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As the Vietnam War raged in 1969, Yoko Ono and her husband John Lennon held two week-long Bed-Ins for Peace, one in Amsterdam and one in Montreal, each of which were intended to be non-violent protests against wars, and experimental tests of new ways to promote peace. The idea is derived from a "sit-in", in which a group of protesters remains seated in front of an establishment until they are evicted, arrested, or their demands are met.
The public proceedings were filmed, and later turned into a documentary movie. The film Bed Peace was made available for free on YouTube in August 2011 by Yoko Ono, as part of her website "Imagine Peace".
Knowing their March 20, 1969 marriage would be a huge press event, John and Yoko decided to use the publicity to promote world peace. They spent their honeymoon in the presidential suite (Room 702) at the Amsterdam Hilton Hotel for a week between March 25 and 31, inviting the world's press into their hotel room every day between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m. After their other stunts, such as the nude cover of the Two Virgins album, the press were expecting them to be having sex, but instead the couple were sitting in bed—in John's words "like angels"—talking about peace with signs over their bed reading "Hair Peace" and "Bed Peace". After seven days, they flew to Vienna, Austria, where they held a Bagism press conference.
During April 1969, John and Yoko sent acorns to the heads of state in various countries around the world in hopes that they would plant them as a symbol of peace. For eight months, the couple was not granted a single visit with any world leader. Their marriage ("You can get married in Gibraltar near Spain"), the first Bed-In ("Talking in our beds for a week"), the Vienna press conference ("Made a lightning trip to Vienna...The newspapers said..."), and the acorns ("Fifty acorns tied in a sack") were all mentioned in the song "The Ballad of John and Yoko".
Due to John and Yoko's very public image, the Amsterdam Bed-In was greeted by fans, and received a great deal of press coverage. Following the event, when asked if he thought the Bed-In had been successful, John became rather frustrated. He insisted that the failure of the press to take the couple seriously was part of what he and Yoko wanted: "It's part of our policy not to be taken seriously. Our opposition, whoever they may be, in all manifest forms, don't know how to handle humour. And we are humorous."
Their second Bed-In was planned to take place in New York, but John was not allowed into the country because of his 1968 cannabis conviction. Instead they held the event in the Bahamas at the Sheraton Oceanus Hotel, flying there on May 24, 1969, but after spending one night in the heat, they decided to move to Montreal.
They flew to Montreal on May 26 where they stayed in Rooms 1738, 1740, 1742 and 1744 at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel. During their seven day stay, they invited Timothy Leary, Tommy Smothers, Dick Gregory, Murray the K, Al Capp, Allen Ginsberg and others, and all but Capp sang on the peace anthem "Give Peace a Chance", recorded by André Perry in the hotel room on June 1. The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation conducted interviews from the hotel room. The event received mixed reaction from the American press.
In December 1969 John and Yoko spread their messages of peace with billboards reading "WAR IS OVER! If You Want It - Happy Christmas From John and Yoko". These Billboards went up in eleven major world cities.
The Bed-in performance has since been re-interpreted and re-used in protests by a number of artists since 1969, most notably Marijke van Warmerdam with her gallerist Kees van Gelder at the same Amsterdam Hilton in 1992 and the Centre of Attention in 2005 in Miami. A fictional Bed-In protest was also featured in a 2006 Viva Voce music video.
The event was referenced in the Oasis song "Don't Look Back in Anger", in which lead singer Noel Gallagher sings "I'm gonna start a revolution from my bed / 'Cause you said the brains I had went to my head ". The latter lyric was supposedly said by Lennon during a taped conversation he had at his room at the Dakota Hotel.
In late 2006, Billie Joe Armstrong, lead singer of Californian rock band Green Day, and his wife, Adrienne Armstrong, did a similar bed-in, featuring Billie Joe and Adrienne lying on the bed, with a poster above their heads saying "Make Love Not War" in Spanish.
On Lewis Black's Root of All Evil, comedian Andy Daly exhibits a video clip showing that he has also attempted a bed in to protest the War in Iraq. Trying to mimic Lennon and Yoko's original bed in, he climbs into the bed of an Asian woman, who sprays Daly with pepper spray.
In 2010, the city of Montreal unveiled a commemorative artwork in Mount Royal Park commemorating the famous bed-in. The work by Linda Covit and Marie-Claude Séguin is entitled Give Peace a Chance and features the words "give peace a chance" in forty languages.