Peace and Love—50 Years Ago and Today

Hullo, Hello …

When the 1964 Beatles Tribute band leader opened the first set at the British Embassy on Friday evening with these words, it was amazing how much came immediately back.

The Ambassador had just finished his remarks reminding us that the group came just a few months after the Kennedy assassination and “spirits in Washington were quite low and badly needed something to pick them up.” Even if you did not like their music, the lyrics were fun to sing and I was surprised at how many I could almost remember. More came with a few props and taking a photograph with an Abbey Road backdrop. For a few moments, indeed, I thought the lyrics to “Yesterday” struck a chord in us all: “All my troubles seemed so far away.”

The Beatles, of course, knew troubles and also the harm of an assassin’s bullets. They performed in the Washington Coliseum, too, which would shortly be renamed in memory of Robert F. Kennedy after his assassination. They would protest against many wars and read about other U.S. presidents shot and civil rights leaders murdered. In short, the period between 1964 and the murder of John Lennon were times of considerable troubles, the causes of which still plague the world we share today. And we are still far from the world John Lennon imagined where there was “nothing to kill or die for” and people “living life in peace.”

It was a nice evening. The crowd was appreciative but by 9:00 PM had largely moved on. The ambassador reminded us that on the original evening, the Beatles did not arrive at the embassy dinner until 1:00 AM, because a February snowstorm cancelled their shuttle, and they had to take the train.

As we left, the event also made me think about the full-page ad that Yoko Ono takes out every year on the anniversary of John Lennon’s death. Her message is “Peace and Love.”  Not a bad reminder, when the songs stop playing inside my head, of how much these are needed.