A top 20 list of Christmas songs
BY MIKE JONES Associate Editor
Sunday, December 09, 2012
12/13/12 at 6:06 PM
This column originally misstated the rock band known for performing the 1960s song, "Gloria." The column has been corrected.
It has begun. The annual ubiquitous bombardment of commercialized Christmas songs.
How many times can we hear some group singing a fast-food jingle to the tune of "The 12 Days of Christmas?"(More on that later.) And would someone in Missouri inform the folks over at Branson that Andy Williams has passed on? Please change the ad with Andy singing "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year." (More on that later, also,)
This being the holiday and topics for columns often in short supply, I have decided to cherry pick this one before someone else surely does. It's my top 20 favorite Christmas songs.
There will be no dogs barking or cats purring "Jingle Bells." There will be no mention of Grandma getting run over by a reindeer. Some will find my list terribly out of date with no Carrie Underwood songs making the cut. And they will probably be right. I'm certain she and many other current singing stars could do excellent jobs with the songs I've listed and I'm sure they have some originals that are first-class. But they're not going to make the cut. It's my list. And in no particular order, here it is:
1. "White Christmas:" Sung by Bing Crosby. I will not tolerate any other version, other than the one I sing in the shower. This song has sold more copies than any other song in singing history. There's a reason for that.
2. "Winter Wonderland:" Almost anyone can sing this one. Vocally, it's not very challenging, thereby making it a good sing-along for the Christmas party. One of my favorite versions was sung by Merle Haggard.
3. "Pretty Paper:" This Roy Orbison tune is not one you hear very often at Christmas. It's kind of a downer, telling the story of a lonely man peddling paper, ribbons and pencils on a street corner at Christmas. It also, however, has a good story of the meaning of Christmas. You'll probably have to download this one as you're not likely to hear it at Christmastime, unless you happen to be at my house.
4. "I'll Be Home for Christmas:" Recorded in 1943 by Bing Crosby at the height of World War II. Imagine the emotional impact it had on soldiers and families alike. My dad was in Europe at the time. I can only imagine.
5. "Angels We Have Heard on High:" OK, other than me warbling this in the shower or with a group at a gathering, it should be sung by choirs. It's got that great part when you get to sing "Glo-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-oria, in excelsis deo." Now, that's some singing. And, no, it has nothing to do with the 1960s "Gloria" sung by The Shadows of Knight, Them and every other bar cover band in existence.
6. "Sleigh Ride:" You can't not like this song. It's worth that double negative. I have lots of favorite singers on this one, and I like Harry Connick Jr.'s version.
7. "It's Beginning to Look A Lot Like Christmas:" This is one of the songs our chorus sang in high school. Loved it then. Love it now. It just so happened to mention dolls for Janice and Jen, the former who just happened to be my girlfriend at the time and the latter her sister. It's still fun to sing. Anyone can handle this one but, again, I'm partial to Der Bingle.
8. "Silver Bells:" Sets the mood for Christmas shopping. Favorite singers on this one, Crosby, Haggard or Nat King Cole. You can't go wrong with those three.
9. "Ave Maria:" This Schubert melody is not really a Christmas song, per se. But it is heard a lot during the season. It translates to "Hail Mary." Still, it's beautiful, especially when sung by the great tenor Luciano Pavoratti.
10. "Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow:" We could use the moisture. Another fun song for the group. Favorite singers on this one are Connick, Frank Sinatra, Mel Torme
11. "The Christmas Song" ("Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire" or "Merry Christmas to You)" Cuddle up and listen to Mel Torme or Nat King Cole.
12. "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas:" This was co-written by Broken Arrow native Ralph Blane for Judy Garland in the movie "Meet Me in St. Louis." Other than Garland, listen to Torme, Nat King Cole or Sinatra.
13. "The 12 Days of Christmas:" Ignore the fast-food commercials that drive you crazy enough to begin to dislike this song. It's a lot of fun for a roomful of partygoers, aided by a little egg nog.
14. "Jingle Bell Rock:" You knew I was going to put these next two in. I grew up singing them. Still do. Originally recorded by Bobby Helms in 1957 when I was 8.
15. "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree:" See above. Brenda Lee recorded this in 1958.
16. "Adeste Fideles (O, Come All Ye Faithful):" Really, who doesn't like this one? Best sung by a choir.
17. "O, Holy Night:" Ditto.
18. "It Must've Been Ol' Santa Claus:" This is the newest on my list and it's still probably 10 years old. It's a fun song with some really good big band licks. Sung by Connick
19. "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year:" OK, despite how much we have all been irritated over the past decades by the unending promotion from Branson, it's still a good song. Andy Williams, I think, got a bad rap late in life with his Branson gig. He's still one of the best singers and performers of his time. And, he was married to Claudine Longet, which gives him extra points in my book, despite that unfortunate shooting that involved chanteuse Longet and skier Spider Sabich.
20. "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer:" Of course, I couldn't leave this one out. And it ought to be sung by Gene Autry or elementary school choirs. It became a huge hit for him in 1949. Rudolph and I share a birthday, so how could I not include it?
So, there's my list. I'm sure you have your own. Share yours with your friends and family - loudly and proudly - this holiday season. The kids might make fun of you, but so what?
The egg nog helps.
Original Print Headline: Sing along
Mike Jones, 918-581-8332
Bing Crosby and Judy Garland, shown on the set of "The Harvey Girls" in Hollywood in 1945, are the voices behind two classic holiday songs: "White Christmas" and "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas." Associated Press file