Give Peace A Chance John Lennon Song Analysis Essays

This article is about the song by Plastic Ono Band. For other uses, see Give Peace a Chance (disambiguation).

"Give Peace a Chance" is an anti-war song written by John Lennon (credited to Lennon–McCartney), and performed with Yoko Ono in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.[1] Released as a single in 1969 by the Plastic Ono Band on Apple Records (catalogue Apple 13 in the United Kingdom, Apple 1809 in the United States), it is the first solo single issued by Lennon, released when he was still a member of the Beatles, and became an anthem of the American anti-war movement during the 1970s. It peaked at number 14 on the Billboard Hot 100 and number 2 on the British singles chart.

Writing and recording[edit]

The song was written during Lennon and Ono's "Bed-In" honeymoon in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.[2] When asked by a reporter what he was trying to achieve by staying in bed, Lennon answered spontaneously "Just give peace a chance". He went on to say this several times during the Bed-In.[2] Finally, on 1 June 1969, in Room 1742 at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel in Montreal, André Perry recorded it using a simple setup of four microphones and a four-track tape recorder rented from a local recording studio.[3] The recording session was attended by dozens of journalists and various celebrities, including Timothy Leary, Rabbi Abraham Feinberg, Joseph Schwartz, Rosemary Woodruff Leary, Petula Clark, Dick Gregory, Allen Ginsberg, Roger Scott, Murray the K 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.

When released in 1969, the song was credited to Lennon–McCartney.[4] On some later releases, only Lennon is credited; viz. the 1990s reissue of the album Live in New York City, the 2006 documentary The U.S. vs. John Lennon, and the 1997 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."[1] According to author Ian MacDonald, the credit was Lennon's way of thanking McCartney for helping him record "The Ballad of John and Yoko" at short notice.[5]


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, and Hare Krishna". In the performance of "Give Peace a Chance" included on the Live Peace in Toronto 1969 album, Lennon openly stated that he could not 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.[6]

Release and aftermath[edit]

"Give Peace a Chance", backed with Ono's "Remember Love" as the B-side, was released on 4 July 1969 in the UK,[nb 1] and a few days later on 7 July 1969 in the US.[nb 2][7] The song reached number 2 in the UK Singles Chart,[8] and number 14 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the US.[9]

The song quickly became the anthem of the anti Vietnam-war and counterculture movements,[10] and was sung by half a million demonstrators in Washington, D.C. at the Vietnam Moratorium Day, on 15 November 1969.[11] They were led by 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".[12]

The British group Yes also paid tribute to Lennon's words on their 1971 release The Yes Album, in "Your Move".[13]

After being issued as a single, it appeared on album in a truncated form for the singles compilation Shaved Fish in 1975. The track's first full-length album appearance was on the compilation The John Lennon Collection. Although technically the first "solo" single released by a member of The Beatles while the band was still intact, the artist credit was to the Plastic Ono Band, not John Lennon.[14] Shortly after the death of Lennon, fans gathered outside the Dakota and sang "Give Peace a Chance".[4] The single re-charted in January 1981, peaking at number 33.[7] The song is one of three Lennon solo songs, along with "Instant Karma!" and "Imagine", in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll.


Chart performance[edit]

Yoko Ono version[edit]

On 1 June 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.[23] It reached number 1 on the BillboardHot Dance Club Play chart on 16 August 2008. These are not the first remixes Ono has done of this song: in 2005, she did a new version recalling the events of the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks on Truth; and one of the first remixes with the lyrics used in this mix was released on the Open Your Boxremix album. The last instalment was released 18 February 2009, Yoko's birthday.

Track listings[edit]

Mindtrain/Twisted TW50066 (Released 1 June 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 1 July 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 18 February 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)


Lennon's fellow ex-Beatles Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr have each incorporated the song into their live performances; Ringo Starr & His All-Starr Band often perform the song as an encore after "With a Little Help from My Friends", while McCartney has performed a medley of the song, combined with "A Day in the Life", on his 2009 live album Good Evening New York City, for most of his Up and Coming Tour, on Saturday Night Live 11 December 2010,[24] and in 2011 during the US leg of his On the Run Tour.

