Holiday music

There’s no room for most people to brain today since all the blood has been diverted from the brain to the stomach, so let’s have some holiday music.  The first six songs were contributed by Grania (her notes are indented), starting off with an unusual one-take performance of “Sleigh Ride” by Nataly Dawn and Clara C:


This next song was originally recorded by indie folk band Fleet Foxes and then given a new lease on life a few years later by Pentatonix. The lyrics don’t make a whole lot of sense, Robin Pecknold says that the song was more about rhythm than anything else. Here are both versions for comparison.

Here’s one traditional version, by the incomparable Nat King Cole, also contributed by Grania:

From Grania:

This is one of the oldest known carols, possibly dating back to the 16th century. Pentatonix play around with it and have arranged a version that playfully slips from one style to another and increases tempo until the breakneck speed of the final verse.

And then, because it’s probably humanly impossible to watch James Corden do anything without an outbreak of smiling all over your face, here’s his 2016 pastiche of carpool karaokes of Mariah Carey’s All I want for Christmas. It was recorded over the year during all his other carpool sessions, and features Lady Gaga, Gwen Stefani, Madonna, Adele, The Red Hot Chili Peppers and Elton John amongst others.

Yes, many people think the Carpenters are cheesy, but I (JAC) still think Karen Carpenter had the best voice of any pop singer of our time. Here’s a personal favorite, “Merry Christmas Darling“, written by Richard Carpenter and Frank Pooler and first recorded in 1970.

I thought the song below was an old standard, and was surprised to find out that it was written in 1962. The Wikipedia entry gives the story:

Do You Hear What I Hear?” is a song written in October 1962, with lyrics by Noël Regney and music by Gloria Shayne Baker. The pair, married at the time, wrote it as a plea for peace during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Regney had been invited by a record producer to write a Christmas song, but he was hesitant due to the commercialism of the Christmas holiday. It has sold tens of millions of copies and has been covered by hundreds of artists.

Regney wrote the lyrics for the song, while Shayne composed the music in October 1962. This was an unusual arrangement for the two writers. Usually it was Shayne who wrote the lyrics for their songs while Regney composed the music, as they did when they wrote a song based on the classic children’s song “Rain Rain Go Away”.

Regney was inspired to write the lyrics “Said the night wind to the little lamb, ‘Do you see what I see?'” and “Pray for peace, people everywhere” after watching babies being pushed in strollers on the sidewalks of New York City. Shayne stated in an interview years later that neither could personally perform the entire song at the time they wrote it because of the emotions surrounding the Cuban Missile Crisis. “Our little song broke us up. You must realize there was a threat of nuclear war at the time.”

. . . The song was later recorded in diverse ways by hundreds of artists. . . Regney said that his favorite version was performed by Robert Goulet. As The New York Times noted, when the singer came to the line “Pray for peace, people everywhere,” he “almost shouted the words.”

So, here’s the Goulet version:

Happy holidays!



  1. GBJames
    Posted December 25, 2016 at 9:12 am | Permalink

    Christmas eve dinner upstairs at our daughter’s house last night. Lots of xmas carols on vinyl. Thank jeebus it only happens once a year. I never want to hear anyone’s version of Little Drummer Boy again. Ever.

    Well, maybe Emmy Lou Harris’ version would be OK. But that is it.

    And who told Bing Crosby that Faith of our Fathers was a Christmas carol? Listen to the words, man! It is a grisly tale of gruesome death and dismemberment at the hands of Protestant enemies! It doesn’t belong next to Jingle Bells!

    / endOfRant

    • merilee
      Posted December 25, 2016 at 2:16 pm | Permalink

      A very little bit of Drummer Boy goes a lonnnnnng way. I love the old classical carols. Heard Kiri Te Kanawa singing a glorious Hark the Herald Angels sing on Sirius today. Love Jonas Kaufmann doing O Holy Night. Love the Messiah, but ever since I suddenly got the giggles listening to “We Like Sheep” (very mature, I know), I continue to giggle through it. My stereo croaked, I hope temporarily, a couple of days ago so have only been able to listen to the stuff on Sirius XM Symphony Hall, which has been pretty good. I hate most pop Smas songs. Has anyone ever heard the Dylan Xmas album. Love Dylan, but can NOT imagine what this album must sound like!

