Disclaimer: I lifted this idea from Debbie Woodbury, who rounded up her favorite Christmas movies on her blog, Where We Go Now, and invited readers to weigh in. I did; I love Christmas movies. I also love Christmas music so I’m sharing some of my favorites, and like Debbie, I invite you to weigh in.
Favorite childhood Christmas music: Hands down, “The Chipmunk Song” by Alvin and the Chipmunks.Whenever I hear those opening lines “Christmas, Christmas time is near, time for toys and time for cheer,” I’m instantly transported to first grade, in my pajamas, drinking Mom’s homemade hot cocoa.
Favorite ’70s Christmas music: Before it was appropriated by Taco Johns, I always looked forward to hearing “Feliz Navidad” by Jose Feliciano. (He also did the best-ever cover of “Light My Fire.”) And I did and do love “Merry Christmas, Darling” by the Carpenters. Karen Carpenter had an amazing alto and that song would have been right at home during the Second World War. It’s a classic along the lines of “I’ll Be Home For Christmas.”
Christmas music I wish I’d grown up with: I can’t get enough of “Beautiful Star of Bethlehem.” I discovered it on the two-CD set “Christmas Grass” (that’s bluegrass, not a Cheech and Chong remix). It’s sung by Doyle Lawson and Jamie Dailey, both of whom are with the sublime Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver (whose classic Christmas compilation Merry Christmas From Our House to Your House is now available for download). I always wonder what it would have been like to grow up with this kind of music. I absolutely can’t hear it without singing along. I hope I never hear it in a mall.
Christmas song that made me sit in the vehicle until it finished: I was also smitten the first time I heard “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” by the Barenaked Ladies and Sarah McLachlan. It’s on the compilation Christmas Songs, which also features the hilarious “Polly Anderson’s Christmas Party” by Stuart McLean. It’s storytelling at its best and funniest.
Christmas music I want to hear in its native setting: I love world music, and the NPR compilation World Christmas is one of my favorite Christmas CDs. (So is their Jazz to the World compilation.) “Michaux Veillait” by the Caribbean Jazz Project is a happy, sunny song featuring steel drums, and I keep thinking I really need to be on a warm beach to do it justice. Until I am, it’s a great mental getaway. On that same CD, “Go Tell It On The Mountain” by John Scofield and The Wild Magnolias is guaranteed to get you moving. It’s great music to decorate to.
Newest Christmas favorite: The 25th Day of December by the Staple Singers. They mix up traditionals with originals and give you that same uplifting church feeling Aretha Franklin does.
Christmas favorite turned classic: It’s hard to believe it’s almost 25 years old now, but A Very Special Christmas still can’t be beat. Madonna’s “Santa Baby,” Stevie Nicks’s “Silent Night,” the haunting “Coventry Carol” by Alison Moyet, and the Pretenders singing my all-time favorite song, “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”–it doesn’t get much better than that.
Worst Christmas song ever: Barking dogs “Jingle Bells.”
Musicians I wish would release Christmas music: Rosanne Cash and The Civil Wars. At least The Civil Wars recently released two Christmas songs on iTunes–their original “Tracks in the Snow” and “O come O come Emmanuel.” I hope they follow it up with a full-length effort.
Those are just some of my most- and least-favorites and I would love to hear about yours. The best sound of all is laughter with your family and friends, and I wish that for you this holiday season.