre as it has become a recognised semiotic to indicate protest; for example it was sung by students in the movie The Trial of Billy Jack, and by peace activists in Pretty Village,
  • Paul McCartney performed the song as part of a tribute medley to John Lennon ("Strawberry Fields Forever", "Help!" and "Give Peace a Chance") during his world tour stop in Liverpool on June 28, 1990.
  • In 1991, Yoko Ono collaborated with Amina, Adam Ant, Sebastian Bach, Bros, Felix Cavaliere, Terence Trent D'Arby, Flea, John Frusciante, Peter Gabriel, Kadeem Hardison, Ofra Haza, Joe Higgs, Bruce Hornsby, Lee Jaffe, Al Jarreau, Jazzie B, Davey Johnstone, Lenny Kravitz, Cyndi Lauper, Sean Lennon, Little Richard, LL Cool J, MC Hammer, Michael McDonald, Duff McKagan, Lannah Myles, New Voices of Freedom, Randy Newman, Tom Petty, Iggy Pop, Q-Tip, Bonnie Raitt, Run, Dave Stewart, Teena Marie, Little Steven Van Zandt, Don Was, Wendy & Lisa, Ahmet Zappa, Dweezil Zappa, and Moon Unit Zappa as The Peace Choir to perform a version of the song in response to the imminent Gulf War.
  • Aerosmith (featuring Sierra Leone's Refugee All Stars) covered the song in the 2007 John Lennon tribute album Instant Karma: The Amnesty International Campaign to Save Darfur.
  • The song was also being used illegally for political gain in Nicaragua, during the political campaign for presidential elections (2006), Daniel Ortega (FSLN) used its melody, modifying the lyrics in Spanish. Now it has become like the government's anthem and many Nicaraguan fans are pleading Yoko to make a claim to the government as they believe that Ortega is creating an institutional dictatorship.
  • Elton John also recorded the song, released as a B-side to the UK single "Club at the End of the Street" in 1990.
  • The song was referenced in the "Your Move" part of the 1970 song "I've Seen All Good People" by the progressive rock band Yes and in the song "California" by Joni Mitchell from her 1971 album Blue.
  • Ringo Starr did a tribute cover of the song during the performance with his Ringo Starr & His All-Starr Band at the Seminole Hard Rock Live in South Florida on July 3, 2007.
  • Paul McCartney and his band played the song during their performance at Tel Aviv, Israel on September 25, 2008 and at The Liverpool Sound Concert.
  • Paul McCartney and his band played this song on SNL (Saturday Night Live)

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