      • GBJames
        Posted December 25, 2016 at 2:24 pm | Permalink

        There is one word for that Dylan album. Execrable.

        • merilee
          Posted December 25, 2016 at 2:35 pm | Permalink

          not surprised…

      • Diane G.
        Posted December 25, 2016 at 7:28 pm | Permalink

        “I hate most pop Xmas songs.”

        Oh, god, me too! I remember trudging through the mall several Xmases ago, along with hundreds of other last-minute, late-nite shoppers, all of us looking daggers at each other, with “Have a Holly, Jolly, Christmas” blaring from the sound system….

        • Merilee
          Posted December 25, 2016 at 8:23 pm | Permalink

          Somebody please design a kitty barf emoji…
          Mall staff should be given hardship pay during December.

          • Diane G.
            Posted December 25, 2016 at 9:51 pm | Permalink

            True, true!

  2. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted December 25, 2016 at 9:13 am | Permalink

    I strongly recommend to look up Les Brown and his band of renown’s arrangement and performance of the nutcracker.

    Merry Christmas! Merry Solstice!
    Axial tilt is the reason for the season!

  3. Posted December 25, 2016 at 9:25 am | Permalink

    I need to send you my CD filled with holiday songs including “Merry Christmas, Darling.” I absolutely loooooved Karen Carpenter!

  4. Posted December 25, 2016 at 9:34 am | Permalink

    Here’s my contribution, some grooviness from the ’60’s, man.

  5. jaxkayaker
    Posted December 25, 2016 at 9:47 am | Permalink

    I like Tori Amos’ cover of The Little Drummer Boy. Also, I like Tori Amos.

  6. Filippo
    Posted December 25, 2016 at 9:49 am | Permalink

    “Yes, many people think the Carpenters are cheesy, but I (JAC) still think Karen Carpenter had the best voice of any pop singer of our time.”


    Having heard the term ululated by pop culture mavens from the pinnacles of Amuricun pop culture over the years, I finally got around to pinning down (from Google) the meaning of “cheesy”: “lame,” “corny,” “not cool,” “inauthentic.” (Is “funky” its linguistic cousin?)

    IF the Carpenters are “cheesy,” then I confess to having succumbed to the dark Force of cheesiness, and will take 10^-8 seconds to feel guilty about it.

  7. bluemaas
    Posted December 25, 2016 at 9:49 am | Permalink

    Thus be .the only one. that I myself actively seek out during any December and the World’s struggles anywhere still: the darling “War Is Over” from (He Who Should, too, Have Been Benighted — but wasn’t) Sir John Lennon … … !

    To p e a c e … …
    whatever that, anymore now, actually means.


    • Randall Schenck
      Posted December 25, 2016 at 9:53 am | Permalink

      Very good. I can listen to that.

    • bluemaas
      Posted December 25, 2016 at 10:03 am | Permalink

      Actually, in looking this over, Mr Lennon so sadly had, indeed, been benighted — when he should have, instead, been beknighted.

      I apologize, Mr Lennon.

  8. Hempenstein
    Posted December 25, 2016 at 10:08 am | Permalink

    1) I never thought much about Winter Wonderland until the SNL cast’s performance on the first season. Now it’s about my favorite. The commentary in this link pretty well sums it up, too.

    2) DC-based musicologist Dick Spottswood gets credit for bringing Frankie Half-Pint Jaxon’s Christ Was Born… to a new audience via his show on WAMU, where it became a staple of his Xmas show. For a lot of people, most of whom I suspect are not religious, Krimmis isn’t Krimmis without playing it. No idea what the timeframe is, but suspect early ’30s. Jaxon himself was born either 1896 or 7 and died 1944, 1953 or 1970(!), depending on source.

  9. nwalsh
    Posted December 25, 2016 at 10:25 am | Permalink

    Hate the drummer boy. Need White Christmas by Bing. Merry Christmas everyone.

  10. jwthomas
    Posted December 25, 2016 at 10:32 am | Permalink

  11. docbill1351
    Posted December 25, 2016 at 10:51 am | Permalink

    I’m proud to say I contributed to Nataly Dawn’s Kickstarter campaign years ago. She wanted to raise, I think, $10,000 to cut a CD but raised about 10x that.

