Saturday Single No. 47

Originally posted December 22, 2007

Despite the holiday week ahead of us, the event I perceive as the most hopeful of the season took place early this morning, just eight minutes after midnight. That was the moment of the winter solstice here in the Northern Hemisphere, when the sun reached its furthest point from the equator on its journey south and began to come north again. That northward journey by the sun is a long process, of course, and the seasonal shift set in motion by its southward trek is only just beginning here in the Northland.

For some time yet, the temperatures will be colder and the chilling winds will be stronger. More than likely we will have more days when storms swoop out of the Canadian northwest, leaving our houses, trees and all under layer upon layer of snow, making the entire city look like the work of a baker gone mad with frosting.

But with all that chill and snow to come – and it will come, for if one believes the words of the various forecasters, this will be a hard winter – there is hope in the reaching of the solstice. From today on, the amount of daylight we receive will be greater every day. Each morning’s sunrise will be earlier, and the evening’s sunset will be later. We are on our way out of the darkness, and my spirit grasps at that fact with hope, making me feel at least a little bit like my long-ago German and Swedish ancestors must have when the solstice promised the eventual endings of their even darker and longer Nordic winters.

Hope was one of the main ingredients in the recording I’ve chosen to share today, both in my view and in the view of Dave Marsh, who assessed the recording in 1989 in his book, The Heart of Rock & Soul. Marsh ranked the single at No. 784 and wrote:

“John Lennon was always rock’s most Dickensian character, and here, he emulates ‘A Christmas Carol’ to a tee, stopping just short of pronouncing, ‘God bless us, every one!’ Well, Christmas is the season of sentimentality, and if there were greater sentimentalists in rock history than Lennon (at least in one of his guises) and [producer] Phil Spector, I’ve never heard of them. Let’s remember, then, that Dickens is remembered in part because of, not despite, his warm and open emotionalism and that ‘A Christmas Carol’ is the best-loved of all his stories not only because it fits the season’s hopes, but because, like the best records of the Beatles and Phil Spector, the love it inspires is equal to the love it creates.”

And all that is why “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)” – credited in full to “John & Yoko & The Plastic Ono Band with the Harlem Community Choir” and produced by John and Yoko and Phil Spector – is today’s Saturday Single.

John Lennon & Yoko Ono – “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)” [1971]

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