Forty years ago, British musician Nick Lowe wrote “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding” — a song that stands tall for humanity in a callous world. Few noticed, at first. Through time, however, it has become an anthem, adopted by artists ranging from Elvis Costello to Lucy Kaplansky to Bruce Springsteen. Nick Lowe plays it on stage, every night, to this day. It is the most enduring song of his career. He’s fascinated by the mystery of it: its genesis, its flight. Yet Lowe doesn’t consider it a great tune. “Everyone seems to know it. But it’s never been a hit, a hit song so to speak, on the charts,” says Lowe, reflecting on the song’s legacy. “It is really strange … when I hear it, it doesn’t really sort of sound like my song any more. I don’t feel hugely possessive about it.” Lowe first recorded “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding” as a member of the Brinsley Schwarz band in 1974. Lowe says the song’s title came to him suddenly, spontaneously, while playing the guitar one day, perhaps as early as 1972. He was 23, 24 years old, still maturing as a songwriter, more apt to emulate his heroes than take a chance on his own voice. Then the words hit him: “What’s so funny ‘bout peace, love and understanding?” “I always think of that song as the first original idea I ever had,” says Lowe, now 63, very much the white-haired, soft-spoken gentleman songwriter. After 40 years, Lowe has come to see his song as growing places he never imagined. Curtis Stigers did a cover for “The Bodyguard” soundtrack in 1992; the 15 million U.S. album sales made Lowe a wealthy man. In 2008, Stephen Colbert featured a version with Feist, Toby Keith, John Legend and Willie Nelson on “A Colbert Christmas.”
Names in the news, May 7
Posted May 06, 2012, at 8:19 p.m.