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.

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