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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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Jesus and the Top 40

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“And the three men I admire most, The Father, Son and the Holy Ghost, They caught the last train for the coast The day the music died” Don McLean American Pie 

Back in the 1960s to the early 1980s God was not absent from the Top 40. In fact back then it seemed that even non-believers were okay with Jesus. However by the late 1980s and early 1990s much of that good feeling had died away. Few artists would take up songs with spiritual or religious themes, especially those of Western Christianity after that, unless they were artists who cloistered themselves in the self licking ice cream cone and ghetto of the Contemporary Christian Music industry. That is sad because many of these artists are quite talented but through the separatist tendencies of many churches and “Christian” publishers these artists seldom ever break out. Some like Amy Grant have, but she is a rare exception and she has been rejected by many in the church who in her early years were devotees.

I guess that some of the reasons are that many artists had little religious background and for many of those who did their religious experience was negative. This is an indictment of the church if you ask me, both mainline churches and Evangelical churches. Part I am sure was that many churches, be they “liberal” mainline churches or “conservative” or “fundamental” churches lost any real sense of a God that transcended severely political, ideological or doctrinal beliefs that regular people could relate to. As Pope Francis noted about “ideological Christians:

“And when a Christian becomes a disciple of the ideology, he has lost the faith: he is no longer a disciple of Jesus, he is a disciple of this attitude of thought… For this reason Jesus said to them: ‘You have taken away the key of knowledge.’ The knowledge of Jesus is transformed into an ideological and also moralistic knowledge, because these close the door with many requirements.”

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But back in the 1960s to early 1980s quite a few artists included references to God and Jesus in their music. In fact even if they were not believers themselves they were at least aware of the ideas, concepts and traditions of faith and included them in often unique ways in their “secular” music.

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Here are some of those songs.

Doobie Brothers: Jesus is Just Alright http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SwbGjzF3mB0

Kris Kristofferson: Why Me Lord http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mtQOY-0sViQ

Norman Greenbaum: Spirit in the Sky http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-cXrEPNvRO8

Ray Stevens: Everything is Beautiful http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mlwfGh-SVXw

Petula Clark: I Don’t Know How to Love Him http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aiBmvy0nR8g

ZZ Top: Jesus Just Left Chicago https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pN69GC2amTg&feature=player_embedded

Jesus Christ Superstar: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BGYi1qJkb0M

Don McLean: American Pie http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y0Y_XRiJsCI

Simon and Garfunkel: Bridge over Troubled Water http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C-PNun-Pfb4 and Sound of Silence http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dTCNwgzM2rQ

David Bowie: Word on a Wing http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q-ojMnEEmU4

Sister Janet Meade: The Lord’s Prayer http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bd4iJkNCaZ8

Godspell: Day By Day http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P3PjfBQjJT8

Cat Stevens: Morning has Broken http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1TWd3skb-Rw

Ocean: Put Your Hand in the Hand: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JI1DiddWCKs&feature=player_embedded

Paul Stookey: The Wedding Song (There is Love) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A1v84WKC6Pg

Bob Dylan: Gotta Serve Somebody http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4cJhIu8PUFI

Some of these songs are true hymns or Gospel songs, others based at least loosely on the life of Jesus or scripture. Others are the artists interpretation of faith or of something that was a part of their experience of God and faith. This doesn’t mean that the theology in all of these songs was good, but it does show that faith regardless of its lack of perfection can still be an important part of life in the public square.

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My hope is that new artists whether they are believers or not will rediscover the more transcendent and eternal dimensions of life and faith. I hope that they will be able to separate the knowledge of Jesus from the more ideological and moralistic aspects of faith and re-imagine the transcendent parts of life which have over the last 30 years or so for the most part disappeared from popular music.

Why me Lord, what have I ever done, To deserve even one, Of the pleasures I’ve known

Tell me Lord, what did I ever do, That was worth loving you, Or the kindness you’ve shown… Kris Kristofferson “Why” 

Enjoy and hopefully be inspired.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Padre Steve’s Favorite Peace, Protest and Social Justice Songs

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I grew up in the turbulent times of the 1960s and 1970s. I can remember when Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr were assassinated. I remember the terrible massacre at My Lai in Vietnam. I remember the racism that was part of the fabric of the times that I grew up, the struggles of African Americans, Asians, Mexican Americans and other minorities to become part of our society and the struggles of women for equality and the emergence of the Gay rights movement. I guess that means I have just a bit of non-conformist radical in me. Oh well, could be worse.

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That was a turbulent time and one of the key elements in it was the music. The music often provided an entry for people who might otherwise have not supported various people’s struggle for justice, equality and peace.

I am not going to go into a lot of detail about each song but each has a message. Some were not in your face protest songs, but they became anthems for various movements. While one does not have to agree with the message of the songs or evens the movements that they have come to represent it is hard not to deny their importance in the shaping of our country over the past 50 years.

