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The Vietnam War was one of the most divisive wars in the history of the United States. The United States involvement in the War along with the media on the front lines telling horror stories and showing graphic images polarized the nation. Music during the time of the Vietnam War changed drastically and sparked a revolution of protest songs that united people in protests throughout the country. One of such songs is “Give Peace a Chance” by John Lennon.
In this essay I will make an analysis of the song Give peace a chance by John Lennon. Give peace a chance is an amazing protest song which was written in a time when the entire world was talking about racism, injustice while barely anyone was promoting peace. This song was recorded on May 31, 1969, a time when world war had ended 20 years ago and people all over the world were fighting for their rights in their own countries. At this time only a few people believed in peace as they saw more than 170 war fought between 1960-1969. John Lennon’s message in his song is saying war does not solve all problems but if you ‘give peace a chance’ it may be a better solution to taking a step to solving all the problems in war. The way he sees it there is no need for all of the gossip and all of the different controversies people continue to talk about.
John Lennon was unhappy with the situation and decided to go to Queen Elizabeth’s Hotel in Montreal and stayed on their bed in protest for eight days, beginning on May 26, to promote world peace. They got a lot of attention from media and the public which is exactly what they wanted to promote their cause. This song was sung and recorded on May 31, 1969, and some of the people in the hotel room who sang along with him were Tommy Smothers, Timothy Leary, Allen Ginsberg, and Petula Clark. The guitars were played by Smothers along with his brother, Dick. Guests to John and Yoko’s bed-in, including reporters, staff, and celebrities, banged on everything from doors to tabletops for rhythm. John thought the first try sounded weak, so in the next try he added a group of Hare Krishna drummers. The drumming was then remixed in a studio because John Lennon came up with a third verse.
This song quickly became the anthem of the antiwar movement as many Americans felt the country should not continue the war with Vietnam. On October 15, 1969, a lot of people did a demonstration called The Moratorium to End the War in Vietnam, which took place, with protesters singing this song in mass.
Yoko Ono told in an interview, “I think we kind of made a point there. We thought that we were presenting a thought through an alternative theater setting and that was the platform and the world was the theater.”
This was released on the album Live Peace In Toronto 1969. It was from a concert Lennon performed backed by Eric Clapton on guitar, Klaus Voorman on bass, and Alan White on drums.
Verse 1: Through this verse, John Lennon tries to say that the entire world is focused on things like racism and no one is caring about world peace. Chorus The chorus speaks for itself saying that they are just trying to get people to give peace a chance.
Verse 2: In this verse, John Lennon conveys that the world is more interested in politics and state matters rather than the much larger issue of wars.
Verse 3: In this verse, John Lennon conveys that the world is more interested in the evolution of science, law and the world believes that the world has achieved peace because the United Nations have formed.
Verse 4: This verse talks about how the world is much more interested in celebrities than world peace.
Tempo/BPM = 100 BPM
Type = Protest Song (anti-war)
Melody = Anthemic
“On Nov. 15, 1969, an estimated 500,000 protesters sang the song during an anti-war demonstration in Washington, D.C”. – Neuseum
“When Lennon and Ono conceived of the song, the war had escalated to a point where death and widespread destruction were becoming evident. Nixon’s ascension to power had increased the intensity of the war in the hopes of ending it.” – Ashley Kannan
“It’s stomping beat, repetitive chorus, and simple message saw Give Peace a Chance picked up by anti-war activists, who sang it repeatedly at protests and rallies.” – alphahistory.com
“Most famously, John Lennon’s Give Peace A Chance became the anthem of the anti-Vietnam War protests in the late 1960s when it was adapted by Pete Seeger at a huge peace rally on Nov. 15th, 1969, involving half a million participants.” – Philipp Baur
Despite the fact that the song is almost completely lacking significant content, in fact, the verses don’t follow any logical discourse, it became one of the most sung peace anthems during anti-war demonstrations. The primary randomness of the verses and the sarcasm of references to apparently casual words (i.e. Bagism, Shagism, Dragism, Madism, Ragism, Tagism) and people, such as the actual personalities that were singing in the bedroom with them, are used to underline the real message of the song that points out how meaningless everything is compared to the need of peace. The chorus becomes a nursery rhyme to repeat over and over again until it will be instilled among governments, stakeholders and media.
This song protests against a cause which is really huge yet unknown to many. It is a really effective protest song as it uses casual words and its meaning is really clear. It received a really large audience and is one of John Lennon’s best work.
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