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History Post-confederation (1867-)

John Lennon, Yoko Ono and the Year Canada Was Cool

by (author) Greg Marquis

James Lorimer & Company Ltd., Publishers
Initial publish date
Oct 2020
Post-Confederation (1867-), Composers & Musicians, Social History, General
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    Oct 2020
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John Lennon was the world's biggest rock star in the late Sixties. With his new wife Yoko Ono, the duo were icons of the peace movement denouncing the Vietnam War.

In 1969, at the height of their popularity, they headed to Canada.

Canada was already a politically charged place. In 1968, Pierre Elliott Trudeau rode a wave of popularity dubbed Trudeaumania for its similarities to the Beatlemania of the era. The sexual revolution, hippie culture, the New Left and the peace movement were challenging norms, frightening the authorities and provoking backlash. Quebec nationalism was putting the power of the English-speaking minority running the province on the defensive, and threatening the breakup of the country.

John Lennon and Yoko Ono staged a "bed-in for peace?" at an upscale downtown Montreal hotel. The couple, aided by the CBC, saw a steady stream of journalists, musicians and activists arriving for interviews, political discussions, singing and art-making. The classic "Give Peace A Chance" was recorded there with the help of local Quebecois musicians.

Three months later they were back in Canada with Eric Clapton and other friends to play a concert festival in Toronto arranged by local promoters. American acts like Little Richard, The Doors, Bo Diddley and Alice Cooper, along with many Canadian pop musicians of the time, played at the festival.

At year's end, the duo met with Prime Minister Trudeau in Ottawa. By this time Trudeau was cracking down on dissent, mainly in Quebec, and falling out of favour with the counterculture crowd.

Recounting the story of these events, historian Greg Marquis offers a unique portrayal of Canadian society in the late Sixties, recounting how politicians, activists, police, artists, musicians and businesses across Canada reacted to John and Yoko's presence and message.


About the author

GREG MARQUIS is a Professor in the Department of History and Politics at University of New Brunswick at Saint John (UBNSJ), specializing in Canadian history and criminal justice history. Professor Marquis has developed a number of courses in the area of law and society, and is on the editorial board of Acadiensis and the Social History of Alcohol and Drugs. In addition to criminal justice history, his research interests include urban history and urban policy, the history of popular culture and the history of alcohol and drugs. Greg Marquis lives in Quispamsis, New Brunswick.

Greg Marquis' profile page

Editorial Reviews

"Captures a seminal moment in Canada’s socio-cultural development."


Canada's History

"Marquis offers a detailed and compelling portrait of Lennon and Ono’s three visits to Canada in 1969, including the couple’s famous meeting with the country’s 'celebrity' prime minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau."


Canada's History

"A fascinating overview of a remarkable time in western culture, and an even-handed overview of a cool - or 'cool' - period of Canadian history"

Hamilton Review of Books

"Marquis has caught the texture of the time, and his instinct to inspect it through the prism of Lennon and Ono is a good (and oddly revealing) one."

The Literary Review of Canada

Other titles by Greg Marquis