Monday, March 8, 2010

(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love & Understanding by Elvis Costello

In the middle of a recession, high oil prices an angry voice came from screaming from Britain. Elvis Costello a strange amalgamation of 1950s imagery with Buddy Holly glasses emerged from the New Wave movement but with an aggressive punk sound. However he had decidedly not punk message which is immediately evident in one of his earliest hits “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love & Understanding.”

The original version of this song was written and recorded by Costello’s friend, Nick Lowe.



Lowe’s version is a country-styled mellow contemplation of the world. This version is a man contemplating why the world isn’t a better place. Nick Lowe invites us to make us take a step back and consider that maybe there’s something that we should reconsider in this world. When Nick Lowe says it almost makes him want to cry it’s from sadness and feeling tired. It’s from simply not understanding the darkness in the world and trying to make sense of it all.

Elvis Costello feels a little bit more like I do right now. He transforms a calm invitation to ponder how we feel about optimism into a frustrated, aggressive, confrontational attack on our cynicism and pessimism.



With the tempo turned up, with darker instruments and raw vocals, Costello tears through this song like a man possessed. No more is this question an invitation but a statement of anger and frustration. Why with all these horrible and frustrating things in the world are peace, love and understanding not taken as serious solutions to the world’s problems?

I guess that I’m just in a strange mood right now. Maybe it’s the fact that I’m dealing with Chicago winter or that I’m simply tired, but this world can be pretty frustrating. I mean really, there is so many people do bad things to people out there. You don’t have to even unfold a newspaper to find evidence of people being jerks in the world.

It frustrating that some people have a knee-jerk reaction against “peace, love and understanding” being able to solve any of the world’s problems. Look I agree, you need a lot more than love to make it through the day and yes, world peace will never happen and understanding is not going to solve the energy crisis.

However peace, love and understanding are real solutions to every day interactions we have with the people in our lives and in helping us with our small problems in our every day life you can change the world and eventually tackle these bigger issues. Now if you think this is some crazy hippy, idealistic, utopia idea, then I pity you.

If you don’t believe that we can make the our lives and the world a better place through peace, love and understanding than I do have not have any idea how you get through the day. A life without believing in the potential for the goodness in others is a life without belief in the goodness within us. And ff we don’t believe in ourselves than there really isn’t much point to living.

Tell me, what’s so funny about peace, love and understanding. I don’t see anybody laughing, all I see is the single most powerful force in the universe: hope.

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