Sunday, December 15, 2013

Christmas Carols: The Classics and the Duds

As ubiquitous as twinkle lights and candy canes, Christmas carols permeate the subconscious. I feel like I've listened to different variations of the same dozen Christmas songs over and over again. Last night, while driving around in yet another snow squall on slippery streets, and listening to yet another vocal rendition of Sleigh Ride, the kids asked why no one has come out with a fresh, new and lasting Christmas carol in decades, and why the old "stand-by" Christmas tunes have become classics? Good questions. 

Does anybody have an answer?

Here's my short list of some popular, favorite Christmas songs that have been played for as long as I can remember:
  • Bing Crosby. White Christmas (1954)
  • Brenda Lee. Rockn' Around the Christmas Tree (1958)
  • Andy Williams. It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year (1963)
  • Gene Autry. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1949)
  • Bobby Helms. Jingle Bell Rock (1957)
  • Nat King Cole. The Christmas Song or Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire (1946)
  • Leroy Anderson and the Boston Pops Orchestra. Sleigh Ride (1946) Written during a heat wave!
  • Eartha Kitt. Santa Baby (1953)
  • All the Christmas tunes from Charles Schultz. Peanuts Christmas Special (1965)
What do all of these Christmas songs have in common? All I can come up with is that they are older than me (1946-1965), and they were sung by people with really interesting first names. How many Eartha's, Nat's or Bing's do you know? Maybe it's just that they have that old finesse.

Post 1965 Christmas music has only brought us Jose Feliciano's Feliz Navidad, Wham's Last Christmas, the Trans-Siberian Orchestra, the electronic compositions of Mannheim Steamroller, many popular artists (and not-so-popular artists like Aaron Neville) singing their own versions of these Christmas classics, oddly the "Sound of Music" show tune A Few of My Favorite Things, and a particularly horrible and sad song titled The Christmas Shoes by a Christian rock group NewSong. (Do not listen to this song unless you want to become immediately and incredibly depressed.) At least The Christmas Shoes hasn't been heard on the Minneapolis-St. Paul airwaves yet this year.

Whether you listen to Christmas tunes or not this holiday season, I Wish You a Merry Christmas (and not the soulful rendition sung by Aaron Neville).


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