Label United Artists
|Recorded April–May 1974|
Writer(s) Nick Lowe
“(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love, and Understanding” is a 1974 song written by English singer/songwriter Nick Lowe and subsequently covered by Elvis Costello and Curtis Stigers.
Brinsley Schwarz version
The song was originally released in 1974 on the album The New Favourites of... Brinsley Schwarz by Lowe's band Brinsley Schwarz and released as a single; this version was included on Lowe's 2002 compilation Anthology (along with the Elvis Costello version), and his 2009 compilation Quiet Please... The New Best of Nick Lowe, as well as 1991's Surrender to the Rhythm: The Best of Brinsley Schwarz, 1996’s Naughty Rhythms: The Best of Pub Rock 1970–1976, and 1998’s Pub Rock: Paving the Way for Punk.
Thus far, Lowe himself has not released a solo studio version of the song, but plays it regularly in concert, and live versions have appeared as B-sides of his 1982 double 45 single My Heart Hurts, and his 1994 EP True Love Travels on a Gravel Road, on the radio compilations KGSR Broadcasts Vol. 3, Q107's Concerts in the Sky: the Campfire Versions, and Live at the World Cafe 10th Anniversary, some with solo acoustic guitar and some with different full bands. Another live Lowe version appeared on his 2004 live album Untouched Takeaway, and a live Brinsley Schwarz version was included on What IS so Funny About Peace Love and Understanding?, which featured songs played live in BBC sessions. Lowe also produced a cover version of the song as a B-side for the 1991 single See Saw by the British band the Katydids, after producing their eponymous debut album.
Elvis Costello & The Attractions version
The Elvis Costello & The Attractions version was first issued as the B-side of Lowe's 1978 single American Squirm credited to "Nick Lowe and His Sound". At the time, Lowe was Costello's producer, and he produced this track as well. When the song became a hit, it was quickly appended as the last track to the US edition of Costello's album Armed Forces. It has appeared on most of Costello's "Best of..." compilations over the years, as well as on the soundtrack to the film 200 Cigarettes. Live versions appeared on Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Volume 7: 2002–2003, and 2012's The Return of the Spectacular Spinning Songbook, both by Elvis Costello and the Attractions. In 2004, Rolling Stone magazine ranked this version of the song as the 284th best song of all time. John Lennon quotes the song in his 1980 Rolling Stone interview with Jonathan Cott.
A version of the song was included on the soundtrack album for the film The Bodyguard, which sold 17 million copies in the United States alone. This version was performed by jazz singer Curtis Stigers, who also used it as a B-side to the single Sleeping with the Lights On off his eponymous debut album, which had been released the year before. According to Will Birch's seminal book on pub rock, No Sleep Till Canvey Island, the cover royalties from Stigers' version of the song made Lowe wealthy. Lowe, however, asserts that he used most of the money to support a subsequent tour with full band. Stigers later covered a second Lowe song, "You Inspire Me", on the 2003 album of the same name.
In 2004, "(What's So Funny 'bout) Peace, Love and Understanding" was regularly performed as an all-star jam on the Vote for Change tour, which featured a rotating cast of headliners. The 11 October concert at the MCI Center in Washington, D.C. was broadcast live on the Sundance Channel and on radio. This version of the song featured Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, the Dixie Chicks, Eddie Vedder, Dave Matthews, and John Fogerty with Michael Stipe, Bonnie Raitt, Keb' Mo', and Jackson Browne.
A Perfect Circle covered the song on their 2004 album eMOTIVE, an album containing covers of many classic songs.
In 2008, Costello performed a version of the song on Stephen Colbert's A Colbert Christmas: The Greatest Gift of All! with Colbert, Feist, Toby Keith, John Legend, and Willie Nelson.
At the finale of Costello's Glastonbury 2013 set Peace, Love, and Understanding was performed before and after an ironic comment on the first appearance at the festival, a few hours later, of the Rolling Stones using their own song Out of Time.