    She came to my attention doing a cover of the Angry Birds song under the name Pomplamoose on YouTube. Very creative videos and music.

  12. rickflick
    Posted December 25, 2016 at 10:53 am | Permalink

    Here’s a twist on an old standard of the season. “Baby It’s Cold Outside” has come to seem a little creepy to the sensitive modern ear. An anachronism (although it’s still a fine song within it’s own time frame).

    Lydia Liza and Josiah Lemanski with an amusing update:

    • Filippo
      Posted December 25, 2016 at 11:22 am | Permalink

      Perhaps some gal will record a version where the roles are reversed – equity and all that. And to make it interesting the guy will work hard to resist her imprecations.

  13. Saul Sorrell-Till
    Posted December 25, 2016 at 11:08 am | Permalink

    White Winter Hymnal is a wonderful song. i always thought it was about pack animals and the bloody death of one of their members, what with the ‘turn the white snow red as strawberries in the summertime’ line. The whole of their first album’s lovely. The second one has a clutch of fantastic songs too, although it’s not quite as good. This song though feels like one of those future classics that’ll be covered ad nauseum:
    It has a kind of Lennon-like simplicity, which I’m a sucker for, and it’s all very existential.

    I also like it when songs ask ‘deep’ rhetorical questions that actually turn out to have very straightforward answers; a la Insane Clown Posse and their immortal lyric: “fuckin’ magnets / how do they work?”.

  14. JoanL
    Posted December 25, 2016 at 11:12 am | Permalink

    The Celtic Woman’s Dublin 2013 show gives me an hour of goosebumps –

  15. Filippo
    Posted December 25, 2016 at 11:27 am | Permalink

    On Spotify I put on Christina Rossetti’s “Love Came Down at Christmas,” a cappella, by one of:

    Chichester Cathedral Choir
    St. Paul Cathedral Choir
    London Fox Singers.

    I put it on repeat, as a mantra, when I am at home and seeking isolation from the yammering, ululating cacophony of human primates I’ve endured during the day.

  16. Frank Wagner
    Posted December 25, 2016 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

    Can anyone identify all the people on Corden’s video? My wife and I did not see Madonna and can’t recognize a few of the others.

  17. ToddP
    Posted December 25, 2016 at 12:56 pm | Permalink

    Yes, many people think the Carpenters are cheesy, but I (JAC) still think Karen Carpenter had the best voice of any pop singer of our time.

    I’m right there with you, Jerry. Karen’s voice was sublime, and the music of The Carpenters is timeless. She was also a phenomenal drummer!

    • HaggisForBrains
      Posted December 26, 2016 at 5:51 am | Permalink

      A wonderful voice – it still breaks me up to hear it.

  18. Jenny Haniver
    Posted December 25, 2016 at 1:00 pm | Permalink

    I offer this by The Pogues:

    • Jenny Haniver
      Posted December 25, 2016 at 2:59 pm | Permalink

      And this is a “Chanukah Carol” version of “Jingle Bells”: “Matzoh Balls, Matzoh Balls” by Stanley Adams and the Chicken Flickers.

  19. Bob
    Posted December 25, 2016 at 1:57 pm | Permalink

    RE: “Regney said that his favorite version was performed by Robert Goulet.”

    Video and audio of the inestimable Robert Goulet singing “Do You Hear What I Hear?”

  20. merilee
    Posted December 25, 2016 at 2:10 pm | Permalink

    I agree about Karen Carpenter’s voice. She needed someone to pick less cheesy songs for her, though.

  21. Lorinnor
    Posted December 25, 2016 at 4:34 pm | Permalink

    While I agree Karen Carpenter had one of the great female pop voices, I would not confidently call hers the greatest over all others. I would not rank her over Judith Durham of the Seekers like I would not rank apples over oranges…

    • Merilee
      Posted December 25, 2016 at 4:40 pm | Permalink

      Not to forget Laura Nyro😻

  22. sensorrhea
    Posted December 26, 2016 at 7:19 am | Permalink

    Agree about Carpenter’s voice, but I find “Merry Christmas Darling” to be a treacly unlistenable mess. Just the line “Christmasing with you” raises my blood pressure.

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