John Lennon’s Happy Xmas (War Is Over) Remains a Classic

John Lennon was tragically murdered on Dec.8, 1980, just a few weeks after his 40th birthday. WelcheMusic look back on “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)” which was originally written as a protest song about the Vietnam War. Throughout the years, it has become a Christmas standard.


Originally released in December 1971, “Xmas” first appeared on an album in 1975 via the compilation Shaved Fish. The set was John Lennon’s seventh album, collecting every single issued in the United States as a solo artist (except “Stand By Me”). Shaved Fish peaked at No.12 in the US and No.5 in the UK.

“Happy Xmas (War Is Over)” originated from a worldwide poster campaign saying “WAR IS OVER! (If You Want It) Happy Christmas from John and Yoko.” Posters were displayed in cities including New York, Los Angeles, Toronto, Rome, Athens, Amsterdam, Berlin, Paris, London, Tokyo, Hong Kong and Helsinki. The line “War is over, if you want it, war is over, now!, ” can be heard in the background and was actually taken directly from the billboards.

Phil Spector produced the song, which was recorded at Record Plant Studios in New York City in late October 1971. The song peaked at No.3 in the US and No.2 in the UK upon its re-release in 1980, following the tragic shooting death by Mark David Chapman. Thus, it beat the original No.4 peak in 1971. Several artists have covered the song, including Céline Dion, Maroon 5, Jessica Simpson and The Fray. “Xmas” was the follow-up to John Lennon’s massive hit “Imagine,” which peaked at No.1 in the UK and No.3 in the US. The singer’s first solo single, following his years in The Beatles, was the 1969 single “Give Peace a Chance” with the Plastic Ono Band.