Why is a cloudy, gray day in November or December so much easier to handle, it seems, than the same kind of day in January? It might be the music. Nothing can cheer, energize and brighten a day like the sounds of the holiday season. It also joins us together in a way. At no other time of the year would you hear Bing Crosby, Andy Williams and Perry Como being played side-by-side on the same station as Elvis, Taylor Swift and Kelly Clarkson. It’s a real connector between generations, and thanks to Pandora and Spotify, it’s pretty easy to find new music every year to add to classics like “O Come, All Ye Faithful” and “Silent Night”. I love Christmas music, so in honor of the holiday season, here’s a random rundown of some songs and albums you’ve heard of, and some you may not have known existed.
Classics of Christmases Past
“Merry Christmas” from Bing Crosby
“A Christmas Gift for You” from Phil Spector, featuring Darlene Love, singing the original (pre-Mariah Carey) rock holiday classic “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home”); The Ronettes (“Frosty the Snowman”) and The Crystals (“Santa Claus is Coming to Town”).
Classics of Christmases Yet to Come
“Merry Christmas”- Mariah Carey (1994) – even 20 years later, several songs from this album are staples for stations playing 24/7 holiday music, so I think it’s safe to say this one has achieved classic status and will likely remain a classic.
“Wrapped in Red”– Kelly Clarkson (2013) – The title song, as well as the track following it (“Underneath the Tree”) has that same enduring quality that many on the Mariah Carey album have, and they are also reminiscent in how they sound to the Christmas classics performed by Darlene Love in the early 1960’s.
Unsung Holiday Heroes (Should have been classics)
“All I Want for Christmas is You”– no, not the one you’re thinking of (again, pre-Mariah Carey), this is an entirely different song by Vince Vance & The Valiants (1993). Like “Wrapped in Red”, it has a retro sound to it.
“On a Snowy Christmas Night”– Elvis Presley, 1971; Just a touching, sentimental tune reminding us of all we really have to be grateful for during the holiday season.
Noteworthy Movie Soundtracks
“The Muppet Christmas Carol”- 1992
Select Songs from Famous Films
“White Christmas”– Bing Crosby; he first sang this song in the movie “Holiday Inn” in 1942, then again in 1954 when the movie of the same name was released.
“Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”– Judy Garland; from the 1944 film “Meet Me in St. Louis”; this song was written for the film, so the link is to a film clip where the song begins at 1:44.
“Where are You, Christmas?” – Faith Hill; “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” 2000
Humorous/ Novelty Songs
“Text Me Merry Christmas” – Straight No Chaser with Kristen Bell, 2014; at first, this sounded like a commercial for a cell phone company…but it’s a song with a familiar Christmas theme (being apart from the one you love) mixed with modern technology.
“Redneck 12 Days of Christmas”– Jeff Foxworthy 1995; when a song begins with the words, “Woo! Somebody done bin to the Walmart!”, you know you’re in for a good time.
“I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas”– Gayla Peevey 1953; though she was just 10 years old at the time she performed this song, it was Gayla Peevey’s only Billboard hit, which managed to get to #24 in December 1953.
“Chanuka” – this is a new and very rare song for Hanukkah (Chanukah) by a talented a capella group called Six13, who just happens to be Jewish. This song is a parody of Taylor Swift’s recent hit “Shake it Off”. Hilarious, yet informative for those unfamiliar with this 8-day Festival of Lights (which ends tomorrow).
“A Cradle in Bethlehem”– Nat King Cole; just discovered this beautiful song on Pandora recently.
“Joseph’s Lullaby”– MercyMe (2005) – a nice change to imagine the birth of our Savior from his earthly father’s point of view.
“Welcome to Our World” – Michael W. Smith, 1992
“Mary, Did You Know?” – originally released in 1991 by Christian artist Michael English, my own favorite version is from 1997 by Wynonna and Kenny Rogers. A new version by Pentatonix has been drawing lots of attention on social media this year.
The Reason for the Season
“Christmas Must be Something More”– Taylor Swift, 2012
“There’s Still My Joy” – various artists; this song is more of a healing song, rather than a celebration song of Christmas. The version linked here is by The Indigo Girls and was used in the Hallmark Channel movie Signed, Sealed, Delivered for Christmas (2014). It’s sad and beautiful, but hopeful for those who feel loss (and lost) at this time of year.
“O Holy Night” –various artists across the decades have recorded this, but few ever venture into the second verse of the song to sing out the words, “Christ is the Lord”. Here are three who forget about being “P.C.” and go for it: Faith Hill, Josh Groban and Celine Dion.
I could go on and on about Christmas music, but for now… enjoy the music on these last couple of days of shopping, wrapping, baking…and maybe even reflecting…before Christmas. Happy Hanukkah and Merry Christmas!