Holiday Music

Merry Christmas!
Christmas GIF
Some year-end best and worst listings provoked the following brief discussion of holiday music, compiling a Letterman-style countdown with Wikipedia and other links for my favorites. 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, because I'm a city boy and a child of the 50s. Tied with Perry Como's It's Beginning to Look Lot Like Christmas.
  • 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... Until 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 Christmas 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 ballet (because the Suite leaves out too much.)
  • 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 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 definitive 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 ye, beneath life's crushing load
    Whose forms are bending low
  • 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? Definitely 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 the Jamaica song). Anything with singing children is cringeworthy and I could do without Santa Baby but the absolute worst? All I Want For Christmas is my Two Front Teeth which should be long forgotten -- but instead, seems to be a Chinese favorite. I was once driven quite mad in Hong Kong, when the girl behind the counter sang along when this song came around on the shop's holiday music loop. And lest we forget: (shudder)
the Grinch song

Research into these lists reveal 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!

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