How a Song John Lennon Was Bored With Inspired ‘Give Peace a Chance’

Sometimes artists write songs that are inspired by other songs. More rarely, artists write songs with the intent of replacing other songs. John Lennon was one of the most famous musicians to fall in the latter category and “Give Peace a Chance” was designed as a replacement for another song.

“Give Peace a Chance” remains one of John’s most stirring anthems. Though it’s often associated with the Vietnam War, it’s message continues to resonate with people today. We wouldn’t have “Give Peace a Chance” unless John got bored with a different song.

John Lennon | Harry Benson/Express/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

The song which inspired John Lennon to write ‘Give Peace a Chance’

“We Shall Overcome” remains a stirring folk/gospel anthem. In the 20th century, the song became associated with the civil rights movement and other social causes. Today, it is used as a protest all across the world for a variety of political movements.

Of course, even the greatest works of art can become overexposed. According to the book There’s a Riot Going On: Revolutionaries, Rock Stars, and the Rise and Fall of the 60s, John felt that “We Shall Overcome” was used a little too often at political rallies and got bored by it. His hope was that his song “Give Peace a Chance” would outshine it in terms of popularity.

“We Shall Overcome” by Diana Ross

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John told Rolling Stone “You see, I’m shy and aggressive so I have great hopes for what I do with my work and I also have great despair that it’s all pointless and it’s sh*t. You know, how can you beat Beethoven or Shakespeare or whatever? In me secret heart I wanted to write something that would take over ‘We Shall Overcome’…The one they always sang, and I thought, Why doesn’t somebody write something for the people now, that’s what my job and our job is.”

The legacy — and irony — of ‘Give Peace a Chance’

In addition, John wanted “Give Peace a Chance” to be a “revolutionary” song for workers. Moreover, he wrote the song because he wanted to give the world songs that were more substantial than simple love songs. John saw “Give Peace a Chance” as having similar themes as his own song “Working Class Hero,” a much more dour song also aimed at workers.

“Give Peace a Chance” by Plastic Ono Band

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Of course, art is a funny thing. An artist can create something for a specific purpose only for fans to use it in a completely different way. “Give Peace a Chance” was designed to supplant “We Shall Overcome” but the two songs were sometimes used in tandem with each other.

For example, in 1969, there was a huge protest against the Vietnam War held at the Washington Monument in Washington, D.C. Celebrities like Arlo Guthrie and Peter, Paul and Mary attended the protest. All in all, nearly half a million people were there. Protesters performed both “We Shall Overcome’ and “Give Peace a Chance,” showing the two songs and their important messages could certainly coexist.

Also see: The Rolling Stones Song John Lennon Worked on and Called ‘Bullsh*t’