Back in 1987 The Eurythmics sang a version of “Winter Wonderland” which was played so frequently in the five years ending in 2007 that ASCAP claimed it topped all holiday songs for that period written by one of its members.
The song was written in 1934 by Felix Bernard and lyricist Richard Bernhard Smith and first recorded by a man named Richard Himber later that year. It’s been recorded by at least 200 artists in the 85 years since.
Here’s a find: what Rolling Stone considers 40 Essential Holiday Albums. The author is obviously wrong. He did not include Bette Midler’s 2011 album “Cool Yule”. Here’s “I’ve Got My Love to Keep Me Warm,” yet another Irving Berlin composition. It was written in 1937 for the musical “On the Avenue,” starring Dick Powell and Alice Faye.
Lady Antebellum sings and plays “The First Noël” from their 2012 album “On This Winter’s Night.”. The song itself was written sometime between the early 1500s and the late 1700s in Cornwall. Its text was first published in England in 1823.
I knew none of that history when I learned to play it on accordion back about 1959 in Los Angeles.
Here’s a case in point. “Angels We Have Heard on High” is performed here by a cover band called “Foxes and Fossils.” They have three young ladies who sing exquisite harmony, and it’s shown to their advantage with this song.
The song itself is a loose translation of a French song, “Les Anges dans nos campagnes,” with English lyrics by James Chadwick, a Roman Catholic priest and Bishop of Hexham and Newcastle in the 19th century.
Look up the Foxes and Fossils channel on YouTube. You won’t regret it.
The Ventures play a rousing version of “Sleigh Ride” on their 1965 album “The Ventures’ Christmas Album.” The band inspired untold numbers of guitarists in its time and was among the first to use fuzz-tones and special effects to enhance its guitar sound. While three of the original band members have died and the fourth has retired, the band continues to tour, especially in Japan where it is extraordinarily popular.
Mary Chapin Carpenter sings “Christmas Time in the City,” from her “Come Darkness, Come Light” album. It was released in 2008, so I’ve been promoting it for 10 years and will probably do so another ten, if I live that long. It’s a beautiful album, half original compositions by Carpenter, some with guitarist and co-producer John Jennings. The other six cuts are traditional but seldom heard on commercial radio or Muzak.
Jim Reeves sings “Silver Bells.” Reeves was a fixture in Nashville beginning in the Fifties until his death in a plane crash in 1964 at the age of 40. He was one of the first “Nashville Sound” recording artists, in which fiddles and steel guitars were dropped and strings and choruses were added.
I’ve never seen a single episode of “Glee,” which is no reflection on the show or its stars. Here’s “Christmas in New York,” co-written and sung by one of those stars, Lea Michele. It’s from her 2019 Christmas in the City album.
I haven’t posted this in a while (not since 2015, to be exact), and I’d forgotten how cute the cartoon is. The animation was done by cartoonist Joshua Held back in 2002. The song was performed by The Drifters on their 1954 Christmas album.
“We wanted to do something different with ‘White Christmas’,” Bill Pinkney said in his autobiography, Drifters 1. “We did it in a ballad-with-a-beat version that became a big hit. Atlantic [Records] wondered what composer Irving Berlin would think. He surprised everyone when he gave our version his blessings. He really liked it and he contacted Atlantic with a letter of congratulations.”
For a more extensive history of the song please see my 2018 post.