The torrid courtship of John Lennon and Yoko Ono was—and still is—one of the most frequently discussed and publicly visible relationships in the history of popular culture. On this day in 1969, the two were married in characteristically bold and vocal fashion.

The immeasurably famous member of The Beatles and the avant-garde artist and activist began their relationship while Lennon was still married to his now-ex-wife, Cynthia Lennon. After meeting and maintaining a correspondence from afar, Lennon invited Ono to come and visit while Cynthia was away in Greece in May of 1968. During that visit, the pair spent the night recording what would become their Two Virgins album and, according to the LP’s liner notes, “made love at dawn” to cap the intense all-night session.

John Lennon was thoroughly smitten with Ono after the evening. As Cynthia explained in her 1980 memoir, A Twist of Lennon, when she returned home from her trip, she found Yoko and John in bathrobes drinking tea. Lennon, relaxed, simply said, “Oh, hi.” He had already made the decision to take his life down a new road.

Two years before the Beatles disbanded, John Lennon and Yoko Ono began public protests against the Vietnam War. Lennon and Ono were eventually married on March 20th, 1969 at the Gibraltar registry office, and subsequently invited the world’s media to join them in their bedroom during their honeymoon in Amsterdam. Perhaps expecting the type of “perverse” exhibitionism with which the couple was often associated, the media instead bore witness to a weeklong peace rally, the first of two “Bed-Ins”. The second, eventually held in Montreal, was where the pair recorded now-classic anthem “Give Peace A Chance”.

John Lennon/The Plastic Ono Band“Give Peace A Chance” [Pro-Shot]

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[Video: Yoko Ono]

That entire hectic love affair was described in detail on The Beatles’ “The Ballad of John and Yoko” (written by Lennon but credited, as with all their songs, to Lennon and McCartney). It was released in May of 1969 as a single with lyrics directly addressing the circus surrounding their romance and nuptials. The song also makes various allusions to Jesus and his crucifixion, doubling down on the scandal Lennon sparked in 1966 when he proclaimed the Beatles to be “more popular than Jesus.” The song went on to become the Beatles’ 17th and final U.K. #1 hit before they disbanded. You can watch the official video for “The Ballad of John and Yoko” and read the autobiographical lyrics below.

The Beatles – “The Ballad of John and Yoko” [Pro-Shot]

[Video: TheBeatlesVEVO]

“The Ballad of John and Yoko” – The Beatles -Lyrics

Standing in the dock at Southampton
Trying to get to Holland or France
The man in the mac said
You’ve got to go back
You know they didn’t even give us a chance

Christ you know it ain’t easy
You know how hard it can be
The way things are going
They’re going to crucify me

Finally made the plane into Paris
Honeymooning down by the Seine
Peter Brown call to say
You can make it O.K.
You can get married in Gibraltar near Spain

Christ you know it ain’t easy
You know how hard it can be
The way things are going
They’re going to crucify me

Drove from Paris to the Amsterdam Hilton
Talking in our beds for a week
The newspapers said
Say what’re you doing in bed
I said we’re only trying to get us some peace

Christ you know it ain’t easy
You know how hard it can be
The way things are going
They’re going to crucify me

Saving up your money for a rainy day
Giving all your clothes to charity
Last night the wife said
Oh boy when you’re dead
You don’t take nothing with you but your soul, think

Made a lightning trip to Vienna
Eating chocolate cake in a bag
The newspapers said
She’s gone to his head
They look just like two gurus in drag

Christ you know it ain’t easy
You know how hard it can be
The way things are going
They’re going to crucify me

Caught the early plane back to London
Fifty acorns tied in a sack
The men from the press
Said we wish you success
It’s good to have the both of you back

Christ you know it ain’t easy
You know how hard it can be
The way things are going
They’re going to crucify me
The way things are going
They’re going to crucify me

View Lyrics

[Originally published 3/20/18]