John Lennon’s “Give Peace a Chance,” which was sung by half a million demonstrators at the Vietnam Moratorium Day protest in Washington, DC, in October 1969.
Recorded at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel in Montreal as part of Lennon and Yoko Ono’s “bed-in-for-peace,” the song is essentially a one-liner, “All we are saying, is give peace a chance,” chanted over and over. At the time Lennon claimed that he was bored with hearing “We Shall Overcome” all the time, and offered his simple ditty as an alternative. “Our job is to write for the people now,” he said. “So the songs that they go and sing on their buses are not just love songs.” But the fact remains, the musicians who wrote the anti-war music that became an organic part of political protest were not themselves riding on those buses with “the people.”
Though white male rockers received most of the attention, both in the streets and on stage, it is important to remember that the anti-war music of the Vietnam era was much wider and more diverse than people now recall. There were other tempos and temperaments on display across barriers of ethnicity and gender, perhaps a love song to a soldier far away, or a meditation on a domestic tragedy when a husband returned a hurt and tormented man, as in the case of country singer