I don’t do nearly as many Holiday Parties as I used to do but my December is busy enough and between the events I DJ myself, listening to the radio on my own time and walking through stores, I hear my share of Christmas Songs and I certainly have my opinions about which ones are my favorite. I’ll list them below, in order, building to my favorite. Many of these songs have been recorded by dozens of different artists. I’ll list the specific versions I prefer.
12 – Santa Baby – Eartha Kitt – I love the inside joke in this song. She’s been good all year (think of all the fellas she hasn’t kissed!) and now she has this great list of things she wants: a convertible, a yacht, a ring etc. And with Kitt’s sexy delivery she may just get all those things and more!
11 – Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree – Brenda Lee – There aren’t many Christmas songs you can dance to but this one actually has a nice slow swing beat and I’ve used it to pack many a dance floor.
10- All I Want For Christmas Is You – Mariah Carey – Sorry haters but this makes my list. I know Carey’s beaten us over the head with it in recent years and it’s almost like she’s trying to bogart Christmas and claim it all to herself, but I still love the innocence in this original version including the video where she still looks cute. And it’s another rare Christmas song you can actually dance to.
9 – Another Lonely Christmas – Prince– If you know me you know I had to squeeze a Prince song in here. This one’s a doozy. It starts out like a break-up song but then takes a tragic turn. Not one of Prince’s most uplifting songs that’s for sure!
8 Last Christmas – Wham – It’s a weird premise, a Christmas breakup song. But there’s optimism here too. The singer has learned his lesson. This year, he’s going to give his heart to someone special. I love the 80s vibe in this song!
7 – Christmas Wrapping – The Waitresses – I love how this song is about the craziness of the holidays and The Waitresses relay that by squeezing so many lyrics into such a short space. They tell an elaborate story with some very clever lines and they even work in the classic “what do my wondering eyes should appear” line from “Twas The Night Before Christmas” and they finish it off with a nice sing along chorus.
6 – White Christmas -Darlene Love – I know it’s sacrosanct to not pick the original Bing Crosby version of this song but I just love how Phil Spector produced this with his Wall of Sound style and how Love gave it a little uptempo feel. Everything from the 1963 album A Christmas Gift for You From Phil Spector in fact is amazing.
5 – Santa Claus is Coming to Town – Bruce Springsteen – I’ve always loved how Bruce turned this song into a rocker. I also love his interplay with the band (telling Clarence Santa’s gonna bring him a new saxophone and chiding the audience that not many of them have been good). I’m not the biggest Springsteen fan in the world but you can just feel his joy for performing coming through in this song.
4– Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas – The Pretenders – Like I said I don’t do as many holiday parties as I used to but for years this was my go-to last song, or last slow song, of the night. That’s probably why I have such fond feelings for it. And Chrissie Hynde’s delivery is just magical. Plus, those lyrics are so optimistic. “Through the years we all will be together, if the fates allow.” Is there any better wish at Christmas than being together with the ones you love?
3 – Peace on Earth / Little Drummer Boy – Bing Crosby and David Bowie – I told the story of how this version came about kind of spontaneously in my daily #TodayInMusic posts a while back (you can find that here) which really just makes this version even more incredible. But I love how the two of them, from two completely different generations and styles of music created this amazing mash-up of two holiday songs that become one magical message.
2- I Believe In Father Christmas – Greg Lake. Besides the cool prog-rock feel of this song what I love about it is it’s a Christmas song for everyone. I don’t think you have to even believe that Jesus was the Son of God to believe in “Father Christmas.” It’s more of a spiritual thing. And the way Lake ends the song, wishing everyone a “hopeful Christmas” and a “brave new year” is just amazing.
1 – Happy Xmas (War Is Over) – John Lennon & Yoko Ono. Always been my favorite. Just love how Lennon challenges the listener with “what have you done?” Reminds me of the Gandhi quote “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.” And of course the chant “war is over!” We all wish our troops could be home this time of year spending the Holidays with their own families. Maybe someday if we could end all the violence they could be. I know, it’s a foolish dream but Lennon encouraged us all to “Imagine” it didn’t he?