The Ballad of John and Yoko — 40 Years Later

Yoko Ono wants the world to give her a 40th wedding anniversary present: she’s asking fans to mount their own recreations of her and John Lennon’s “Bed-in” for peace honeymoon.

The Beatle and the avant-garde artist married in Gibraltar on March 20, 1969, and days later headed to the Amsterdam Hilton, where they laid in bed for a week, shaggy and in baggy pajamas, talking to the press about peace amid the Vietnam War.

The John-and-Yoko honeymoon tour resumed in late May with a bed-in at a Montreal hotel, where a crowd of pals that included Tommy Smothers, Allen Ginsberg and Timothy Leary helped Lennon record what quickly would become an international anti-war anthem, “Give Peace a Chance.”

With the world still far from war-free, Ono has taken the quest for peace from bedside press conferences to the United Nations and even the Internet: She’s asking couples to recreate the bed-in, and upload pictures and stories to

The anniversary also is being marked around the globe. The John Lennon Museum near Tokyo is celebrating with a music-filled event called “Wedding Days.” The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, with Ono’s help, is set to open an exhibition on the Canadian bed-in that promises to “contextualize” the event.

The Amsterdam Hilton, immortalized in the Beatles song “The Ballad of John and Yoko,” is giving the public tours of its John and Yoko Honeymoon Suite for the first time. The room usually runs $2,400 a night.

If all the hoopla seems a bit much, it’s actually a fitting tribute to Lennon and Ono, who knew the value of a good publicity stunt-- and weren’t afraid of coming off as silly, outrageous or naïve for a worthy cause.

During the bed-in at Montreal’s Queen Elizabeth Hotel, Lennon told reporters that peace was a product like soap – “you’ve got to sell and sell.”

"Yoko and I are quite willing to be the world's clowns, if by doing it we do some good,” he once said.

John and Yoko: Give Peace a Chance
The bed-ins, which came at the height of the flower-power movement, were dismissed by many at the time – and still by some – as hippie nonsense. But five months after “Give Peace a Chance” was recorded in that hotel room, Pete Seeger led some 250,000 anti-war protesters in a rendition in Washington – and the song still can be heard as a rejoinder to violence around the world.
The bed-ins also helped give rock-and-roll a sense of greater responsibility. You can draw a squiggly line between Lennon and Ono using their celebrity to promote peace to George Harrison’s Concert for Bangladesh to Bob Geldof’s Live Aid shows to Bono’s role as a globe-trotting anti-poverty warrior.

Lennon may be gone nearly 30 years, but there are still many of us who can imagine peace. The Ballad of John and Yoko plays on.

Hester is founding director of the award-winning, multi-media NYCity News Service at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism. He is the former City Editor of the New York Daily News, where he started as a reporter in 1992.

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