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The 12 Songs of Christmas

Essential recordings to enjoy the holidays.

by Dr. Spin
December 23, 2002

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The 12 Songs of Christmas_Dr. Spin-Essential recordings to enjoy the holidays. Ah, Christmas songs, we love ‘em, we hate ‘em. And starting around Thanksgiving, it seems we can’t stop hearing them. Like it or not, there are certain songs and certain recordings that we associate with the holidays. We may not like them all, but without them it just wouldn’t be Christmas. So in the spirit of Christmas, my gift to my readers is a bonus article, naming twelve essential tunes to truly enjoy the Christmas season. I present to you the 12 songs of Christmas. HO HO HO!
  1. “The Christmas Song” – Nat King Cole. No, it’s not called “Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire!” The quintessential Christmas song was actually written in a hotel in Malibu by Mel Torme.

  2. “White Christmas” – Bing Crosby. As much as “The Christmas Song” belongs to Nat King Cole, this song belongs to Bing. And may all your Christmases be white, too.

  3. “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” – The Barenaked Ladies with Sarah McLaughlin. Though a fairly new recording, this one has “classic” written all over it. With a funky jazz/swing beat and stunning vocals, I like this version much better than the traditional Salvation Army brass version

  4. “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” – Judy Garland. Judy Garland’s bittersweet voice probably defines this Christmas classic better than anyone else.

  5. “Sleigh Ride” – Boston Pops. Actually, it doesn’t have to be the Boston Pops version, it just has to be the instrumental version, not the prattling lyrics one. The instrumental version must also include the clip-clop-clip-clop and horsewhip to be truly authentic.

  6. “Jingle Bell Rock” – Bobby Helms. I bet when this song first came out, people where annoyed with it, but it’s now a classic. “Jingle Bell time is a swell time.” What lyrics!

  7. “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” – Brenda Lee. Ditto for this one. Another classic from the Golden Age of Pop

  8. “Christmas Time is Here” – The Charlie Brown Christmas Soundtrack. Actually the entire soundtrack is essential, but since this is (I think) the only original vocal, I included this track.

  9. “Silver Bells” – Perry Como. I don’t know if there is a definitive recording of this song, but Perry does a pretty good job

  10. “Holly Jolly Christmas” – Burl Ives. Nobody ever came closer to personifying Santa Claus than the rotund, white-haired Ives. The title says it all.

  11. “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” – Frank Sinatra. Another bittersweet Christmas tune. Frank’s version tends to be my favorite.

  12. “Peace On Earth/Little Drummer Boy” – Bing Crosby & David Bowie. Not so much for the song as the concept. Bing Crosby and David Bowie?? Singing a duet?? On a Christmas carol?? Talk about your Christmas miracles!
Okay, I’ve probably left off a few of your favorites, but there were only twelve slots. I tried to avoid hymns and stuck to the more “commercial” Christmas songs, because to me, hymns almost always sound best in choirs. Now, before you write any nasty letters to me and/or the editor, remember ‘tis the season to be jolly, and you better not pout, you better not cry. Merry Christmas everybody, and may God bless us all, each and every one of us!

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