Continuing our holiday-themed rewinds through December—another Christmas song that has turned into a modern classic is John Lennon’s “Happy Xmas (War Is Over),” first released in 1971.
You don’t have to be a history buff to hear the socio-political leanings in this song, but a little bit of history will help. Lennon wrote this song in 1969 at the height of his peace activism days when he and wife Yoko Ono were protesting the Vietnam War. The song references a specific billboard campaign sponsored by the couple in which billboards in 12 major cities read, “WAR IS OVER! If you want it—Happy Christmas from John & Yoko”. He recorded and released the song two years later.
After its initial release “Happy Xmas” found chart quick chart success in the U.K., but not much here in the U.S. The song saw a brief resurgence of popularity when John Lennon was murdered in 1980, but its modern-day resurgence has come within the past 10 years as wars in Afghanistan in Iraq have made these themes once again relevant to listeners. Within the last decade in particular, the song has been covered on holiday albums by everyone from The Moody Blues to Sarah McLachlan to the late Cory Monteith (from Glee).