John Lennon’s ‘Give Peace a Chance’ Works Better as a Slogan Than as a Song

John Lennon’s “Give Peace a Chance” tries to be a message song and a psychedelic haze. Here’s why that doesn’t work.

Just because a classic rock song has good intentions doesn’t mean it’s a good song. John Lennon’s “Give Peace a Chance” has higher moral aspirations than most pop hits but it’s just not one of John’s better compositions, political or otherwise. Maybe with a few lyrical edits, it could have been great. Regardless, it’s a song stuck between two worlds.

John Lennon’s ‘Give Peace a Chance’ tries to be a message song and a psychedelic haze

“Give Peace a Chance” is a great slogan. It’s simple, easy, and non-dogmatic. It doesn’t endorse pacifism in all situations, but it emphasizes that non-violence is preferable to the alternative. There’s a reason why the song’s title phrase never really went away, appearing on signs at rallies all across the world.

However, the song doesn’t have much to say beyond that. Outside of the great titular phrase, the rest of the tune is a bunch of gibberish about rabbis, canisters, evolution, revolution, Timothy Leary, and the Hare Krishna movement. It’s a bit like the psychedelic imagery of “I Am the Walrus” combined with an anti-war message.

How the song compared to another John Lennon hit with an anti-war message

There’s a reason “I Am the Walrus” doesn’t have a real meaning. It’s just trying to be an acid trip, not a work of agitprop. “Give Peace a Chance” tries to split the difference between the two and it doesn’t work.

In addition, “Give Peace a Chance” doesn’t have one of John’s better melodies. Compare it to “Happy Xmas (War Is Over).” Both songs criticize the Vietnam War, but the latter has a beat so strong it’ll make you stop in your tracks and listen. The hook of “Give Peace a Chance” is pretty tepid. At least it’s easy to perform at rallies.

What George Harrison thought about the sentiment of ‘Give Peace a Chance’

One of The Beatles had his own issues with “Give Peace a Chance.” The book George Harrison on George Harrison: Interviews and Encounters features an interview from 1969, the year “Give Peace a Chance” came out. He compared achieving peace to becoming one with God. “You don’t get it in five minutes,” he said. “It’s something that takes a long time.

“It’s like to ‘give peace a chance,’ or ‘all you need is love,’” he said. “The thing is, you can’t just stand there and say, ‘love, love, love’ or ‘peace, peace, peace’ and get it. You have to have a direct process of attaining that.

“Like, you know, Christ said, ‘Put your own house in order,’” George continued. “[The] Maharishi [Yogi] said, ‘For a forest to be green, each tree must be green.’ So the same for the world to have peace, each individual must have peace. And you don’t get it through society’s normal channels. And that’s why each individual must tend to himself and get his own peace. And that way the whole society will have peace.”

George wasn’t the biggest fan of “Give Peace a Chance” and neither am I.

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