50 Years Ago, John Lennon Inspired Canada's First Rap Recording

On December 16, 1969, John Lennon and Yoko Ono arrived in Toronto and were taken straight to Ronnie Hawkins' 20-acre farm in Mississauga's northeastern boundary. The next day the three went to the Ontario Science Centre in Toronto where John proclaimed, “We’ve come to Toronto to announce a big music and peace festival to be held at Mosport Park near Toronto on the 4th of July next year.”

Before John and Yoko returned to England on December 23rd, the Beatle promised to get back to Toronto in the New Year to finalize the details of the festival.

The month of January went by and he had not yet come back. By February his frantic fans began calling CHUM begging the station to have John get back and get on with the festival.

Throughout March rumours the festival may not happen were in the air, but despite that, Toronto songwriters Richard Gael and Pat Riccio Jr wrote Get Back John.  They then chose six singers from the Toronto cast of the rock musical Hair  (Wayne St John, Terry Black, Brenda Russell, Colleen Peterson, Toni Lark, and Laurel Ward) and took them into the studio to produce a record for Bill Gilliland’s indie Yorkville label (and Kama Sutra in the US).

The record was released under the group name The Inner City Mission. It debuted on the CHUM chart on April 11th and in two weeks hit #20. Unfortunately, the rumours the festival may not happen proved true so Get Back John was dropped from the chart.


Lennon did return, on September 13, 1969, performing with the Plastic Ono Band at the Toronto Rock and Roll Revival held at Varsity Stadium. Others on the bill were Whiskey Howl, Bo Diddley, Chicago, Junior Walker and the All Stars, Tony Joe White, Alice Cooper, Chuck Berry, Cat Mother and the All Night News Boys, Jerry Lee Lewis, Gene Vincent, Little Richard, Doug Kershaw, Screaming Lord Sutch, and The Doors. Emceeing the show was Kim Fowley.

For the record, the former Beatle was shot dead on December 8, 1980, outside his residence in New York City.

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