In the immortal words of John Lennon,
“So, this is Christmas,
And what have you done?
Another year over,
A new one just begun.”
These words were from a song by John Lennon and his wife, Yoko Ono, together with the Harlem Community Choir for “Happy Xmas (War Is Over).” Despite intense research, there’s no evidence Yoko’s microphone was unplugged during the recording. I’m not a Yoko fan.
Until I read the lyrics, I thought the third line was, “another year older.” I’ve been singing it wrong in the shower for 50 years! (Get that picture out of your head!) Either word works – they’re both bummers if you think about it too much. I tend to do that. But I learned some oddities about this popular holiday song.
This time of the year the song is heard frequently on the radio, amongst other Christmas carols. It’s one of the more popular Christmas songs, both in America and Britain. Wonder how many generations that like this song have no idea just who was John Lennon?
Ironically, Lennon didn’t write this tune as a holiday carol in the sense of others, such as “White Christmas” or “O Holy Night.” Instead, it was to be a protest song against America’s participation in Viet Nam...by a British citizen on a green card.
To promote the song, produced in late October of 1971, Lennon decided to rent billboards in twelve cities across the world declaring, “WAR IS OVER! If You Want It – Happy Christmas from John & Yoko.” The conflict went on another three years, but Lennon did live long enough to see it.
Furthermore, the melody of the song was not Lennon’s to claim. It can be traced to an old ballad about a British race horse by the name of Skewball. A folk song, it was “Americanized” by southern slaves in the early 1800’s, changing the name to Stewball. It has nothing to do with Christmas.
Lead Belly, a blues singer, recorded Stewball. I listened to it but cannot figure out how musicologists can possibly link the recording of Stewball to Happy Christmas. It should be pointed out I lack a sheepskin in musicology, being from Chebanse and all.
Later, other artists recorded “Stewball.” Surprisingly, if you listen to the version by Peter, Paul, and Mary you can hear a resemblance to “Happy Christmas,” even though the two recordings are singing about two entirely different matters.
The “Happy Xmas” song was released too late in the year to reach much of a Christmas audience, but over the years reached enormous commercial success across the world. To this day it has been recorded by a who’s- who of musicians, including John and Ono’s son, Sean.
Now that you have been enlightened in useless Christmas song trivia, Lennon asked a question in the song, “what have you done?” I mean, besides watch Democrats create new reasons to overturn the 2016 election?
Have your accomplished any of the goals you set out to do at the beginning of the year? How’s your bucket list looking? I personally resolved to lose 25 lbs. this year. I only have 30 more pounds to go to achieve that goal. I also resolved to spend a month in Arizona this past October – I got four days in.
Isn’t it funny how life gets in the way of doing what you want? Man plans, God laughs.
But while I was not getting my plans accomplished, I have to say that overall, goals were being accomplished all around me. Our children and grandchildren all got through another year relatively unscathed with the exception of a couple broken bones by our granddaughters. My mother gave us a scare too but seems to be back to normal. Business is good, jobs are plentiful, and everyone’s 401K’s are getting fat.
The point is, perhaps Lennon was being a little tough on us, or was just too absorbed in protesting the war…from an apartment in New York. As the Christmas season rapidly overcomes us, we all should remember life is a journey, not a destination. We already have a pretty good idea of what the destination holds for us. Might as well enjoy ourselves in the short while we are here.
Please remember there are people that might need our help with their journey, and right now is a great time to think about them. Also, let’s not overlook those red Salvation Army buckets and the angels standing out there in the cold tending them, wishing us Good Cheer.
“…and so Happy Christmas,”