John Lennon Admitted 2 Other Songs Inspired ‘Happy Xmas (War Is Over)’
John Lennon wrote “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)” however, he drew some inspiration from two classic songs. One of the songs inspired the sound of the first line of “Happy Xmas (War Is Over).” On the other hand, John wrote “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)” because he wanted it to replace a ubiquitous Christmas song.
How John Lennon channeled his beliefs into a Christmas song
In an interview with Rolling Stone, Jonathan Cott mentioned how John was inspiring people to improve the world with the lyrics to songs like “Power to the People,” “Give Peace a Chance,” and “Happy Xmas (War Is Over).” Each one of those songs has a political message. The first is vaguely populist while the other two criticize the Vietnam War.
In response, John discussed writing songs with messages. “I’m not claiming divinity,” John said “I’ve never claimed purity of soul. I’ve never claimed to have the answers to life. I only put out songs and answer questions as honestly as I can, but only as honestly as I can – no more, no less. I cannot live up to other people’s expectations of me because they’re illusionary. I cannot be a punk in Hamburg and Liverpool, because I’m older now. I see the world through different eyes now. But I still believe in peace, love and understanding. As Elvis Costello said, What’s so f*cking funny about peace, love and understanding? It’s fashionable to be a go-getter and slash thy neighbor with a cross, but we’re not one to follow the fashion.”
The Phil Spector song that inspired ‘Happy Xmas (War Is Over)’
In addition to drawing from his beliefs while writing “Happy Xmas (War Is Over),” The Guardian reports John drew inspiration from the Paris Sisters’ “I Love How You Love Me.” Specifically, John made the first line of his song sound like the opening of the Paris Sister’s song. Phil Sector produced both tracks. “I like quoting from old songs, but you get into such trouble with copyrights,” John said. “It’s a drag.”
The Irving Berlin song that John Lennon wanted to replace
In addition, “White Christmas” inspired “Happy Xmas (War Is Over).” Specifically, John got sick of “White Christmas” and wanted to write a new song as a replacement. Irving Berlin wrote “White Christmas” and many artists recorded it, most famously Bing Crosby. However, Spector also produced a popular version of the song by Darlene Love. It’s ironic John looked to Spector to help him create a replacement for “White Christmas.”
How the world reacted to ‘Happy Xmas (War Is Over)’
“Happy Xmas (War Is Over)” remains a seasonal favorite. The track reached No. 42 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 2019, several decades after the track’s release. John drew from various sources to write the song — and created Christmas magic.