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Padre Steve’s Easy Listening Classic Christmas

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“In the old days, it was not called the Holiday Season; the Christians called it ‘Christmas’ and went to church; the Jews called it ‘Hanukkah’ and went to synagogue; the atheists went to parties and drank. People passing each other on the street would say ‘Merry Christmas!’ or ‘Happy Hanukkah!’ or (to the atheists) ‘Look out for the wall!” Dave Barry 

I love Christmas music of all types and I have a somewhat sick sense of humor that appreciates Dave Barry’s humor. Over the past few days I have been going through some classic Christmas season songs from the Rock, R & B and Country Western genres. Tonight is a popular but not talked about feature of songs that might be best called “easy listening.” They encompass a period from the 1950s through early 1980s and include recordings from some of the most popular artists of the last half century.

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What I find interesting about Christmas in the United States is that it is not just for Christians. In fact some of the most popular Christmas tunes have been written or performed by men and women who are Jewish, Agnostic or sometimes even avowed Atheists.  Actually that is part of the magic of the Christmas holidays in this country. I have many friends who span the spectrum of religious diversity in the United States. Various forms of Christians from the most Orthodox, Conservative and Fundamental to the most ecumenical, progressive or liberal. I also have friendships with Jews, Moslems, Buddhists, Hindus, Wiccans, followers of Native American religions, as well as Atheists, Agnostics and Free Thinkers.

However despite their religious or philosophical differences most of my friends have a respect for others. Generally, be they Christians or not they want to be kind to others and enjoy the Christmas holiday season regardless of if they believe in the distinctive Christian understanding of the Incarnation.  I think that is commendable because that doesn’t happen in most of the world. In some places some Christians are happy with killing other Christians at Christmas for reasons of dogma, race or tribe.

These songs the implicitly Christian ones as well as the more festive and less than religious  traditional are sung by a wide variety of artists. Many are legendary for their accomplishments.

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Here Barbara Streisand sings Ave Maria http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0wFtXvt8TOQ

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But not all Christmas songs are religious in nature. Many speak of human relationships. Barry Manilow wrote and performed Because it’s Christmas http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QHRi6nAZZWE ,Mel Torme, nicknamed “the Velvet Fog” sang Christmas Time is Here  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=phHwxK064RM, the Carpenters recorded and performed Merry Christmas Darling http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nR34VJ7HWqU while Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gourmet did Hurry Home for Christmas http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nR34VJ7HWqU, and Bing Crosby did the playful Mele Kalikimaka (Hawaiian Christmas Song) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hEvGKUXW0iI.

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But then some are and because of the theological message of Christmas cannot be otherwise. Julie Andrews version of O Come All Ye Faithful  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GdJ6ZdHaFvg, Jim Neighbors http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bQKPIplA8Gc and Andy Williams both performed Do You Hear What I Hear? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Em0P9zb3a3k all epitomize that part of the music of the season.

Some singers, in fact many were able to perform religious and non-religious Christmas songs. Vicki Carr sang It Came Upon a Midnight Clear http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yd4qLxVv_9I and I Still Believe in Christmas  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kFsel3waJkM.

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Judy Garland sang a memorable version of Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5g4lY8Y3eoo in the movie Meet Me In St Louis. The song has been recorded by many others including Helen Reddy  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hXKQYXiXBqA and Billy Joel, an avowed Atheist who has recorded a number of Christmas or Christmas themed songs including his version of this same song http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B4LQmQompMs 

Engelbert Humperdinck sang Star of Bethlehem http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rBLOJce1EvY and the Ray Conniff Singers performed a version of the Carol of the Bells http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mQBpmaIRaiU . Sammy Davis Jr recorded Christmas All Over the World http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CW8WyWkV-Gk and Carly Simon did Christmas is Almost Here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O0fG9d3y99c

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Of the more implicitly Christian hymns recored Judy Collins performed Joy to the World http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q_JyZUnMzDQ while Johnny Mathis performed What Child is This? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YwNb3RQYIAQ and Anne Murray who I have always loved to hear, sang O Come All Ye Faithful http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_oUAnGcT–A while James Taylor performed the spiritual Go Tell it on the Mountain http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ifEUn1AxDYo.

