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GET UP, STAND UP: The Story of Pop and Protest Revolutionary Music
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About the Program
Revolutionary Music
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Intro
The Preacher and the Slave
We Shall Overcome
Give Peace a Chance
Get Up, Stand Up
Fight the Power
Did You Know?
The hotel room where the song was recorded is now called the John Lennon and Yoko Ono suite.
Give Peace A Chance

John Lennon
So, on June 1, 1969, with the song's verses written on large cards posted around the room and Timothy Leary, Tommy Smothers of The Smothers Brothers, Petula Clark, members of the local Hare Krishna temple, and others on hand to lend their voices, the bed-in culminated with the recording of "Give Peace a Chance." Several takes were recorded on a portable eight-track tape machine, and when he returned to London, Lennon polished up the song, including a backbeat by Ringo Starr and strengthening the vocals. It was released on July 4, not as a Beatles record, but under the name the Plastic Ono Band.

One thing was certain: no one who listened to it could deny that Lennon still had his pop moves down. Although the verse was basically rhythmic talking, the chorus, "All we are saying is give peace a chance," was instantly memorable, easily harmonized, and infinitely repeatable. However, even with the crush of worldwide publicity generated by the bed-in, the single only got as high as 14 on the American pop charts and was kept out of the top slot on the British charts by the Rolling Stones' "Honky Tonk Woman."

Yoko Ono and John Lennon
Still, this was a time of considerable political activity in the United States and many other countries. The growing opposition to the war in Vietnam brought thousands of protestors onto the streets, and since the peace movement itself never really had a theme song, and although those nine words were only a chorus, somehow the song took root. "Give Peace a Chance" became inextricably linked with the peace movement when Pete Seeger led an estimated crowd of 250,000 in a rendition of the song during the largest anti-Vietnam war protest in the United States, on November 15, 1969 in Washington, D.C. This was also the start of something new: Lennon had succeeded, at least partly, in using his celebrity to draw attention to a movement he believed in. Since Vietnam, the song has continued to be used by protestors voicing their opposition to global conflicts, including most recently the war in Iraq.

In May 2004, on the 35th anniversary of the famous bed-in, about 100 Quebec musicians revisited Suite 1742 to record a new version of the song; all proceeds from the sale of the record went to the Montreal division of Amnesty International.

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