Holiday Music



Merry Christmas!
Christmas GIF
Some year-end best and worst listings provoked the following brief disquisition on holiday music, compiling a Letterman-style countdown of favorites with Wikipedia links and more commentary. Often, one song per entry wasn't enough; and then one list wasn't enough.
  • 10
    The Little Drummer Boy and We Three Kings by Greg Miner, a versatile musician my brother discovered, who multi-tracked a couple of Christmas disks with a variety of string instruments, some exotic. In this case, the Drummer Boy is Indian, with sitars & etc while the Three Kings are middle Eastern.
     
  • 9
    Blue Christmas b/w Santa Claus is Back in Town - because it jus' ain't Christmas without a little Elvis.
     
  • 8
    The Christmas Song aka Chestnuts Roasting, by Nat 'King' Cole.
     
  • 7
    Silver Bells, by Perry Como, because the author is a city boy and a child of the 50s (who dislikes Bing).
     
  • 6
    Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) and Winter Wonderland by Darlene Love off Phil Spector's Christmas Gift to You. Actually Winter Wonderland like Let It Snow is one of the traditionals appreciated in almost any form (see below). Also off this record,
    I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus by the Ronettes.

     
  • 5
    Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas with Judy Garland singing the 1944 lyrics, thinking of WWII... 'Unitl then, we'll have to muddle through somehow' (from Meet Me In St. Louis)
     
  • 4
    Medley: Let It Snow-Count Our Blessings-We Wish You a Merry Christmas by the Ray Conniff Singers, from their second Cristmas album, the middle tune so incredibly superior to Bing's listless original in his lame "White Christmas" movie. Also, their rendition of Ring Christmas Bells aka Carol of the Bells.
     
  • 3
    Sleigh Ride by Leroy Anderson. For more wintry orchestral, not so light -- Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker, the Complete (because the Suite leaves out too much) -- but this is all I know, never seen the show.
     
  • 2
    Jingle Bell Rock by Bobby Helms. Repeated listenings over the years have convinced me this little ditty is one of the most perfect rock'n'roll songs ever. First recorded in 1957, that incredible year; once ubiquitous on year-end Top 40 radio, not heard near as much now. Serve with Brenda Lee Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree.

    And finally, the mellow, jazzy anodyne to all the usual holiday music, the number one Christmas record is

  • A Charlie Brown Christmas by the Vince Guaraldi Trio.

Additional notes on favorite music of the winter solstice

Twelve traditional melodies, essential, but without any diffinitive recording:

  • Adeste Fidelis
  • Caroling, Caroling (by Alfred Burt)
  • Do you Hear what I Hear?
  • Gloria, Hoseanna in Excelcis
  • Good King Wenceslas
  • God Rest, Ye Merry Gentlemen
  • Hark the Herald Angels Sing
  • Here we go a-Caroling (the Wassail song)
  • Il est né, le divin Enfant!
  • It Came Upon a Midnight Clear
  • O Holy Night
  • O Little Town of Bethleham

Among the many novelty songs and curios, honorable mentions for Snoopy's Christmas by the Royal Guardsmen, plus Ringle, Ringle and The Lord's Bright Blessing from Mr Magoo's Christmas Carol.

And what about the least favorites? Defintely the barking dogs/Jingle Bells. Grandma getting run over by Reindeer sounds a) stupid and b) so mean-spirited that even though I've never heard it, I hate it. The Chipmunks? Possibly. Don't like the dirges of Band-Aid's Do They Know It's Christmas nor John's earlier Merry Xmas (War is Over) (which sounds too much like Peter, Paul and Mary's Stewball, or the Jamaica song.) Certainly The Twelve Days of Christmas, and most anything with singing children has cringworthy potential; but the absolute worst? All I Want For Christmas is my Two Front Teeth which should be forgotten by now but instead seems to be a Chinese favorite -- just heard a tinny electronic version in a 99 Ranch supermarket, and was once driven quite mad in a Hong Kong opal store, when the girl behind the counter sang along when this song came around on the holiday music loop. And lest we forget: the Grinch's song (shudder)


Research into this list revealed the Cocteau Twins (and Dylan!) have recorded Winter Wonderland; and Diana Krall, Count Your Blessings Instead of Sheep. I'd like to hear these.

One final note -- it seems Sleigh Ride, Let It Snow and 'Chestnuts' were all written on sweltering hot summer days. Happy New Year!


Deep and Crisp and Even.

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