Music puts us in the mood for Christmas

Published 5:12 pm Tuesday, December 21, 2021

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A couple of years ago in this exact space I shared with you my personal top-10 list of Christmas songs.

I will admit, even at age 68, I love Christmas music. It all dates back to my formative years as a child. My parents owned a record player – one of those with twin speakers, all housed in a wooden cabinet about the same length of a bedroom dresser.

There was a compartment within that cabinet to store all the records….mostly those big round vinyl disks (33 RPM) encased in a sleeve featuring artwork or a photograph on the cover and a listing of the songs.

I grew up listening to the likes of Bing Crosby, Johnny Mathis, Frank Sinatra, Andy Williams, Elvis Presley, Nat King Cole, Perry Como, Burl Ives, Gene Autry, and even Alvin and The Chipmunks (for full disclosure, the latter was one I would play over and over).

When the stereo wasn’t playing, my dad – who also loved the holiday season – would hum or whistle Christmas tunes. That sound still rings in my ears today, even 17 years following his death.

Anyway, to refresh your memory (and mine as well), the following are my top-10 Christmas songs as written in my column on Dec. 11, 2019:

#10 “Merry Christmas from the Family” written and performed by alternative Country artist Robert Earl Keene.

#9 “Blue Christmas” sung by the “King” – Elvis Presley, released in 1957 and written in 1948 by Billy Hayes and Jay W. Johnson.

#8 “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas” written by Meredith Willison in 1951 and performed by Perry Como that same year.

#7 “All I Want for Christmas is You” the most well-known version is from 1994 performed by Mariah Carey.

#6 “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” became an instant classic when Brenda Lee, at age 13, first sang it way back in 1958.

#5 “Merry Christmas in Dixie” released in 1982 by perhaps the greatest Country Music band of all time – Alabama. I still love the line – “it’s snowing in the pines” – as it allows my mind to drift to the peaceful scene of the fluffy particles filling the farm fields and woods of the south….a place where we don’t experience a lot of snow.

#4 “The Christmas Song” (“Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire”) a 1946 classic sung by the legendary Nat King Cole.

#3 “Sleigh Ride” was written by Leroy Anderson in 1946. This upbeat song has been covered by many artists, my favorite version is by Johnny Mathis, recorded in 1958.

#2 “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” the sheer power of Darlene Love’s voice is enough to land this song in anybody’s top 10 list.

#1 “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” – released in 1943 by the legendary crooner Bing Crosby. The song was written by Kim Gannon and Walter Kent as a tribute to our brave soldiers who were putting their lives on the line for our freedom during World War II and longed to be back home for the holidays.

Now, for a special twist, how ‘bout a list of the top Christmas songs nobody has ever heard (well, nearly almost everybody; I would assume somebody listened to them, including the artist, when they were initially released).

A while back, a friend shared with me an online link to “The 15 Best Christmas Songs You’ve Never Heard.” It was written by Maria Judnick who, like me, is a self-professed lover of Christmas music.

The neat thing about her story was it contained video links to each song. I must admit that some of these are indeed songs I never heard of and to be quite honest, after listening to the some, I can understand why these songs flew under the radar upon release.

Take for instance, “Santa, Teach Me to Dance” by Debbie and the Darnels. I couldn’t find out much on that group, other than they were “Doo-Wop” artists from the 60’s.

Another was from the legendary Bob Dylan. He released “Must Be Santa” in 2009. Out of pure respect for Dylan – a musical genius of my generation – I gave it a listen and it was…..well I guess you’ll need to judge it for yourself.

If you are bold enough to get past the title – “Barenaked for the Holidays” – the song is a touching tune about watching children and adults in a neighborhood unwrap their gifts. The song is by the group Barenaked Ladies, a Canadian rock group….who I’ve heard of but never got into their style of music.

For some reason, “Mary’s Boy Child” was on this particular list. It was released in 1956. I don’t know if other artists covered the song, but I fondly remember the version sung by Harry Belafonte. I liked it then and still enjoy it now.

Until I saw Maria Judnick’s list of not-so-popular Christmas song, I was unaware that the now late, great Johnny Cash covered “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.” He did so in 1963. I gave it a listen and all I can say it’s definitely Johnny Cash.

Judnick didn’t reference the release date of “10,000 Watts” – a song by Southern California rockers Crystal Antlers. My advice after giving it a listen….move on, there’s nothing to “hear” here.

On the other hand, I found “Yingle Bells” by Yogi Yorgesson quite entertaining. I did some research on Mr. Yorgesson and discovered he is actually a character created in 1932 by radio announcer and newsman Harry Stewart. Seems that Mr. Stewart/Yorgesson is quite a comedian. He recorded over 40 songs…to include the single – “I’m Gonna Vote Republican.” On the flip side was “I’m Gonna Vote for a Democrat.”

Whatever musical taste you enjoy at Christmas, I will close by saying these songs are written and performed to put us in the spirit of the holidays.

From my home to yours…Feliz Navidad!!

Cal Bryant is the Editor of Roanoke-Chowan Publications. Contact him at or 252-332-7207.  

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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