Protest Song of the Day: ‘I Believe in Father Christmas’ by Greg Lake
To recognize the power of protest music, acknowledge its role in creating a culture of dissent and how musicians translate social issues and systemic problems into song, The Dissenter launched a daily feature to highlight a protest song every weekday. As the holiday approaches, the blog has been highlighting Christmas-themed protest songs.
An Uncut magazine article from January 2011 describes “I Believe in Father Christmas” by Greg Lake as a song that brought a “subversive political dimension to the traditional ‘White Christmas’—style ballad.” It adds, “Lyrics that spoke accusingly of an all-powerful ‘They’ who had ‘sold us a dream of Christmas’ and a ‘fairy story’ about ‘the Israelite’ informed you that you’d been brainwashed by commercialism and Christianity.”
Lake told BBC News in 2010 that he “wrote the guitar riff first” and “was trying to think what the song could be about.” He “stumbled on the thought that the song Jingle Bells fitted over the guitar lick, so me and my co-writer Peter Sinfield thought maybe it could be a Christmas song.” He said, when he was a child, Christmas was about forgiveness. “If people in the neighbourhood had fallen out, well that was the time when they buried the hatchet.There was always some consideration for the old granny across the road,” but that seemed to change as he grew older.
The song became a “serious song lamenting the fact that Christmas had moved away from being a season of goodwill and peace on earth to all men to being about commerciality.”
The end lyric of the song is the “Christmas you get you deserve.” It is a play on the phrase, “The government you get you deserve.”
The video appears to have much more going on in it than Lake reflecting on the meaning of Christmas. There’s footage from the Vietnam War and Six-Day War and an Israeli soldier running to embrace a boy at the end. BBC cut the war footage and Lake said he didn’t mind. The war footage was “powerful” but “gratuitous” and he “couldn’t see the connection with the song.”
If you have requests for songs that should be featured or if you have a protest song you recorded, which you would like to see featured, email firstname.lastname@example.org. And all previous Protest Song of the Day selections can be found here.