3. Lennon was key to stoking popular opinion against the war in Vietnam.
Some people go so far as to say Lennon’s activism stopped the war in Vietnam.
That’s not true, of course, and it ignores the not only the huge anti-war demonstrations in Washington, the campus take-overs, and the national outcry over Ohio National Guard troops killing four protesting students at Kent State University.
Instead, it was Lennon’s move in the opposite direction — toward peaceful protest — that angered, bewildered, and ridiculed supporters of the war.
Take the famous Bed-Ins, for instance. Here’s an excerpt from Imagine: The Story of a Song.
Realizing how any major event involving John Lennon became news, he and Yoko decided to use their marriage on March 20, 1969 to promote the cause of peace.
Naturally, the press would want access to wedding, only the pair went a step further: they invited the world into their bedroom.
At the Amsterdam Hilton, every day between 9 am and 9 pm, March 25-31 visitors and reporters were welcomed in to their honeymoon suite where they found the couple propped up chastely on the pillows, wearing white pajamas, talking about peace.
The effect was disconcerting and provocative. Had the reporters been duped? Was a young couple on their honeymoon in bed really news? Or they just objects, the way the Vietnamese seemed de-humanized on the six o’clock news? Regardless, the press took the bait and the event was covered world-wide.
In May, the couple repeated a Bed-In in Montreal. They invited Timothy Leary the former Harvard professor and LSD prophet, civil rights leader Dick Gregory, and poet Allen Ginsburg, among many others.
With the room crowded to bursting, John invited everyone to sing-along on ‘Give Peace a Chance.’ As he played acoustic guitar, accompanied by Tommy Smothers of the Smothers Brothers, someone rhythmically thumped a closet door shut in time to the beat for the percussion.
After the recording was released in July 1969, ‘Give Peace a Chance’ became an anthem for the anti-Vietnam war and counterculture movements.