We’re into December now, so it’s safe to let your Christmas spirit run wild. We’ve been holding it in for a year now but it’s time to hang the holly, put up the tree and play some Christmas tunes. And while the classics like “Jingle Bells”, “Frosty the Snow Man” and “White Christmas” are great, why not check out some of the songs that go right to the heart of any boomer this time of the year?
Darlene Love “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)”
In a bizarre twist, this song was actually released on November 22, 1963, the day JFK was assassinated. Needless to say, not many radio stations were playing Christmas songs that day and the song sort of died off. However, it was resurrected years later and now sits atop the list of most everyone’s favourite Christmas songs. While melancholy in Christmas songs is nothing unheard of, Love infuses those elements with a whole lot of upbeat energy. The songs has been covered a number of times, with U2 making an admirable go of it, but nothing beats the original.
Joni Mitchell “River”
Speaking of sad Christmas songs, this one is a doozy. Leave it to Joni Mitchell to write a holiday songs that leaves you absolutely devastated, but of course, it’s brilliance is still something to be enjoyed even if you’re (hopefully) more in the Christmas spirit. It deals with the notion of longing, regret and missing home during this time of year. I’m sure we can all relate to at least one of those.
Bruce Springsteen “Merry Christmas Baby”
On to something a little more uplifting, The Boss and his comrades sure know how to throw a Christmas party. Springsteen is perhaps more known for his very fun rendition of “Santa Claus is Coming to Town”, but this is the one that really let’s you feel the power of the E Street Band. Less a polished holiday single and more a jam session with a bunch of friends who are excited for the holidays.
John Lennon / The Plastic Ono Band / The Harlem Community Choir “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)”
While Lennon and Yoko’s collaborations were infamously regarded as preachy and made people wish for the good ol’ days of The Beatles, this one is hard to turn your nose up to. It’s political, yes, but without pushing it down your throat as was sometimes the fault with Lennon’s later work. At this time of year, the concept of peace and love goes over pretty well. A lot of credit goes to the The Harlem Community Choir and their powerful backing.
The Beach Boys “Little Saint Nick”
The Beach Boys are synonymous with summer fun and sunshine, but don’t think that prevents them from turning in a solid holiday tune. It’s a light and humorous diddy that is obviously not meant to be considered along with the band’s more impressive catalogue, but it’s hard not to enjoy it. A bouncy and hip (for its time) take on Christmas with the trademark Beach Boys vocals to bring it home.
The Pogues ft. Kirsty MacColl “Fairytale of New York”
If you like a little rum in your egg nog, or a little mud in your snow, then this is the Christmas song for you. It starts rough, takes a turn that you think might be going upbeat, then promptly hits you over the head with some language you’re not likely to find in many other Christmas songs. It’s not even really a song, it’s more of a musical play about two very bitter people. But damn is it catchy.
Elvis Presley “Blue Christmas”
Only Elvis Presley could make being alone on Christmas sound so cool. Though not his own song to begin with, Presley certainly took it for himself when he recorded in in the 50s. What had traditionally been preformed as a straight country tune, Elvis being Elvis put his own spin on it, infusing it with a bluesy sound that brought it to another level.
David Bowie / Bing Crosby “Peace on Earth/Little Drummer Boy”
The old school meets the new wave as crooner Bing Crosby teams with glam rocker David Bowie for a duet. An odd pairing to be sure, but it somehow worked extremely well.
Jackson 5 “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town”
This is one of the most covered Christmas songs of all time, going all the way back to its debut in 1934 so it takes a special performance to make it the most popular version of all time. But we’re talking about Michael Jackson here so it really shouldn’t be that much of a surprise. Bringing so funk and those impressive pipes, MJ and his brothers take the song for themselves and don’t let go.