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#ThrowbackThursday: “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)” by John Lennon

by Sean Smith

This week we find ourselves still smack dab in the middle of the holiday season. Last week the Jewish people were in the midst of celebrating Chanukah, which we honored by taking a look back at some of the different versions of the humorous The Chanukah Song that comedian/actor Adam Sandler has released over the years. As of today we are just eight short days away from Christmas day, and I don’t know about you, but I am still far from being done with all of my Christmas shopping. I know that I’m not alone in that, and am sure that many of you reading this right now are in the same boat. If nothing else, at least we can say we are in good company.

With it being just about a week before Christmas, I thought this would be a perfect time for us to take a moment to remember a classic Christmas themed song. And with an anniversary marking a tragic event in music history coming last week, involving one of the biggest names to ever be in the industry, the choice of song this week becomes pretty obvious.

Last week marked the 35th anniversary of John Lennon’s tragic death. It was on December 8, 1980, that a crazed man murdered Lennon in front of his New York City apartment. He was just 40 years young.

John Lennon of course first gained his musical stardom as a co-founder of arguably the most popular music group of all-time, the Beatles. The british rock band formed up in 1960, and would spend the next ten years touring the world and selling millions upon millions of records before ultimately breaking up in 1970. It was at that point Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Ringo Starr, and John Lennon embarked on their own solo careers.

As an artist, especially once out working on his own, John Lennon was not shy when it came to addressing political and social issues in his work. He wrote “Revolution” while still with the Beatles, a track which addressed the growing anti-war movement opposing Vietnam. As a solo artist he wrote and recorded his first solo single “Give Peace A Chance” during his famous “bed-in” honeymoon with wife Yoko Ono in Montreal, Canada. And of course, we can’t talk about John Lennon without mentioning “Imagine,” the iconic song which imagines just what it would be like if the world were filled with peace. But for this week’s holiday edition of #tbt here on Clizbeats, we remember his politically motivated festive track “Happy Xmas (War Is Over).”

The song is a product of a anti-war worldwide peace campaign that John Lennon and Yoko Ono had begun in December of 1969. The two had put up billboards in 12 major cities around the world, including New York City, Los Angeles, Rome, Paris, Hong Kong, and London. The billboards that went up were black and white and had a simple statement written on them, “War is Over! If you want it. Happy Christmas from John & Yoko.” The couple wanted to continue to get their message of peace out to the masses, and thought that a good way to do it would be to combine that message with a song about Christmas. So in the latter part of October, 1971, Lennon and Ono wrote and recorded the track “Happy Xmas (War Is Over).” The song, which was only initially released as a single in the United States, where it did not chart due to the fact that it received little promotion since it was recorded so close to its release. A year later, in 1972, it was released as a single in Lennon’s native UK where it performed much better, peaking at #4 on the singles chart. The song features vocals from both John Lennon and Yoko Ono, as well as the Harlem Community Choir of New York City. The blending of Christmas spirit and political message proved to be quite effective for Lennon and Ono in getting their message of peace out to the masses, as “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)” has become a holiday standard over the years.

So with the holiday season still upon us, and the 35th anniversary of John Lennon’s murder being last week, we take a moment to remember his 1971 single “Happy Xmas (War Is Over).” From all of us here at Clizbeats, we hope you have a wonderful holiday season. Enjoy!

John Lennon and Yoko Ono

“Happy Xmas (War Is Over)”

Apple Records