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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 Traditional Country Christmas

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I grew up in a house with a lot of music. My parents both liked Country Western music, though my dad was more of the fan of it, while mom had much more eclectic musical taste, from rock, to R & B and top 40 Pop music. As a result I was exposed to a lot of different musical genres and the Christmas music played around our house reflected that diversity. I have written a number of articles about Christmas music, the latest more focused on Rock and R & B.

Since I have done those I figured I would add to the mix with the Country and Western Christmas music that I grew up with, which I consider to be classic. What you won’t find in this particular list is anything new, and by that I mean anything done in the last 20 years. This is a conscious choice on my part and not because I dislike the new Country music sound or artists. I actually want to reintroduce people to some of the classics, the artists who made the overwhelming success of the modern artists possible.

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Like R & B Country and Western music comes out of the unique experiences of Americans. The unique styles of the the artists even when they perform traditional Christmas music comes through to make a distinctive sound. Like the R & B artists the Country and Western artists also wrote and performed Christmas music the spoke to both the joys and heartaches of life, especially of lost loves and loneliness.

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Lynn Anderson’s Don’t Wish Me a Merry Christmas http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xwd0OvuxtV8 is a song that speaks of losing love and the pain of a broken relationship.

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Loretta Lynn’s To Heck with Old Santa Claus http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vEc65BgbK3c is a funny song about a person who didn’t get they wanted for Christmas. She also recorded A Good Old Country Christmas http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5x5Ws_fiVVE and the sad Christmas Without Daddy http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5x5Ws_fiVVE

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George Jones released Lonely Christmas Call http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZvHocPrFcTU another sad song of a broken family and kids missing their mother. Merle Haggard did Daddy Won’t Be Home Again for Christmas http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hjZ1qCoJyck

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Buck Owens’ All I Want for Christmas Dear is You http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_973SwUSvz8 is another song about missing a loved on at Christmas.

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Ernest Tubb was one of the first to perform Blue Christmas http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MPz6fge6vBM later made famous by Elvis Presley.

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Tammy Wynette’s (Merry Christmas) We Must be Having One http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G5SHleiV08A speaks of Christmas together while Barbara Mandrell’s It Must Have Been the Mistletoe http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cD7NmzQjKDg speaks of love discovered at Christmas. The Silver Fox Charlie Rich recorded the fun Santa Claus’ Daughter http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nmoA0Zt7xuU

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Kenny Rogers did Kentucky Homemade Christmas http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wQHnFCMlTlg talks of Christmas in a poverty stricken home. Rogers also teamed up with Dolly Parton on The Greatest Gift of All http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Eap7smYFalg a song about love at Christmas.

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Freddy Fender’s If Christmas Comes to Your House http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ltluy_tUkak speaks of sharing Christmas with a child who is sad because of his parents divorce.

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Glen Campbell released the classic Christmas is for Children http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dZ_RJjdMyCE in 1968.

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Willie Nelson along with a number of other artists did Pretty Paper http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MqNFdFbo8cA and Porter Wagoner recorded a song about a young boy asking Santa for a Christmas tree and his dad feeling bad about being poor called Johnny’s Christmas Tree http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=blIOyH2Q2Kw and how his prayer was answered.

Roy Clark

Going to more traditional songs, Roy Clark did a nice rendition of The Christmas Song http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aSY9szl2bnQ and Johnny Cash did I’ll Be Home for Christmas http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y3LZr6dSM8A

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Jim Reeves did Silver Bells http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RYIv9IPkxJQ and Connie Smith recorded What Child is This? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DVkW0MJkUjU .

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Anne Murray recorded Away in a Manger http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uOPkImLx8YA and teamed up with John Denver on The Christmas Song http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AqEBdqxQQeY . Waylon Jennings and Jessi Colter did Silent Night http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nZbLujMQJ40 while Jim Neighbors lent his amazing voice on O Come All Ye Faithful http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mkxAaDfkxYg

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But perhaps my favorite Country Christmas Song is Dolly Parton’s Hard Candy Christmas http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pttkAyWvAhU was featured in the musical Best Little Whorehouse in Texas http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0A3amYOiZms

So wherever you are in whatever circumstance this Christmas season finds you I hope that you find hope and comfort in these songs.

Until tomorrow,

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Doing the Sidestep: The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas and American Politics and Media

After the past week of seriousness I have decided to take a night off of the news and even away from ESPN before driving to see Judy tomorrow for the long weekend. After watching a couple episodes of 30 Rock and walking and playing with Molly I decided to watch a couple of more light hearted movies.

The first was The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas a classic musical comedy from 1982 starring Dolly Parton, Burt Reynolds, Dom Deluise, Jim Neighbors and Charles Durning as the Governor.  Based on the real life closing of the Chicken Ranch brothel near LeGrange Texas in 1973 I have always liked it.  The music is nice to relax to and I find the social commentary quite poignant about holy than thou media types that use their power to sensationalize stories and most politicians have no morality other than the latest poll numbers. My inner Libertarian actually thinks that the media and government should stay out of people’s private lives as Sheriff Ed Earl (Burt Reynolds) said “I’ve been fightin’ crime all my life but let’s not confuse crime with committing a sin. You can’t legislate morality.”

Dom Deluise portrays a consumer watchdog reporter for a Houston television station named Melvin P Thorp.  The song Texas has a Whorehouse in It is emblematic of such reporters methods.

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 Despite my attempt to avoid politics tonight I did get a laugh as Durning playing the governor answered a reporter’s question about what he thought of the Middle East saying “I was sayin’ just this morning at the weekly prayer breakfast, in this historic capital, that it behooves both the Jews and the Arabs to settle their differences in a Christian manner!”

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But the best is the song “Sidestep” the lyrics of which are below. The song sounds like it could come out of the mouth of any of our Presidential candidates that have either run for office or been elected in the past 50 years, with the possible exception of Ron Paul.  But the song sounds just like speeches I hear from those on the campaign trail on the news every night.

Fellow Texans, I am proudly standing here to humbly see.

I assure you, and I mean it- Now, who says I don’t speak out as plain as day?

And, fellow Texans, I’m for progress and the flag- long may it fly.

I’m a poor boy, come to greatness. So, it follows that I cannot tell a lie.

Ooh I love to dance a little sidestep, now they see me now they don’t-

I’ve come and gone and, ooh I love to sweep around the wide step,

cut a little swathe and lead the people on.

Now my good friends, it behooves me to be solemn and declare,

I’m for goodness and for profit and for living clean and saying daily prayer.

And now, my good friends, you can sleep nights, I’ll continue to stand tall.

You can trust me, for I promise, I shall keep a watchful eye upon ya’ll…

Ooh I love to dance a little sidestep, now they see me now they don’t-

I’ve come and gone and, ooh I love to sweep around the wide step,

cut a little swathe and lead the people on.

Now, Miss Mona, I don’t know her, though I’ve heard the name, oh yes.

But, of course I’ve no close contact, so what she is doing I can only guess.

And now, Miss Mona, she’s a blemish on the face of that good town.

I am taking certain steps here, someone somewhere’s gonna have to close her down.

Ooh I love to dance a little sidestep, now they see me now they don’t-

I’ve come and gone and, ooh I love to sweep around the wide step,

cut a little swathe and lead the people on.

Ooh I love to dance a little sidestep…

And, ooh I love to sweep around the wide step…

Cut a little swathe and lead the people on

So anyway, a little humor can help all of us navigate the current election season.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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