  • The Jazz Crusaders recorded the song on their 1970 Liberty LP Give Peace a Chance.
  • U2 have performed the song in concert at least 27 times in whole or as a snippet, the first time on 13 December 1980 at the Paradise, Boston, Massachusetts and the last time on 18 May 1998 at Waterfront Hall, Belfast, Northern Ireland.[25]
  • The song has been used in films, television shows and theatre as it has become a recognised semiotic to indicate protest; for example it was sung by students in the film The Trial of Billy Jack, and by peace activists in Pretty Village, Pretty Flame. The song was featured in an episode of the TV series Mad About You in 1995.
  • Hot Chocolate released the song as a 45 single on the Apple label, Apple 18, as Hot Chocolate Band, in a reggae version in October 1969.
  • Mitch Miller selected the song as the closing track of the 1970 Mitch Miller and the Gang LP Peace Sing-Along.
  • Prince Buster's version is on Melodisc Records subsidiary Fab, released in 1970.
  • In 1991, Ono recorded a new version of the song (as well as a music video) in response to the imminent Gulf War.[26] Accompanying musicians included 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 Ono Lennon, Little Richard, LL Cool J, MC Hammer, Michael McDonald, Duff McKagan, Alannah 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.
  • Aerosmith (featuring Sierra Leone's Refugee All Stars) covered the song for the 2007 benefit album Instant Karma: The Amnesty International Campaign to Save Darfur.
  • Elton John recorded the song as a B-side to his UK single "Club at the End of the Street" in 1990. He also performed the song live on his 1970 US tour with bassist Dee Murray and drummer Nigel Olsson, singing only the refrain "All we are saying is give peace a chance".
  • Joni Mitchell referenced the song in "California" from her 1971 album Blue.
  • The refrain is sung in the background during the Your Move section of Yes's 1971 release "I've Seen All Good People". The song also references Lennon's "Instant Karma!".
  • Louis Armstrong recorded the song on 29 May 1970, for an LP entitled Louis Armstrong and Friends (aka What a Wonderful World). The 1970 Louis Armstrong recording was released as a Philips 7" 45 A side single in the UK, 6073 703.
  • It was parodied on SpongeBob SquarePants titled, "Give Jellyfish Fields a Chance", in an episode with a conservation message.
  • Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder led the crowd in singalong to the chorus during a 2003 concert in Adelaide, Australia.
  • Madonna performed an acoustic version of the song during her Confessions Tour concert in Moscow, Russia, on September 12, 2006.[27]
  • Stevie Wonder performed a snippet of the song at Bonnaroo 2010 and in 1972 at Madison Square Garden in a performance with Lennon and Ono.
  • It was parodied by the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band as "Give Booze A Chance" in a Peel session which can be found on the Unpeeled compilation.
  • It was parodied on Dinosaurs in an episode titled "I Never Ate For My Father", in which patrons at a vegetarian restaurant started singing "Give Peas A Chance", and a Bob Dylan like dinosaur sang the line "What we're talking 'bout: radishes, radicchio, asparagus..."
  • Jazz guitarist Bill Frisell recorded the song for his 2011 album All We Are Saying.
  • In Season 3 Episode 5 of the TV show All That Miss Piddlin (played by Kenan Thompson) sings "All We Are Saying is Give Peas a Chance", repeating this refrain until a chorus of students and one custodial worker have joined in.[28]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ abNorman, Philip (2008). John Lennon: The Life. Doubleday Canada. p. 608. ISBN 978-0-385-66100-3. 
  2. ^ abNoyer, Paul Du (2010). "John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band". John Lennon: The Stories Behind Every Song 1970–1980 (Rev. ed.). London: Carlton Books Ltd. p. 21. ISBN 978-1-84732-665-2. 
  3. ^Year One
  4. ^ abNoyer, Paul Du (2010). "John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band". John Lennon: The Stories Behind Every Song 1970–1980 (Rev. ed.). London: Carlton Books Ltd. p. 25. ISBN 978-1-84732-665-2. 
  5. ^MacDonald, Ian (2005). Revolution in the Head (2nd revised ed.). Pimlico. p. 358. ISBN 978-1-84413-828-9. 
  6. ^The Beatles (2000). The Beatles Anthology. Chronicle Books. p. 334. ISBN 0-8118-2684-8. 
  7. ^ abcdBlaney, John (2005). John Lennon: Listen to This Book (illustrated ed.). [S.l.]: Paper Jukebox. p. 18. ISBN 978-0-9544528-1-0. 
  8. ^ ab"JOHN LENNON | Artist". Official Charts. Retrieved 24 March 2013. 
  9. ^ abJohn Lennon. "John Lennon - Awards". AllMusic. Retrieved 24 March 2013. 
  10. ^Perone, James E. (2001). Songs of the Vietnam Conflict. Greenwood Publishing Group. pp. 57–58. ISBN 978-0-313-31528-2. 
  11. ^Wiener, Jon (January 12, 2010). "Nixon and the 1969 Vietnam Moratorium". The Nation. Retrieved 28 January 2014. 
  12. ^See, for example, this PBS documentary and this recording on YouTube.
  13. ^Pemberton, Pat (9 December 2010). "Jon Anderson, Former Yes Frontman, Pays Tribute to John Lennon in California". Spinner. Retrieved 24 March 2013. 
  14. ^Noyer, Paul Du (2010). "Shining On". John Lennon: The Stories Behind Every Song 1970–1980 (Rev. ed.). London: Carlton Books Ltd. p. 14. ISBN 978-1-84732-665-2. 
  15. ^Hung, Steffen. "Plastic Ono Band - Give Peace A Chance". Archived from the original on 3 November 2012. Retrieved 24 March 2013. 
  16. ^"Plastic Ono Band - Give Peace A Chance". Retrieved 24 March 2013. 
  17. ^"Item Display - RPM - Library and Archives Canada". Retrieved 24 March 2013. 
  18. ^"". Retrieved 24 March 2013. 
  19. ^Hung, Steffen. "Discografie John Lennon". Retrieved 24 March 2013. 
  20. ^Hung, Steffen. "Plastic Ono Band - Give Peace A Chance". Archived from the original on 8 November 2012. Retrieved 24 March 2013. 
  21. ^Hung, Steffen. "Plastic Ono Band - Give Peace A Chance". Archived from the original on 20 December 2013. Retrieved 24 March 2013. 
  22. ^Blaney, John (2005). John Lennon: Listen to This Book (illustrated ed.). [S.l.]: Paper Jukebox. p. 326. ISBN 978-0-9544528-1-0. 
  23. ^Press ReleaseArchived 31 May 2008 at the Wayback Machine.. Twisted Records Online. Retrieved 25 June 2008.
  24. ^"Paul McCartney reveals track listing to live CD/DVD 'Good Evening New York City'". The Independent. 14 October 2009. 
  25. ^
  26. ^"'Give Peace a Chance'". The San Bernardino County Sun. San Bernardino, CA. AP. January 16, 1991. Retrieved December 2, 2016 – via 
  27. ^Kulik, Irina (13 September 2006). "Madonna Saddles and Rocks Moscow". Kommersant. Archived from the original on 22 November 2015. Retrieved 21 November 2015. 
  28. ^"All That - All We Are Saying Is Give Peas A Chance". YouTube. 2010-02-05. Retrieved 2016-10-02. 
Recording "Give Peace a Chance". Left to right: Rosemary Leary (face not visible), Tommy Smothers (with back to camera), John Lennon, Timothy Leary, Yoko Ono, Judy Marcioni and Paul Williams
  1. ^UK Apple APPLE 13[7]
  2. ^US Apple APPLE 1809[7]

