John Lennon, Yoko Ono, and the Year Canada was Cool

Reviewed by Mark Collin Reid

Posted March 26, 2021

It’s been more than half a century since John Lennon and Yoko Ono gave peace a chance in Montreal. The superstar power couple famously held their “bed-in” for peace in the city’s Queen Elizabeth Hotel in 1969, and for a brief period the eyes of the world were focused on Canada.

The protest event — two years removed from the “summer of love” — touched off a media frenzy and captured the polarization of the era, which saw counterculture hippies like Lennon rail against the war in Vietnam and other conflicts.

In John Lennon, Yoko Ono and the Year Canada was Cool, author and historian Greg Marquis of the University of New Brunswick at Saint John captures a seminal moment in Canada’s socio-cultural development. Like its southern neighbour, Canada in the late 1960s faced a clash of generations, with rebellious youth squaring off against their more stoic and staid parents for the soul of the country.

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. The handful of photographs included in the book helps to paint a picture of Canada — and of Canadian society — at a crossroads.

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This article originally appeared in the April-May 2021 issue of Canada’s History.

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