A new photo exhibit at a museum on the site of the 1969 Woodstock concert offers fresh perspective on John Lennon’s legacy of peace. “Give Peace A Chance: John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s Bed-In For Peace,” which opens today and runs through September 7th, features more than 30 large photographs of the couple’s famous protest for peace, held May 26 through June 2, 1969 in room 1742 of Montreal’s Queen Elizabeth Hotel.
The exhibit, at the Museum at Bethel Woods, part of Bethel Woods Center for the Arts, features many never-before-seen images taken by photographer Gerry Deiter, who covered the bed-in for Life magazine. Deiter was the only photographer who stayed the entire eight days of the protest, and did so at John and Yoko’s request.
Lennon and Ono were joined at the bed-in, their second, by Tom Smothers, Timothy Leary, DJ Murray the K and others. The event — held during the Vietnam War — was immortalized by the June 1, 1969 recording of “Give Peace A Chance,” which Lennon and Ono did from their bed.
All of this is captured in large, dazzling, black-and-white and color photographs, some of which feature Lennon in striped pajamas; Lennon and Ono listening intently to Smothers; Leary wearing a blazing grin; Lennon singing and playing a guitar, on which he has scribbled caricatures; and the endless filming and recording and singing.
Other photos capture a sultry Ono lying in bed; and Lennon and Ono gazing longingly at each other as the light strikes Lennon’s beard. Narratives from those who attended accompany the photos, as do excerpts from an interview that freelance writer Charles Childs conducted with Lennon for Life magazine. But like Deiter’s photographs, the interview never ran in Life, although a version ran in Penthouse in October 1969.
Childs: Just what is the message to be gotten from you and Yoko being in bed?
Lennon: Well, for one it has humor. Sex for peace, man, that’s what we are saying. Sex is what it’s all about and we’re doing it with humor..and that’s what we might have over Martin Luther King or Gandhi. They some how made peace too serious and people resented it. When you’ve got somebody smiling, you’re halfway there.