An all-star recording and music-video of John Lennon's antiwar anthem, "Give Peace a Chance," with new lyrics by the slain Beatle's 15-year-old son, Sean, will be released Tuesday by Virgin Records. Among the more than 20 stars participating on the record, which was conceived and produced by Lenny Kravitz, are M. C. Hammer, Bonnie Raitt, Tom Petty, Peter Gabriel and L. L. Cool J.

The new version of the song retains the original chorus, "All we are saying is give peace a chance," but includes four new verses, the second of which addresses the Persian Gulf crisis and pleads indirectly against going to war and in favor of giving the United Nations' sanctions against Iraq more time to work. It goes like this: "Everybody's talkin' 'bout/ Civil war/ Revolution/ Armageddon/ No solution/ Are we facing Vietnam?/ We don't want to drop the bomb."

Mr. Kravitz conceived the idea for the record the day after the United Nations voted to impose a deadline of Jan. 15, which will be Tuesday, for Iraq to withdraw from Kuwait, said his manager Danny Goldberg.

Ten days ago, Mr. Kravitz telephoned Yoko Ono with the concept, and a week ago yesterday, they and Sean Lennon stayed up most of the night discussing the situation, and Sean wrote the lyrics.

The instrumental track was recorded the next day at a studio in Hoboken, and the first vocals were recorded Monday in Manhattan. Sessions took place in Los Angeles on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday and in London on Thursday. The music-video was supervised by Nigel Dick, who six years ago directed the video of the Band Aid charity single, "Do They Know It's Christmas?"

The other New York participants are Run D.M.C., Cyndi Lauper, Skid Row, Little Steven and the rapper Q-Tip. The others in the Los Angeles continent are Bruce Hornsby, Iggy Pop, Duff McKagan (of Guns 'n' Roses), Michael McDonald, Randy Newman, Little Richard, Teena Marie, Terence Trent D'Arby and Ofra Haza (an Israeli singer singing in Hebrew). The other London participants are Jazzy B. (of Soul 2 Soul), Dave Stewart and Amina, a Moroccan pop singer singing in Arabic.

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