John Lennon, Yoko Ono and the Opening of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum

Tuesday, September 3: 2:41 p.m.
Posted by Rock Hall
The 1964 Gibson J 160E played by John Lennon, on view in the Museum's Beatles exhibit

After a groundbreaking in June 1993 and the realizaition of architect IM Pei's stunning vision, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum opened to the public on the shores of Lake Erie in September 1995. The day culminated with a benefit concert at Cleveland Municipal Stadium, where an incredible roster of rock and roll legends took the stage: Chuck Berry, Bob Dylan, Al Green, Jerry Lee Lewis, Aretha Franklin, Johnny Cash, the Pretenders, John Fogerty, Lou Reed, Iggy Pop, George Clinton, the Kinks, John Mellencamp, Bruce Springsteen, Booker T and the MGs, Eric Burdon and Martha Reeves. It was just the start.

One of the first pieces of rock and roll history ever loaned to the Museum came from Yoko Ono: the 1964 Gibson J 160E played by John Lennon and used extensively throughout his career. The unique acoustic guitar was part of a collection Ono presented to the Museum on October 13, 1994 and also included handwritten lyrics, a pair of Lennon's eye glasses, Lennon's guitar from the 1965 Beatles concert at Shea Stadium and more.

The Gibson acoustic guitar, however, remains "one of the most precious artifacts that we have in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum's collection," according to Museum curatorial director Howard Kramer.

Lennon originally acquired the guitar in 1964 to replace an identical one that was stolen. He used it extensively throughout his career, and it was prominently featured in the film Help! 

In 1967, the guitar was painted psychedelic blue and red by the Fool, the Dutch art cooperative that also painted Lennon’s Rolls-Royce and the original facade of the Beatles short-lived retail venture, the Apple Boutique

In 1968, Lennon had the guitar stripped to reveal the natural wood finish. Less than a year later, Lennon and Ono held two “bed-ins” for peace in March and May of 1969, which Lennon commemorated by drawing caricatures of Ono and himself on the guitar. It was during the second bed-in, held at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel in Montreal, that the single “Give Peace a Chance” was recorded, using this guitar.



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