Holiday tunes run spectrum
You either love it or hate it: Christmas music played every day around the clock starting sometime in October, it seems. The best time to go full-time holiday music, in my opinion, comes right after Thanksgiving, but all-the-time Christmas fare drives some people batty, and not just the Scrooges among us.
Atlanta radio station WPCH FM went all Christmas in 2004, but turned country in 2006, the last time the Christmas format reigned. WSB 98.5 jumped on the bandwagon and was the favorite place for fulltime seasonal immersion starting Thanksgiving Day until this year when its format includes just a sampling of Christmas tunes in its playlist. The full-time fare drew big seasonal ratings, but did nothing for ratings the rest of the year. The day before Thanksgiving, Atlanta’s Christian pop station 104.7 went to all Christmas programming. If you’ve got satellite radio or TV, you’ve got at least one channel totally dedicated to holiday music and that’s where my car radio stays.
This is not to say that even I can stomach some of the compositions widely accepted in Christmas music programming, for instance the songs “sung” by those detestable little chipmunks named Simon, Alvin and Theodore. In their version
of “All I Want for Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth,” there’s a line: I don’t know just who to blame for this ca
tastrophe. If they find who’s responsible, I want to get my hands around his neck. (Spike Jones first recorded the song in 1948, but he’s not responsible for those irritating little vermin created in 1958 with speeded up human voices.)
And please tell me what’s to love about “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer”? She’d been drinkin’too much eggnog, and we begged her not to go. But she forgot her medication, so she staggered out the door into the snow. Now we’re all so proud of Grandpa, he’s been takin’ this so well. See him in there watchin’ football, drinkin’ beer and playing cards with
Cousin Mel. I’d bet good money Honey Boo Boo calls this her favorite Christmas “carol.”
Most of the best — in my book — Christmas compositions are decades, even centuries old. “Deck the Halls” was sung in Wales in the 1700s, and “Jingle Bells” was copyrighted in 1857 as “One Horse Open Sleigh.” “O Holy Night” dates to 1847, and “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear” to 1849. The most reverential hymn of the season is “Silent Night,” credited to a German composer in 1816. History says it was sung by opposing German and British troops during World War I’s brief Christmas truce in 1918.
“White Christmas” from the 1942 movie “Holiday Inn” was sung by singer/actor Bing Crosby on screen and remains the best-selling Christmas song of all time. In 1944, Judy Garland starring in “Meet Me in St. Louis” sang, “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.” “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” was penned in 1939, but western crooner Gene Autry made it his hit in 1949. “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town” written in 1934 was first heard on Eddie Cantor’s early radio program, but rocker Bruce Springsteen has turned it into a modern day classic in his signature style.
You don’t usually connect war and sex to Christmas lyrics, but it’s happened. We first heard “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” in 1952. Seemingly the innocent viewpoint of a child, it was criticized by Boston’s Catholic church for injecting the specter of sex into Christmas context. At least that’s what one website devoted to music lore tells me. The Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 inspired the writing of “Do You Hear What I Hear?” that website also details. “Pray for peace, people everywhere,” it said to us then, and there’s nothing more important even this year. John Lennon in 1971 penned a plaintive yet painfully hopeful “Happy Christmas (War Is Over).” A very merry Christmas and a happy New Year. Let’s hope it’s a good one without any fear... And so this is Christmas for weak and for strong, for rich and the poor ones, the world is so wrong... And so happy Christmas for black and for white, for yellow and red War is over over, if you want it. War is over. Now.
The challenges in this world to peace that this season portends can’t be ignored, but I give into total escapism when Andy Williams bursts into his joyous 1963 performance of “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year.” And when Dean Martin’s honeyed pipes beckon me to stay just a little bit longer in “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” I take off my coat and settle in.
Barbara Morgan is a Covington resident with a background in newspaper journalism, state government and politics.