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Friday, December 23, 2016

Sing us a Christmas song, Mr. Danzig....

            One of my most special memories growing up was when my uncle Dave would dress up as Santa Claus to hand out the gifts for family Christmas. As we got older, he tried to play it off like it wasn't him, but we all knew better. Looking back on those days with my cousins, Ben, Michele, and David, and my sister Beth as well as our families and my nana (rest in peace) and my aunt Toot, these were some special times.

             Remember, the traditions you pass down are just as important as the meanings of the holiday. My uncle was cool enough to pull it off and his sense of fun made it work. Some people can't wear the red suit, but he definitely could.

             Thanks for the memories!

             If it’s Christmas, then that means it’s time for lots of festive get-togethers and the annual inundation of Christmas music, which has been going on in the form of decorations and store ambiance since before Halloween. As a rule in our house, we tend to start Christmas music on Thanksgiving weekend with the arrival of the Christmas trees (plural – there are 3).

            I love Christmas. It’s a great holiday for so many reasons, but something about being with good people, seeing other people happy with the gifts that they are given, and peace on earth / goodwill to man with a lot of great all-too fattening food sums it up quite nicely. Snow falling adds to the good times as well.

            Because of my love of the season, I thought I would reflect on that now with 20 of my favorite Christmas songs, which I have listed here. There are a lot of songs that symbolize the holiday, and they work, but they just don’t top the list. Then there are other songs like “Silent Night,” which just make me think of the line “holy infant, so tender and mild,” and it always makes me think of how people would cook a steak. Not to be sacrilegious, because I’m not, but that detracts from the Christian meaning and forces me to revert to the junior high school German lyrics instead (Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht, Alles schläft; einsam wacht, Nur das traute hochheilige Paar. Holder Knabe im lockigen Haar, Schlaf in himmlischer Ruh!).

            I realize that there could be a discussion about the lack of inclusion of “Linus and Lucy” by Vince Guaraldi Trio from the Peanuts Christmas special (which lacks lyrics to relate it to Christmas otherwise) or Blue Christmas by Elvis (I prefer the Stones and the Beatles, but dread Paul McCartney’s Christmas song – “Wonderful Christmastime) or the Chipmunks’ desire for a hula hoop (blame the new movies) or Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas” (I think that’s more sentimental to the previous generation – I’m 45, by the way), but these are my choices.

I also don’t include Blink-182’s “I Won’t Be Home for Christmas” (though it does work well if you like pop punk) since it’s more angsty at the holiday (and thus it does better at reliving the forced shopping visits to the mall for gifts or working extended hours in retail with the rudeness and greed store employees face), but I will include these 20 songs. If you’d like, you can list some of your own in reply to share with other people.

1.      Mariah Carey – All I Want for Christmas is You (I can’t stand her, but this song is great any month of the year).
2.      Zooey Deschanel and Leon Redbone – Baby It’s Cold Outside (her voice works well on old standards… much better playing the love interest on this version than chasing M. Ward on the She and Him Christmas disc).
3.      Polyphonic Spree - It’s Christmas (they’re amazing… loved their Christmas show in 2012 – one of my favorite bands around).
4.      Beach Boys – Little Saint Nick (my all-time favorite Christmas song – hands down – and one of the best songs ever).
5.      Jimmy Buffet - Mele Kalikimaka (Hawaiian Christmas – memories of Jamaica in late 2012).
6.      Jose Feliciano – Feliz Navidad (another great song with a lot of rhythm and joy in it).
7.      Andy Williams – It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year (real Christmas music from my early days – he could sing any Christmas song, and it would work well).
8.      Johnny Mathis – Sleigh Ride (real Christmas music from my early days – he could sing any Christmas song, and it would work well).
9.      Bandaid – Do They Know It’s Christmas (something about Bono screaming “Tonight thank God it’s them instead of you” actually works on this despite his overflowing self-importance in the midst of all of those Danceteria / New Wave / New Romanticist Brits, as does the line “there won’t be snow in Africa this Christmas” despite the fact it’s way too warm for snow in places like Ethiopia).
10.  Joey Ramone – Christmas, Baby Please Come Home (gotta love the Ramones)
11.  She and Him – Christmas Waltz (so amazingly minimal and beautiful – a perfect combination of M. Ward and Zooey Deschanel).
12.  Big Bad Voodoo Daddy – Mr. Heat Miser (Modernizing the Rankin Bass Christmas specials with a swing beat).
13.  Moe – Together at Christmas (a little guitar ditty to celebrate a New England Christmas in love).
14.  Guster – Tiny Tree Christmas (Target put out a free Christmas collection not too long ago, and this was on it as was many indie bands, who came together nicely).
15.  The Waitresses – Christmas Wrapping (Blondie era rap music fit for Suburbia – still catchy after all these years).
16.  Run DMC – Christmas in Hollis (all things considered, Run DMC’s music has aged very well, and it’s a lot more fun than most modern rap stuff – plus, this was in Die Hard, which is the best Christmas movie not named Elf).
17.  Chuck Berry – Run, Run Rudolph (Gotta love that early 1950s / 1960s rock and roll – so much fun any time of the year).
18.  Tom Petty – Christmas All Over Again (Oh, to be a Wilbury like Misters. Petty, Dylan, Harrison, Lynne, and Orbison).
19.  The Kinks – Father Christmas (another rockin’ oldie from the radio of my youth, kind of like Bruce Springsteen’s Santa Claus is Coming to Town).
20.  John Lennon – Merry Christmas, War is Over (so many try to cover it, but only one version is truly all that).
Just missing the cut is the mellow “Get Down for the Holidays” by Jenny O. It was also on that Target mix, which was about 2/3 good in my personal opinion.

Merry Christmas and happy holidays, one and all!

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