John Lennon Praised a Marvin Gaye Song for Promoting Peace

John Lennon said musicians could use their songs to promote messages of peace. For example, he praised a song by Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell that compares the world to an onion. Interestingly, the track performed very differently in different countries.

The Beatles' John Lennon wearing a "People for Peace" patch
The Beatles’ John Lennon | Ron Howard/Redferns

John Lennon liked a Marvin Gaye song but he couldn’t remember the name of the other artist who sang on it

According to the book Lennon on Lennon: Interviews and Encounters with John Lennon, John discussed peace during a 1969 interview. The “Imagine” singer was asked why more rockers weren’t involved in peace activism. “I don’t know,” he replied. “Because rock people are no different from anybody else, except for they have a different occupation.”

Subsequently, Yoko Ono said nobody cared about peace activism. “Yeah, just name the people that are active in peace, and we’ll get in touch with them, because we’re looking for them,” John replied.

John then commented on messages in music. “I mean, the thing is, I believe in all the songs going on, whether … whatever motive they put ’em out for,” he said. “And at the moment in Britain, there’s ‘The Onion Song’ from … the American one with Marvin Gaye and somebody else [Tammi Terrell].” The lyrics of “The Onion Song” say the world is a great big onion and we all have to work together to make sure it doesn’t make us cry.

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John Lennon discussed how people could promote peace without writing songs or giving press conferences

John discussed different forms of peace activism. “And if a musician uses his talent to sing that, that’ll do,” he said. “It doesn’t have to be dedicated like we are — that kind of fanaticism. It can be on the local housewife level.”

Subsequently, the Beatle had a message for regular people. “Just show your colors locally,” he said. “You don’t have to have a whole press ballyhoo to do it. Just do it locally.”

John Lennon and Yoko Ono at their Bed-In
John Lennon and Yoko Ono | Keystone-France/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images

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How Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell’s ‘The Onion Song’ performed on the charts in the United States and the United Kingdom

“The Onion Song” became a minor hit for Gaye and Terrell. The song reached No. 50 on the Billboard Hot 100, staying on the chart for seven weeks. The song appeared on the album Easy. The album reached No. 184 on the Billboard 200 and lasted on the chart for two weeks.

“The Onion Song” became a much bigger hit in John’s native United Kingdom. According to The Official Charts Company, the track reached No. 9 there and remained on the chart for 12 weeks. On the other hand, Easy did not chart in the U.K.

“The Onion Song” wasn’t one of Gaye’s biggest hits in the United States — but John was impressed with its message.

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