The late Ritchie Yorke grew up in Brisbane but it was rock n roll that lured him overseas where he spent the next 20 years of his life writing about it for many esteemed music publications. During that time he befriended many high profile artists from Van Morrison to Led Zeppelin, but it was his friendship with John Lennon that would profoundly impact on his life. Lennon’s songs for Ritchie was the affirmation that music had the power to create social change.
Ritchie became the chief organiser of John and Yoko’s 1969 Bed-In for peace in Montreal and then embarked on a global mission with musician Ronnie Hawkins to spread the word of love as a peace envoy for the Lennons. Along that 52 000 km journey they inspired many with their conviction that a simple message of peace and love could make a difference.
With the 50th anniversary of that event on the horizon, Ritchie’s widow Minnie has recreated the Montreal Bed In for BIGSOUND in Brisbane’s Judith Wright Centre. The set looks much as it did at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel in 69, complete with a Montreal city backdrop viewed through the window behind the bed. Ritchie’s original “War Is Over (If You Want It)” placard is there, along with other significant memorabilia, including one of John Lennon’s jumpsuits from that time.
As Minnie and I donned white pyjamas and climbed into bed to chat about the project with photographer’s filming us it gave me an inkling of what it must have been like for John and Yoko as they held court with the world’s press.
Minnie believes that in the age of the internet the manifesto that Ritchie carried with him on that journey that “we, the people, have the power to make change” has greater potential than ever through social networking. The Embedded project aims to raise awareness of the original campaign and reignite the message of global peace at a time when tensions are heightened with the world once again on shaky ground. Locally Minnie hopes that Embedded will gather momentum for a place of peace in Brisbane that would also serve as a memorial in Ritchie’s name for the work that he did as the Lennon’s peace envoy.