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Music is a big part of many different holidays, but this winter season seems to outrank the rest in terms of musical composition. There are new holiday songs being written all the time so it makes sense that over the years more than a few rock and roll artists have chosen to leave their own mark on the holiday season. To celebrate the holidays this year, I thought I'd put together a two part list of some of my favorite holiday themed songs. This first part deals more directly with rock and roll artists and "less than traditional" numbers, while part two will run tomorrow and will deal with more traditional compositions.
This list may seem a little biased towards Christmas songs, but that's because I celebrate Christmas. That isn't a knock against any other holidays (Hanukkah, Kwanzaa etc), it's just that I don't know many songs for the other holidays.
1: "Don't Believe in Christmas" - the Sonics
This is one of those lost gems of a holiday song that you'll probably never hear on regular the holiday radio stations. The original punk rock Christmas anthem complete with a bit of snotty attitude, gritty guitars and a great beat, this is definitely not you're everyday holiday song. It's one of my favorites though, both in terms of holiday songs and tracks from the Sonics so check it out if you get the chance.
2: "Didn't I Get This Last Year" - Unknown Artist?
This one remains a bit of a mystery to me as it was a number of years ago that I heard this one on holiday radio, and that was the only time I heard it so I have no idea who performed it. I've been talking about it ever since though because it struck me so funny. A song dedicated to that unfortunate event of receiving gifts that are the same as the previous year and set to the tune of "Do You Hear What I Hear", this is another to keep an ear out for as it's quite amusing.
3: "Blue Christmas" - The Beach Boys
Originally written by Bill Hayes and Jay Johnson, this one has been done by everyone from Frankie Avalon and Elvis Presley to Big Bad Voodoo Daddy. All the different version are good for various reasons... some are obviously better than others though. Personally I prefer the version by the Beach Boys for some reason (I couldn't tell you why even if I wanted to), or the one by Elvis, but you might think otherwise. No matter who's performing it, this is a great holiday number.
4: "Jingle Bell Rock" - Bobby Helms
No rock and roll holiday is complete without this one. It's a classic known far and wide and for good reason. Originally popularized by Bobby Helms I believe, although he didn't write it, this one has also been covered and copied by a number of different artists over the years, all to various degrees of success. The original is my favorite, but if I was going to pick a different version as a second favorite, I'd go with the one by the Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem... that would be the rock band from the Muppets for those not in the know.
5: "Happy Xmas/War is Over" - John Lennon & Yoko Ono
This is easily my favorite holiday song of all time... even beating out more traditional songs. There is just something about it that not only perfectly captures the holiday spirit of peace and giving, but is extremely intense and powerful at conveying those feelings... just a spine tingling song whether it's December or July. I especially like all the children on back up vocals, as with all our politics and ideologies, it's easy to forget that a big part of the holidays is for the children and when the holidays are interrupted by fighting or strife, they're the ones who really suffer. An amazing bit of songwriting, composition and arrangement by Lennon, and a holiday classic at the same time.
Bonus: Christmas with the Chipmunks
Maybe it's because I grew up during the late 80s and early 90s, but I think Alvin, Simon and Theodore are cool. That's right, we're talking about the Chipmunks. I can still remember the TV show to this day as it has been ingrained permanently in my brain as part of my childhood. The Chipmunks Christmas album is the same way... a complete holiday classic in my eyes. I couldn't pick a song, some are funny, some are more serious, they're all great. There were a few volumes of Christmas albums from the Chipmunks... all worth it.
More Bonus: Charlie Brown's Christmas by The Vince Guaraldi Trio
If I was going to pick a favorite holiday album, this is the one. Like the Chipmunks, very much part of my childhood so it holds some very personal memories for me. Along with that though, it seems to have a touch of sadness and the blues within it's holiday feel, which works really well at reminding us that not everyone is as lucky as we are to be able to give and receive gifts and have peace during the holiday season. Plus, lets not forget that this album is some of the best piano jazz ever written in my opinion. A holiday classic that is a must have in my mind for any music enthusiast.
These are just 5 of my favorite, less than traditional holiday songs. There are plenty more and each person will have their own, but if you've never heard some of these, check them out as you might really like them.
Check back tomorrow when I conclude this piece by looking at 5 of my favorite more traditional holiday songs.