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The Top 40 Christmas Oldies Songs -- #17

A countdown and history of the oldies era's greatest holiday tunes


"Happy Xmas (War Is Over)," John Lennon and Yoko Ono

source: ebay.com

17. "Happy Xmas (War Is Over)," John Lennon and Yoko Ono

Apple 1842 b/w "Listen, The Snow Is Falling"
Highest chart position: #3 US (1971); #2 UK (1980)
Recorded October 28th, 1971, New York, NY

Released in the US in 1971 (and a year later in Britain due to publishing issues), this big-shouldered holiday ballad has a history that goes back a few hundred years: the English folk ballad "Skewball," about a race between two horses, was later brought into the American South as "Stewball," where folk act the Greenbriar Boys altered it for their 1958 rendition. It's most likely here that John picked up, unconsciously or not, the melody for this holiday favorite, which is pumped up to superhuman size by legendary rock producer Phil Spector, as per John's wish that he get to replicate the sound of Phil's classic A Christmas Gift For You album of 1963. The sentiment, however, was wholly original -- a virtual repeat of the couple's 1969 Christmas slogan that insisted the right to wage war could be taken away from a government virtually overnight. It's a sentiment that has, like the melody, somehow become fashionable all over again.

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