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In Bed for Peace

Marzo 2019
Sono passati 50 anni dalla famosa protesta di John Lennon e di Yoko Ono, che trascorsero una settimana a letto per promuovere la pace nel mondo.

di Geoffrey Howe

File audio:

John Lennon and Yoko Ono
John Lennon and Yoko Ono

Speaker: Sarah Davison (British accent)

Fifty years ago this month, on March 20th 1969, the British musician John Lennon and the Japanese artist Yoko Ono got married. They used the publicity of their wedding to promote world peace. For their ‘Bed Peace bed-in’, the famous couple spent their honeymoon week in the presidential suite of the Amsterdam Hilton. They invited the press to interview them there, and on the first day alone there were over fifty journalists, photographers, disc jockeys and TV camera crews.


Later that year, John and Yoko flew to Montreal where they made a similar protest at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel. They had planned the bed-in to be in New York, but American politicians believed that the war in Vietnam was right, and refused to give John a visa to enter the US. So instead, the couple travelled to Canada, concluding their protest with the spontaneous one-line song: “All we are saying, is give peace a chance.”


John and Yoko received a lot of ridicule, humiliation and even abuse, but this didn’t matter to them. Their aim was to fix one word in the minds of the general public; rather like, said John, “marketing the brand name of commercially-advertised soap powder.” That word was ‘peace’.


While cynics might argue that it was a novel way of attracting publicity for themselves, as a Beatle, John Lennon didn’t really need to do that. He came from a humble, working-class background, and if we read between the lines of his interviews, it seems that he was almost embarrassed by his fame and fortune. He seemed to feel that it was his duty, as a celebrity, to give something back to the world: “Yoko and I are quite willing to be the world’s clowns, if by doing so it will do some good. I know I’m one of these ‘famous personalities.’ For reasons only known to themselves, people do print what I say. And I’m saying: ‘peace’.”


John and Yoko’s bed-in took place in a specific context, but their message was a universal and timeless one. To emphasise the importance of unity and shared humanity, the couple sent messages to heads of state around the world and asked them to plant a tree as a symbol of peace. Two years later, John and Yoko wrote Imagine, one of the most famous songs in history. Its most memorable verse goes like this:

You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope some day you’ll join us
And the world will be as one.   

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Bed Peace bed-in. L’atto di protesta creato da Lennon e Ono è una variante – più comoda e lenta – del sit-in (‘seduta’), un sistema di occupazione pacifica la cui origine risale almeno alla lotta di Mahatma Gandhi per l’indipendenza dell’India. Questa forma di disobbedienza civile è stata usata anche dalla popolazione afro-americana negli anni Sessanta, quando, per esempio, occupavano spazi pubblici a loro proibiti.