LONDON – When John Lennon gave Gail Renard the scribbled lyrics to "Give Peace a Chance" in 1969, he told the teen to hold on to the piece of paper.
"It will be worth something someday," predicted Lennon, who was in the midst of his famous eight-day "bed-in" with his new wife, Yoko Ono, in Montreal.
She did, and it is. Christie's plans to auction the lyric sheet in July as the centerpiece in its rock and pop memorabilia sale. The words to the enduring peace anthem are expected to fetch more than $400,000.
The lyrics will go on public view July 5 in London and will be auctioned July 10. They will also be available for viewing by appointment in New York on May 7-10.
"I think the interest is there because this is certainly one of the most recognizable and influential of John Lennon's solo compositions," said Helen Hall, head of the popular culture department at Christie's South Kensington. "It's important not just as one of Lennon's most famous peace anthems, it's also the fact that it was written at such a historical event."
Few believe the lyric is an example of great songwriting. The Beatles had moved beyond their cute moptop phase and their psychedelic infatuation, but were close to breaking apart as Lennon, heavily influenced by Ono, became a utopian peace activist.
Determined to focus world attention on the war in Vietnam, the newlyweds moved into suite 1742 at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel and invited the world's media to come interview them.
Renard, a teenage fan who sneaked past security guards, was among the first to arrive. She befriended Lennon, helped look after Ono's young daughter, Kyoto, and made copies of the song Lennon wrote during the "bed-in" so their friends could read the lyrics and record it in the room.
Renard, now a British-based TV writer and presenter, developed a lifelong friendship with Lennon, who helped launch her journalism career by placing an article she wrote about the bed-in in the Beatles Monthly magazine. She is also selling some rare photographs of herself with Lennon and Ono.
The actual recording of "Give Peace a Chance" took about five minutes. It became a worldwide hit after it was touched up in the studio. A number of famous guests, including Timothy Leary, Allen Ginsberg and Tommy Smothers, sang on the record, which went to No. 14 on the Billboard charts.
It was released as a song by the Plastic Ono Band, signaling Lennon's growing disenchantment with the Beatles, particularly longtime songwriting partner Paul McCartney.
The song is a simple, casual affair recorded without any of the Beatles' typically high level of musicianship and artistry, but the phrase "Give Peace a Chance" has entered the popular lexicon, surviving long after Lennon's death in 1980.
Hall said it ranks with "Imagine" as one of Lennon's most popular songs. She said the prices paid for Beatles' lyrics continue to rise as a new generation discovers the works of Lennon and McCartney.
"It's interesting to see the reach the Beatles have," she said. "We're seeing a lot of buyers in their 30s and 40s who didn't grow up listening to them."