I can be pretty cynical when it comes to the Holidays. Most of what I post in the way of Christmas music is of the irreverent sort. This time ’round though I wanted to post the three Christmas songs that I consider the best of the best. Not just for their personal meaning to me, but for the actual songs themselves.
While the little egotist in me feels you want to know my personal feelings, I have to say that these (in my humble opinion) are simply three of the most well-written songs ever. And not just of the holiday fare, either. Enjoy…
Bing Crosby & David Bowie: “The Little Drummer Boy/Peace On Earth”
Verses were added (well, ok a whole new song ‘Peace on Earth’ was superimposed on it) to either showcase David Bowie’s voice, increase his appeal to Middle America, or calm his disdain for “The Little Drummer Boy” (depending on what stories you care to believe). In any case, this version holds up as a masterpiece that outshines the original.
This is one Christmas memory that for me justified the coolness of two performers who were already known for their respective coolness. This TV moment from Bing Crosby in 1977 was surreal (to say the least). I was 11 years old and just really starting to get into the music of David Bowie. So when Bing opened that door and Bowie was standing there … well … imagine my delight. Of course — as history has shown — the real treat of this clip is that it appealed equally across several generations.
Andy Williams: “The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year”
There is a joy in the music and Williams’s performance of this tune that has no equal. Where so many holiday songs can be corny or trite, this one truly makes me think of someone who is completely thrilled for the entirety of the holiday season.
There’s a voice that defines Christmas for me and it’s the voice of Andy Williams. I don’t listen to a lot of holiday music, but his is a Christmas album that will always be played in my home. Due to circumstances beyond a five-year-old’s control, my family lived with my grandparents for ten years. That of course meant ten wonderful Christmases in a house overflowing with food, family, and cheer. Every one of those years, I would watch the Andy Williams Christmas special with my grandmother. So this man’s voice and this song both hold a very special place in my heart.
Nat King Cole: “The Christmas Song”
Simply put, this is one of the finest pieces of music ever written. Penned by Bob Wells and Mel Tormé, this tune is far more than a holiday favorite. Delivered by the smooth voice of Nat King Cole, this is a jazz standard beyond compare.
This tune holds a special place for me because, aside from being a Holiday standard, it is one of the most beautifully composed pieces of music. As a young student of the guitar, I had teachers who insisted I study it closely. Boy, I’m glad they did because it opened my eyes and ears to the complexity and unlimited flexibility of chordal and melodic structure. It inspired me to experiment with harmony in ways I probably never would have had I not studied it as I did. Of course I tended to lean more toward dissonance than beauty, but many of the seeds of inspiration were planted here.
Well, there you have it. Happy Holidays everyone!