Bed Peace: Yoko Ono & John Lennon’s “bed-in” for peace

Several playthroughs of “Here Comes the Sun” in anticipation of spring got me down this Beatles road again.

Yesterday marked the day that John Lennon and Yoko Ono‘s honeymoon began in 1969, a week after their marriage in Gibraltar, near Spain (Lennon’s “Ballad of John and Yoko” gives a pretty concise rundown). Instead of indulging in a private getaway, the couple embarked on two highly publicized week-long “bed-in‘s” for peace, where they stayed in bed and talked about world peace to reporters and various visitors (remember, the Vietnam War was in full swing at this time).

Ono made footage of the May 1969 bed-in in Montréal public in 2011. It’s been 45 years since that famous maneuver for non-violence, and the message still resonates today. Via Wikipedia:

Knowing their March 20, 1969 marriage would be a huge press event, John and Yoko decided to use the publicity to promote world peace. They spent their honeymoon in the presidential suite (Room 902) at the Amsterdam Hilton Hotel for a week between March 25 and 31, inviting the world’s press into their hotel room every day between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m. After their other stunts, such as the nude cover of the Two Virgins album, the press were expecting them to be having sex, but instead the couple were sitting in bed—in John’s words “like angels”—talking about peace with signs over their bed reading “Hair Peace” and “Bed Peace”. After seven days, they flew toViennaAustria, where they held a Bagism press conference.

During April 1969, John and Yoko sent acorns to the heads of state in various countries around the world in hopes that they would plant them as a symbol of peace. For eight months, the couple was not granted a single visit with any world leader. [..]

Their second Bed-In was planned to take place in New York, but John was not allowed into the country because of his 1968 cannabis conviction. Instead they held the event in the Bahamas at the Sheraton Oceanus Hotel, flying there on May 24, 1969, but after spending one night in the heat, they decided to move to Montreal.

(Ah, Montréal, they spoke of instigating a peace-in on Mont-Royal even then.)

Ono — who was an emerging experimental New York City-based artist in her own right when she and John met — seems to have played a much larger role in influencing Lennon than the media has historically let on. Bed-in’s, bagism, sending acorns — experimental (political) art. Or perhaps she played catalyst — whatever it was, her portrayal in the media has long been the maligned “Other,” characterized (unfairly it seems) as the woman who “broke up the Beatles.” (You can get a more contextual story via the excellent doc LennoNYC.)

Ono and Lennon represent “one of the greatest love stories of modern times” and one can see why — for love and peace are spiritual paths and these two consciously chose to walk them, attempting to transform the circus of celebrity for a kind of alchemy, under the harsh glare of the public eye. Not easy, but I do believe the world and its collective memory is better for it.

(“all we are saying is give peace a chance”)
(“remember love; remember love; love is what it takes to sing”)

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