Why is John Lennon’s team tracking down the ‘Happy Xmas (War is Over)’ children's choir?

18 November 2021, 14:24

By Mayer Nissim

There are rumours of a new version of 'Happy Xmas (War is Over)' to mark its 50th anniversary.

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This year marks the 50th anniversary of one of the greatest ever Christmas singles.

John Lennon and Yoko Ono's 'Happy Xmas (War is Over)' was released on December 1, 1971 in the US (legal wrangling meant it was released a year later in the UK).

It wasn't a massive hit Stateside, but went to number 4 in the UK in 1972, and all the way to number 2 in 1980 after John's tragic death.

Read more: The Story of... 'Happy Xmas (War is Over)' by John Lennon

The song was built on John and Yoko's 'War is Over' billboard campaign from 1969, and following the success of 'Imagine', John realised he had to put his "political message across with a little honey".

John recorded an acoustic demo of the song at the St Regis Hotel in New York City in October 1971, before going to the Record Plant Studio with Phil Spector on Thursday, October 28, but a key moment came on the afternoon of Halloween.

On October 31, 30 children from The Harlem Community Choir aged around 4-12 visited the studio and laid down the chorus and counter-melody backing vocals on the verses.

And now, John Lennon's team wants to find those children. "Hey guys, can you help?" read a post on the official John Lennon Twitter page yesterday (November 17).

If you or anyone you know were a member of the 1971 Harlem Community Choir, and sang on this recording, could you please get in touch with us: admin at imaginepeace dot com."

So why is the John Lennon estate on the hunt for these singers, who would be aged from their mid-50s to mid 60s today?

Read more: The 30 best Christmas songs of all time, ranked

With the 50th anniversary of the single coming up soon, there's been speculation of a re-release or even a re-working of the track to celebrate the occasion.

Or maybe the Lennon estate is interested in giving the former choir members some of the now probably-very-large royalties from the song?

Smooth has contacted the Lennon team to ask for further information, so watch this space.

Read more: The 20 worst Christmas songs of all time

'Happy Xmas (War is Over)' has already been re-released and covered many times over.

A music video was made for The John Lennon Video Collection in 1992, featuring footage of John and Yoko's billboard campaign and home photos of their son Sean.

A new video was made in 2003 for the Lennon Legend DVD, which used footage from the Vietnam War, the September 11 attacks, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and other conflicts.

And in 2018, John's son Sean recorded a cover with Miley Cyrus and Mark Ronson for Saturday Night Live.