Rock ’n’ Roll Carols

December 18, 2012

To me, Christmastime is a pan-denominational opportunity to hope for things — peace on earth, a better new year, seeing people I miss. Here, I made you a mixtape about it:

“Happy Xmas (War is Over),” John Lennon and Yoko Ono, 1971: The song, with its “War is over/if you want it” sing-song chorus, was released during Vietnam, but it works for any war.

“Father Christmas,” The Kinks, 1977: It sucks to be a department-store Santa mugged by a pack of kids. Vocalist Ray Davies generously considers their true motives: “Bring my daddy a job ’cause he needs one/he’s got lots of mouths to feed.”

“Merry Christmas (I Don’t Want To Fight Tonight),” The Ramones, 1989 & “River,” Joni Mitchell, 1970: Sister songs. In just two minutes, the Ramones, above, get at why fighting next to a shiny tree is extra sad. Meanwhile, Joni knows where she went wrong: “I’m so hard to handle/I’m selfish and I’m sad/Now I’ve gone and lost the best baby/That I ever had.”

“Christmas in Hollis,” Run-D.M.C., 1987: Dreams come true! Run finds Santa’s wallet with a million dollars in it and gets to keep it. It’s a protest song against humbuggery. Which we all need now.

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Vicky Hallett · December 18, 2012