Wednesday, December 14, 2016

The Very Best of Christmas (In Song)

Like almost all Americans, Christian or not, I have grown up with a distinct opinion about Christmas music, not all of it good. In fact, not much of it good, in my case.

I'm a cultural Christian, though not a religious practitioner and the music has influenced me throughout my life.

I have my favorites. And there are those songs that drive me to swearing (any novelty Christmas song, anything by Elvis, Michael Jackson, Sinatra or Brenda Lee, anything produced by Phil Specter or sung by Burl Ives).

My faves are generally classics, though there is one dandy novelty among them: Eartha Kitt's funny, sexy, over the top version of "Santa Baby" from 1954. It says everything I feel about Christmas in a commercial sense (and what is Christmas if not commercial?)

Streisand "A Christmas Album"
For the sake of argument--and not one damn thing else, since I am not a music expert--I herewith offer my favorites, led by Miss Eartha's gem:

1. Three from Barbra Streisand (and all on 1967's "A Christmas Album"): "My Favorite Things," "Christmas Song" ("Chestnuts roasting on an open fire ...") and "Ave Maria" (you can argue that it's not Christmassy enough, if you want, but I don't care. It's heart-stopping).

2. "Mary's Boy Child/O My Lord" by the Caribbean reggae group Boney M.

3. "Little Drummer Boy" by David Bowie and Bing Crosby; two generations, one great song.

4. "Ode to Joy" from Beethoven's 9th Symphony, by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, and "Joy To the World" by any choir.

5. "There's No Place Like Home for the Holidays," Perry Como, 1954 (also a great Thanksgiving song).

6. "On This Very Christmas Night," based on the Pachelbel Canon by the Trans-Siberian Orchestra with children's choir. (Get through this one tear-free and you have no soul.)

7. "O, Holy Night," King's College Choir.

8. "It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas," and "White Christmas" (by default), Bing Crosby, 1940s (nearly 10 million YouTube views).

9. "Waiting for Christmas," Menowin Frohlich (upset of the list, but a dang good Christmas song).

10. "The Most Wonderful Time of the Year," Johnny Mathis.

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