Greg Lake recorded this song as a solo single in 1974. A few years later, he recorded another, stripped down version with his band Emerson, Lake & Palmer (ELP). That version was included on the band's 1977 album Works Volume II. While the original release became something of a hit (#2 on the UK charts), and a Christmas standard, Lake's intention was far from that of having a hit holiday single. He wrote the song as a protest against crass commercialization of the holiday. Can you imagine what he might have to say about the holiday season today, almost 40 years later?
While there are some folks who find "I Believe in Father Christmas" to be irreverent, I find them to be an ode to a simpler time, the words of a man who mourns the loss of something more innocent. And the music video, shot in the Sinai desert and Qumran in the West Bank, includes images of violence from the Vietnam War, which seem to underline the central theme. All of that serves to make this song much more than it appears on first blush -- much like the holiday itself.
There have been several covers of "I Believe in Father Christmas," over a dozen of them, in fact. But for my money, the only band that has come close to capturing the essence of the original is U2, who recorded the song in 2008 as part of the Product Red campaign to fight AIDS in Africa.
So, for all who celebrate on Christmas Day, I leave you with the Greg Lake and U2 versions of today's song. And I leave you with this message: I, too, believe in Father Christmas.
Greg Lake's original version:
U2's 2008 recording for Product Red:
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