"Happy Xmas (War Is Over)" is a song written by John Lennon and Yoko Ono and released in 1971 as a single by John & Yoko/Plastic Ono Band with the Harlem Community Choir.
The song did not chart in the U.S. but reached #4 on the British singles chart (where release was delayed until 1972). Ostensibly a protest song about the Vietnam War, it has become a Christmas standard and has appeared on several Christmas albums.
The lyric is based on a campaign in late 1969 by Lennon and Ono, who rented billboards and posters in eleven major cities around the world that read: "WAR IS OVER! (If You Want It) Happy Christmas from John and Yoko". In 1971, the US was deeply entrenched in the unpopular Vietnam War. The line "War is over, if you want it, war is over, now!", as sung by the background vocals, was taken directly from the billboards.
The melody and chord structure are from the folk standard "Stewball", about a race-horse. Lennon and Ono added modulation through several keys and the "War is over" counter-melody.
It was recorded at Record Plant Studios in New York City in late October 1971, with the help of producer Phil Spector. It features heavily echoed vocals and backing vocals from...