Wednesday Night Christmas Music Byte

Happy Xmas (War Is Over)” is a Christmas song by John Lennon, Yoko Ono and the Plastic Ono Band. It was recorded at Record Plant Studios in New York City in late October of 1971, with the help of producer Phil Spector. It features soaring, heavily echoed vocals, and a sing-along chorus. The children singing in the background were from the Harlem Community Choir and are credited on the song’s single.

Although the song is a protest song about the Vietnam War, it has become a Christmas standard and has appeared on several Christmas albums. The lyric is based on a campaign in late 1969 by John Lennon and his wife, Yoko Ono, who rented billboards and posters in eleven cities around the world that read: “WAR IS OVER! (If You Want It) Happy Christmas from John and Yoko”. The cities included New York, Tokyo, Rome, Athens, Amsterdam, London, Paris, Toronto, and some others. At the time the US was deeply entrenched in the unpopular Vietnam War. The line “War is over, if you want it, war is over, now!”, as sung by the background vocals, was taken directly from the billboards.

The record starts with a barely-audible whisper of Christmas greetings to their children: Yoko whispers “Happy Christmas, Kyoko”, then John whispers “Happy Christmas, Julian”. The lyric sheet from the 1982 release The John Lennon Collection erroneously gives this introduction as “Happy Christmas, Yoko. Happy Christmas, John”.

The single was released in the US on 6 December 1971, but never charted on the Billboard Hot 100 charts; the UK release was delayed until the following November due to a publishing dispute. Upon release, it reached #4 in the UK Singles Chart. The song was re-released in the UK on 20 December 1980 shortly after John Lennon’s death on 8 December 1980. It is known as the “secret number one”, as it reached the top of the UK Singles Chart for the week ending 3 January 1981, which was unpublished, as was usual for the Christmas week at that time. Thus, it is rarely, if ever, credited as a number one single.

Please enjoy this video-clip of John Lennon, Yoko Ono and the Plastic Ono Band from the John Lennon Anthology collection of videos.

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Posted on December 9, 2009, in Songs, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. This song always brings tears to my eyes.

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