He deserves every bit of it, but it’s still a heck of a thing to watch. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield, CA) has wanted to be Speaker his entire career, and I think he thought he’d be voted in the minute the Republicans took control of the House. He didn’t expect the farthest-right loonies in his party would block his election. For the past three days he’s been on the wrong end of thirteen votes to name a new Speaker of the House and the Republican party looks like a bunch of fools. Meanwhile, the Democrats are solidly behind their new leader Hakeem Jeffries (who was elected to replace Nancy Pelosi when she stepped down as leader of the Democrats), giving him all 212 of their votes each time.
McCarthy has had to make so many concessions to the likes of Matt Gaetz and Lauren Boebert and Bob Good that the office of Speaker is going to be worth as much as a bucket of warm s*it, as John Nance Garner once said of the Vice Presidency of the US.
Without further ado, we’ll listen as Michele Obama reads “Twas the Night Before Christmas,” Clement Clark Moore’s wonderful 1823 poem. Moore didn’t acknowledge his authorship until he published a book of poems in 1844. There’s apparently an ongoing dispute among some literati and academics as to whether he was the actual author. He was quite a character. He got extremely rich subdividing his inherited real estate on Manhattan Island, and he donated the land on which the Episcopal General Theological Seminary now sits as it has since 1827.
The former First Lady read this in 2013. She’s nearly as good an interpretive reader as her husband.
Let’s hear a musical version of the poem performed by Fred Waring and His Pennsylvanians. Waring was an interesting character. He was a bandleader, radio and TV personality, and a promoter. He backed the inventor of the Waring blendor to the tune of $25,000, apparently getting the naming rights to the gadget. “…the Waring-owned Miracle Mixer was introduced to the public at the National Restaurant Show in Chicago retailing for $29.75. In 1938, Fred Waring renamed his Miracle Mixer Corporation as the Waring Corporation, and the mixer’s name was changed to the Waring Blendor (the “o” in blendor giving it a slight distinction from “blender”).”
That could only be Frank Sinatra accompanied by Nat King Cole singing “The Christmas Song,” written by Mel Tormé and Bob Wells on what Tormé claimed was the hottest day of the year back in July of 1945.
Here’s Mark Evanier relating his tale of Mr. Tormé at the Farmers’ Market in LA a long time ago. It’s a very funny story, particularly since the kids hadn’t a clue who the roly-poly guy who offered to sing a verse was.
The song was first performed on Christmas Eve 1818 at St Nicholas parish church in Oberndorf, a village in the Austrian Empire on the Salzach river in present-day Austria. A young priest, Father Joseph Mohr, had come to Oberndorf the year before. He had written the lyrics of the song “Stille Nacht” in 1816 at Mariapfarr, the hometown of his father in the Salzburg Lungau region, where Joseph had worked as a co-adjutor.
The melody was composed by Franz Xaver Gruber, schoolmaster and organist in the nearby village of Arnsdorf. Before Christmas Eve, Mohr brought the words to Gruber and asked him to compose a melody and guitar accompaniment for the Christmas Eve mass, after river flooding had damaged the church organ. It is unknown what inspired Mohr to write the lyrics, or what prompted him to create a new carol.
Bing Crosby’s version has sold some 30 million copies, making it the third best-selling single record of all time behind Crosby’s “White Christmas” and Elton John’s tribute to Princess Diana “Candle in the Wind/Something About the Way You Look Tonight.”
I haven’t posted this in a while (not since 2009, 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 Christmas album, released in 1954.
“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.”
Yesterday it was “city sidewalks” from “Silver Bells,” so let’s have another song about a city.
Originally posted December 2019
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 14 years and will probably do so for at least that long again, 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.
I hear this song and immediately think of snow falling between skyscrapers, piling up below window displays, and viewed through neon lights (in short, I think of Rockefeller Center in New York). You’d think, given the first line of the song, that people mashing up video would use city street scenes to accompany “Silver Bells.” This is the first one I found which actually did. It’s Dean Martin sounding like he’s had one martini more than was wise.
This was the first song the duo at the restaurant I had brunch at today played after setting up their ukulele and stand-up bass.
Here’s local girl Bette Midler singing “Mele Kalikimaka” from her 2006 album “Cool Yule”.
The song was written in 1949 by Robert Alexander Anderson, another local. He was born in Honolulu in 1894 and wrote more than 100 songs about the islands. This one and “Lovely Hula Hands” are his most famous compositions.
The first major recording of the song was probably that done by Bing Crosby. He was a regular golf partner of Anderson’s when Bing was in the islands, and Anderson played it for him shortly after writing it. In 1950 Crosby recorded it with The Andrews Sisters and made a present of it to Anderson.
Canadian Loreena McKennitt sings “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” from her “Midwinter’s Night Dream” album released in 2008. It is one of the oldest of the English carols, dating back to at least the 16th century. The first printed version appeared in 1760. It’s even referred to in Dickens’s A Christmas Carol: “… at the first sound of ‘God bless you, merry gentlemen! May nothing you dismay!’, Scrooge seized the ruler with such energy of action that the singer fled in terror, leaving the keyhole to the fog and even more congenial frost.”
McKennitt has used Middle Eastern instruments on her version, a callback to the place where the events being commemorated took place.