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.
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.
Christmas b/w Santa Claus is Back in Town - because it jus' ain't
Christmas without a little Elvis.
Christmas Song aka Chestnuts Roasting, by Nat 'King' Cole.
Bells, by Perry Como, because the author is a city boy and a child
of the 50s (who dislikes Bing).
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.
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)
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
Christmas Bells aka Carol of the Bells.
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.
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.
the mellow, jazzy anodyne to all the usual holiday music,
the number one Christmas record is
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
Christmas by the Royal Guardsmen, plus Ringle, Ringle and
The Lord's Bright Blessing from
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
or the Jamaica song.) Certainly The Twelve Days of Christmas, and
most anything with singing children has cringworthy potential;
but the absolute worst?
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,
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!