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Other songs that speak of the more human and universal aspects of missing loved ones at Christmas include Roberta Flack’s The 25th of Last December http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RwuscC7VowY Michael Buble did Christmas, Baby Please Come Home http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iIOFMmkrfmo and Joni Mitchell who performed the haunting River http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fCwlEnuXYsE. Robert Goulet sang The Christmas I Spend With You http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fko2GVOPbXI Carole King did Love for Christmas http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8jgsQKJwcdQ

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Perhaps the most famous and popular easy listening Christmas song is Bing Crosby’s White Christmas, which he performed in the movie of the same name http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Yg5g_Xl-uU Many others have sung this classic including Tony Bennett who teamed up to sing it in concert with Placido Domingo http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jd0QQmXKAqY . The song is the most popular Christmas song ever written and has been recorded by thousands of artists.

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I think the irony behind White Christmas which makes it such a unique part of the American Christmas story is that it was written by Irving Berlin a Jewish immigrant from Russia. The song is not religious at all, but an almost sorrowful longing for bygone days. The fact that it was released just over two weeks after the attack on Pearl Harbor made it even more poignant.  Honestly I can’t think of any country where the most popular Christmas song of all time would be written by someone who was not a Christian. I don’t about you but that is something that makes me thankful to be an American. Now if we American Christians could only accord others the same respect and appreciation.

I could go on, in fact as I listen to different artists and songs I can think of many more that could be mentioned. The fact that all cannot be mentioned, including some that may be actually better than some on this list points to the amazing diversity of Christmas and the holiday season in the United States.

So with that I will say good night and until tomorrow my friends,

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Padre Steve’s Rockin’ Christmas: Music for Anyone to Get into the Spirit of the Season

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Christmas music comes in many forms and genres. Some is quite traditional yet like any music Christmas music has captured the hearts of many artists over the decades of recorded on records, tapes, CDs and now digital media.

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One genre where Christmas music has found a home for the last 60 years or so has been Rock and Roll. I think a great bridge between the more traditional and the contemporary is the duet of Little Drummer Boy between Bing Crosby and David Bowie  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DiXjbI3kRus

Of course this is in no way an exhaustive list of these songs, just some plucked from memory that I could find music videos of and which I might not have already done on past years articles. I think that some of these are on multiple posts but still, they struck me tonight.

I usually listen to 60s, 70s or 80‘s music whenever I drive but I think soon I will switch over to Christmas music on my Sirius radio. Maybe I will switch back and forth depending on my mood and the traffic. That being said here are some of the more interesting Christmas songs, some religious, some non-religious by some Rock artists from the 50s, 60’s, 70’s and 80’s, some of whom are still around recording new versions of Christmas songs.

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Some of the earliest Rock and Roll Christmas songs included a number by Elvis Presley  including the classic Blue Christmas http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qzHfQk7ATU0 . Brenda Lee’s  Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_6xNuUEnh2g and Bobby Helms’ Jingle Bell Rock  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=itcMLwMEeMQ seem never to get old, in fact they have been recorded by others. 1980’s new wave rocker  Billy Idol did a classy version of the latter http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=itcMLwMEeMQ nor can we forget the legendary Chuck Berry who recorded Run Run Rudolph http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KCTeXUkTFwQ&list=PLD104FAECADC5F176 which has also had many artists release it since Berry first did.

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The members of the Beatles are not absent from the list. The Beatles released a version of Christmas Time is Here Again http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a4vE5DnFWV0  while the members of the Fab Four all released Christmas songs. John Lennon’s  Happy Christmas (War is Over) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XPm3CWvDmvc  is a modern classic. Paul McCartney and Wings turned Wonderful Christmas Time http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R1-sXrdQtog into a massive hit. Ringo Starr’s Glam Rock Come On Christmas, Christmas Come On  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aaguXYTXYoA was less memorable while George Harrison’s Ding Dong, Ding Dong was an upbeat and funny song http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VggAH1dk3Qk .

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Peter Noone and Herman’s Hermit’s released a version of O Holy Night http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sfOqingPZzk while The Beach Boy’s Little Saint Nick http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aSynDh_K0EE brought us a very California rendition of a Santa Song. Simon and Garfunkel did Comfort and Joy (God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3uB_oFQXv3w

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Some of the biggest acts of the 1970s had popular Christmas releases including Gary Glitter who released Another Rock ‘n’ Roll Christmas http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kn06NJzYQc4 . Freddie Mercury and Queen released Thank God it’s Christmas http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FIUmggOhHCM and the Eagles Please Come Home for Christmas http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J1AaMe1KbwE was a pleading look at a broken relationship. Chicago had a number of Christmas releases including Christmas Time is Here  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d8B0jyKBF4U and O Come All Ye Faithful http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G-9hrvoFpp4 .

