How Greg Lake Stumbled Into His Famous Yuletide Song, ‘I Believe in Father Christmas’
"I Believe in Father Christmas" came to Greg Lake almost by accident, when he started singing a familiar Yuletide standard over a newly written riff that stubbornly refused to go away.
"No matter how I tried, I just couldn't seem to develop it into a song," Lake said on Facebook in 2013. "It actually started to drive me crazy, and one day I found myself humming the tune to 'Jingle Bells' over the riff. This is the sort of thing that happens to writers when they get a few steps away from total insanity."
He confided all of this to writing partner Peter Sinfield, who worked with the late Lake both in King Crimson and in Emerson, Lake & Palmer. Sinfield suggested that he adapt the music into a Christmas song, but Lake admitted he was cool to the idea – ironic since, in 1975, "I Believe in Father Christmas" became a No. 2 solo hit on the U.K. chart before finding a home on ELP's 1977 Works Volume II album.
"I really don't like most of those good-time Christmas party songs, but after a while I began to reflect on what Christmas really meant to me as a kid – and how this had somehow got lost in the commercial feeding frenzy that has taken priority in more recent years," Lake noted. "Pete and I started to think about this, and after a while we began to identify the core belief that children have about Christmas that really capsulizes the magic and benevolent spirit of Christmas."
Over time, his message of anti-commercialism was sometimes misunderstood as being anti-Christmas. Lake always resisted this notion. In fact, by getting back to basics, to his own early belief in the season – and specifically, he said, how "the story of the nativity represents the concept of peace on earth, good will to all men" – Lake was able, finally, to break the creative logjam.
He and Sinfield, nearly simultaneously, came upon the song's key line and title: "It was the magic key," Lake said, "which unlocked the door to the song: 'I Believe in Father Christmas.'" Lake died on Dec. 7, 2016, after a lengthy battle with cancer. He was 69.
Top 100 ’70s Rock Albums