5. John Lennon, “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)”
Completing the Phil Spector Christmas trifecta is this Lennon solo song, recorded in 1971 as a protest to the Vietnam War and to suffering in general. Taking the title from a slogan that he and partner Yoko Ono used in 1969, John Lennon recorded the song with actual children recruited to join in on the chorus. Lennon pointedly asks listeners “what have you done” in the previous year, because from where he sits they haven’t done enough to help those less fortunate. A far gentler protest song than some of his other works, “Happy Xmas” became one of Lennon’s epitaphs in the wake of his December 1980 assassination. Though it’s been covered by way too many artists that have no right to do so (Celine Dion even got in on the act, further giving proof that she is the Anti-Christ of music), this simple plea to do right by those less fortunate during the Christmas season is still powerful enough to move even the hardest-hearted listener (I’m looking at you, Bill O’Reilly).
Wait…Frosty the Snowman is supposed to be the mutant product of nuclear fallout? Like Godzilla??? This blows my mind.
Also, while I do like the “Love Actually” version of “All I Want For Christmas Is You,” there’s still a special place in my heart for the Mariah version. It’s become an annual sing-along event in my office. No joke. Did I mention I work for the government?
Great list. Like Mark, I also really love the shit out of Mariah’s version of “All I Want for Christmas is You” (but I’m in general a huge fan of pre-1997 uptempo Mariah singles).
My personal favorite is “Little Drummer Boy/Peace on Earth” by Bing Crosby and David Bowie: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c9KpNznVLlY, from Crosby’s 1977 Christmas Special. Crosby sounds great, Bowie’s counterpoint (written for this recording) is beautiful, and the silly patter before the clip is priceless (and is exactly the sort of thing that Colbert riffed on perfectly in “A Colbert Christmas).
Great list. I submit Fairytale of New York by the Pogues, though have been told on occasion that it “doesn’t really count.”
If that were the case 24Frames, then dozens of Christmas songs wouldn’t count. I wholeheartedly agree with you on Fairytale of New York.
I nominate The Eagles’ “Please Come Home For Christmas”
I second Fairytale of New York. When I saw the title, it was the first and only song that came to mind.
“Alfie the Christmas Tree” and “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” by John Denver and The Muppets. The latter amazingly by John and Rowlf.
“My Little Drum” and “Christmastime is Here” by The Vince Guaraldi Trio for A Charlie Brown Christmas.
Thank you for putting “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer” on your list. You have brought a sense of validation to the perverseness in me that likes kitschy, strange, and slightly dark stuff.
Having said that, I am a big fan of the traditional Christmas songs, and not generally into holiday songs about the death of a close relative (the writers of “The Christmas Shoes” should be flogged). But for some reason, I just love the heck out of this dumb song. It is it’s irreverence and silliness that gets me, and I smirk every time it gets to the part about grandpa showing that he’s holding up okay by “drinking beer and playing cards with cousin Mel”.
In the same vein as “All I Want for Christmas” from Love Actually, I must also submit, “Christmas is All Around,” by Billy Mack (Bill Nighy.)