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One of the saddest songs of the era was Dion DiMucci’s Abraham, Martin and John http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KPdYViBu0is which was a ballad about the assassinations of Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King Jr and John F Kennedy.

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Barry McGuire’ Eve of Destruction http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ExH7h9Lk5HY was one of the most acclaimed and derided songs of the era. Released in 1965 it boldly attacked many injustices in society. After McGuire became a Born Again Christian he released a similar song called Don’t Blame God for the Sins of America http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y3HjUOxy-O8 is a haunting rock song that though written and released in 1974 that speaks truth even today.

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Coven’s haunting One Tin Soldier http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_XoETkduqPs was the theme song for the film Billy Jack. It is a song that speaks of the greed that underlies so many wars and the terrible cost of those wars.

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Paul Revere and the Raiders Cherokee Nation http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_ojRQ15My7s spoke of the crimes committed against the Cherokee’s and other Native American tribes over the course of American history.

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Helen Reddy’s hit I am Woman http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mmifO2sKT7g became the anthem of the Women’s rights movement.

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Edwin Starr’s War What is it Good For? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=01-2pNCZiNk is a classic and blatant anti-Vietnam war protest song that reached number one on Billboard’s Hot 100 in 1969. It has endured and was placed on a list of inappropriate songs by the conservative talk radio conglomerate Clear Channel after the  attacks of 9-11-2001.

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Bruce Springsteen’s Born in the USA http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tIekamBDiAw&list=PLE40E6F3D5BB9DC23&index=13 deals with the effects of the Vietnam War on Americans. Released in 1984 ten years after the end of the war and two years after the dedication of the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial Wall.

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Bob Dylan’s Blowin in the Wind http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vWwgrjjIMXA though considered by many to be a protest song is more of an introspective and philosophical song dealing with questions of war, peace and freedom.

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The folk trio of Peter Paul and Mary was deeply involved with much of the 1960s protest movement and their songs, particularly The Times they are a Changing http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1oU7M4OeSRM and If I Had a Hammer http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VaWl2lA7968 are legendary.

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The Kingston Trio recorded Pete Seeger’s Where Have All the Flowers Gone? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uBtT9NfWtbE in 1961. Seeger had adapted it from a Cossack folk song which Seeger learned of when reading Mikhail Sholokhov novel And Quiet Flows the Don. It is considered one of the most influential political songs ever written and been recorded by many more artists over the years.

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Isley Brothers Fight the Power http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_tLp3p4okmg which was release in 1975 was noted for its use of the word “bullshit” which was censored on the radio and its negative portrayal of authority figures in general.

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Bo Donaldson and the Heywoods Billy Don’t Be a Hero http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H0lKmznjgfQ was also released by Paper Lace. In 1974, its anti-war message, couched in terms of the story of a Civil War soldier who leaves his fiancee to volunteer. The Heywood’s version hit number one in the US and Canada while the Paper Lace version hit number one in England, but never charted above number 96 on the US Hot 100.

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Inspired by Dylan’s Blowing in the Wind the legendary Sam Cooke wrote and recorded A Change is Gonna Come http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NaNzxniXxYE Cooke was inspired to write the first draft following a sit-in protest in Durham North Carolina in 1963. The song was released following his death and was recorded and released later by Otis Redding.

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Simon and Garfunkel Sound of Silence http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9hUy9ePyo6Q was written and recorded following the assassination of John F Kennedy.

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Creedence Clearwater Revival’s Fortunate Son http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JBfjU3_XOaA released in 1969 was a protest song about the Vietnam War and criticism of the children of political and economic power brokers who avoided serving in the war. It was used in the movie Forrest Gump.

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Janice Ian’s At Seventeen http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VMUz2TNMvL0 is a song about the ugly ducking’s, and the cruelty of adolescents, school popularity and the fears and anxieties of growing up.

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Aretha Franklin’s Respect http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-o1Bg7yBxQo released in 1965 is considered a hallmark of the Feminist Movement.

Don McLean American Pie

Don McLean’s American Pie http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tr-BYVeCv6U is not really a protest song, but the poetry of the song which deals with the death of Buddy Holly in 1959 touches on a wide range of themes and issues of the 1960s and early 1970s.

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The Hollies He Ain’t Heavy He’s My Brother http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C1KtScrqtbc is another one of those songs that isn’t a protest song, but does speak of responsibility for others.

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Vicki Lawrence’s The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NaTH3a7u8kU talks of the injustice found in a small Georgia town when an innocent man is arrested, tried, convicted and executed for a murder that he did not commit and the revenge found by his sister.

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The Byrds Turn, Turn, Turn http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q95iQJk-nq8 was adapted from the Bible, the Book of Ecclesiastes by Pete Seeger. Though Seeger recorded it the song became a major hit when recored and released by the Byrds. Though written as a folk song it is most often noted as a plea and prayer for peace.

And with that I wish you peace,

Padre Steve+

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