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They were not alone British rocker Cliff Richard released Christmas Time http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U9U0R1kCRzU, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers performed Christmas All Over Again http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gaPj1GoDpQw. Foghat released a version of All I want for Christmas is You http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SUv7T_Uq6QU, Bruce Springsteen did Santa Claus is Coming to Town  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6CIebZ4RtgY and The Bee Gees Thank You For Christmas http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9rm6pI8ybtA .

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The groups of the late 1970s and early to mid 1980s are represented. Blondie has always been one of my favorite groups. This is a fairly recent release of We Three Kings http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0vecWPafdDQ while Pat Benatar released a somewhat patriotic song called Christmas in America  http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xwgmps_pat-benatar-christmas-in-america_music, maybe we as Americans need to be thankful for what we have at Christmas.

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The classic bad girl, Joan Jett did the Little Drummer Boy http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I3Qwx8OTV-k , the Girl Band the Bangles performed A Hazy Shade of Winter http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QvvSQkUK-t4.  One of the more unusual acts who not only did a Christmas song but an entire Heavy Metal Christmas Album was Twisted Sister who have a classic version of White Christmas http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6_1X-VEhHFc.

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Classic Rockers Stevie Nicks and Rod Stewart did nice versions of classics, Stevie did  Silent Night http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZZPyphUNO6k while Stewart performed  White Christmas  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5EvQOmjXCxc.

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Like I said, this list is not exhaustive. Since as I do it I keep remembering more I figure I will stop for the night and hope that at least some of these songs help get you into the spirit of the season. After all, there is so much negativity that whether you are a Christian or not the season does present us all the chance to maybe see something positive in ourselves and our neighbors. So with Elton John I invite you my friends to Step Into Christmas http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eDqi8ENS1FU

 

 

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Padre Steve’s Favorite Non-Religious Christmas and Holiday Music

I love Christmas music and of course that music spans both the sacred realm as well as the not so sacred realm. Today I was in a store amid crowds or rather hoards of crazed 6 and a half shopping days until Christmas trying to avoid being trampled when behold I heard the soothing sounds of Karen Carpenter singing Have yourself a Merry Little Christmas. In the maelstrom of the merchandise mad mom’s and toy seeking tots and guys praying that if they just spend enough money that they can win their sweetheart’s heart one more time the song took me away to a peaceful place far, far away until a wild eyed woman dove into the clearance bin that I was standing by nearly knocking me down like a linebacker blitzing a defenseless quarterback.

Despite the fact that my foray into the fog and confusion of war nearly caused me injury the mere thought of that song in the sad yet soothing voice of Karen Carpenter I began to think of other Christmas and Holiday songs that I like which are not of the sacred variety.  So here they are, Padre Steve’s favorite non-religious Christmas and Holiday music songs.

From a sentimental point of view my absolute favorite is Karen Carpenter’s version of Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.  I don’t know what it is about the song but it is one of those rare songs that calms me and makes me appreciate the relational aspects of Christmas.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8vZwWJMAoTA

Not far down my sentimental favorites list is Bing Crosby and his timeless performance of White Christmas http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aShUFAG_WgM which as I understand is the most popular Christmas song ever recorded even in Tajikistan.

Nate King Cole recorded this beautiful song back in 1946 The Christmas Song http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iG5VPji-SpU and early rock and roll Christmas songs like Bobby Helms’ Jingle Bell Rock and Rocking around the Christmas Tree by Brenda Lee and if you think of Rock and Roll you have to include the King, Elvis Presley and Blue Christmas. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7ODrPL9-kEs&feature=related

One of the earliest Christmas songs that I remember was Christmas don’t be Late by Alvin and the Chipmunks. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lzTG0fTLAlU I heard it today at the local 7-Eleven and had a wonderful chat with the lady behind the counter.

Feliz Navidad by Jose Feliciano http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lzTG0fTLAlU is one of the few things in Spanish that I know besides what is on the menu at Mexican restaurants.

The title song to A Charlie Brown Christmas entitled Christmas Time is Here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GPG3zSgm_Qo was always one of my favorites mainly because I have always loved that show.

Since there are very few songs about New Year I have to mention Happy New Year by Abba http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dcLMH8pwusw&feature=related

My golden old kid Christmas songs include Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j6OC7Y4n3xs and Here Comes Santa Claus http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i0BOIdwUiqA&feature=related by Gene Autry

Then there are the more irreverent songs like Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer by Randy and Ronnie Brooks http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iG5VPji-SpU

I could go on and you could probably add more songs so in the last few days before Christmas, take a few minutes to enjoy the music, and without getting hurt at the mall have a wonderful Christmas.

Peace

Padre Steve+

 

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