A LOT of Christmas music

Queen of Christmas

lot of christmas songsI have a LOT of Christmas music, 100 LPs and CDs or more. This is why I rarely listen to the radio stations playing holiday music between Thanksgiving (and some even earlier) and December 25. With all the music available, why are so many stations limited to a few dozen recordings?

It’s not that I MIND them. But When my wife tunes in, I’ll hear the same song, often by the same artist, every three or four days. A lot of them are almost as old as I am. Understand I like a lot of them, but still.

Feliz Navidad – José Feliciano
White Christmas – Bing Crosby
Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer – Burl Ives
Little Saint Nick – The Beach Boys
Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree – Brenda Lee

Jingle Bell Rock – Bobby Helms
Blue Christmas – Elvis Presley
Sleigh Ride – Ella Fitzgerald
Santa Baby – Eartha Kitt
Santa Claus Is Comin’ To Town – Jackson 5
The Little Drummer Boy/Peace On Earth – Bing Crosby/David Bowie
plus various cuts by Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and more Bing

Not that I would ever complain about hearing songs from that Phil Spector album, such as:
Here Comes Santa Claus (Down Santa Claus Lane) – Bob B. Soxx and the Blue Jeans
Frosty the Snowman – The Ronettes
Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) – Darlene Love

There are those “newer” songs if you want to call a quarter century “new”:  All I Want For Christmas Is You – Mariah Carey. And speaking of Carey, her desire to trademark the term “Queen of Christmas” is pretentious and ill-advised. Darlene Love and Elizabeth Chan have raised serious objections, as they should.


Here’s a link from four years ago. Besides the part about Nowell We Sing Clear, there are some of my favorite pieces, including by Tom Petty, Julie Andrews, and Stevie Wonder.

Halloween songs, of a sort


Halloween not XmasI decided to pick some Halloween songs, mostly because I haven’t done so in years. The only criterion is that it has to be something I own in physical form, with the exception of the second Bach. That means no Disturbia by Rihanna or Bury A Friend by Billie Eilish.


Ghost Riders In The Sky -Sons of the Pioneers
Witchcraft – Frank Sinatra. OK, a bit of a cheat.


Monster Mash – Bobby “Boris” Picket
The Purple People Eater – Sheb Wooley
Nature Trail To Hell – Weird Al When he reviewed all of the Weird Al tracks, SamuraiFrog/Aaron noted that this song is about a minute too long; fair assessment. 


Season Of The Witch – Donovan
Celtic Rock – Donovan

Classic rock

I Put A Spell On You – Creedence Clearwater Revival; I don’t think I have the Screamin’ Jay Hawkins version
People Are Strange – The Doors
Sympathy For The Devil – The Rolling Stones
Black Magic Woman  – Santana; I don’t have the Fleetwood Mac version
Boris The Spider – The Who


Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps) – David Bowie
Psycho Killer – Talking Heads
Werewolves Of London – Warren Zevon; always reminds me of Raoul Vezina of Albany
(Don’t Fear) The Reaper – Blue Öyster Cult
Runnin’ With The Devil – Van Halen

Motown adjacent

Superstition – Stevie Wonder
Thriller – Michael Jackson
Somebody’s Watching Me – Rockwell 


Ghostbusters – Ray Parker Jr. I read at the time that everyone was praising his new video, which he figured was one he had done weeks earlier. Nope, they rushed this one out.
Tubular Bells  Part 1, excerpt – Mike Oldfield. I’ve never seen The Exorcist
The Addams Family – Vic Mizzy
Time Warp from Rocky Horror Picture Show

Get Bach

Two versions of Toccata and Fugue in D Minor. One of my favorite chords of all time is at about 7:30
Virgil Fox 

Ten songs from the sixties

something’s happening here

Someone asked me to list ten songs from the sixties – the 1960s, I assume – that epitomize the decade. This is a ridiculous question, of course, but that never stopped me before.

1. The Twist – Chubby Checker. #1 in both 1960 and 1962. It represents all those dance crazes.

2. Runaround Sue – Dion (1961). A performer from a group, The Belmonts, goes solo.

3. The End Of The World – Skeeter Davis (1963). It went Top Four on all four Billboard charts, the ONLY song of the decade to do so. There have been several country songs that have crossed over, from Roger Miller to Glen Campbell to Jeannie C. Riley’s Harper Valley PTA.

4.  Can’t Buy Me Love – The Beatles (1964). I picked this specific song for two related reasons. This was the first single from their first movie, A Hard Day’s Night. And it was #1 when the group held the top five slots on the Billboard pop charts.

5.  Stop! In The Name Of Love – The Supremes (1965). Their fifth straight #1 hit, showing the group was no fluke. Also, the hand gestures were a bit of Motown choreography. The song was written by Holland-Dozier-Holland, who penned many hits for them, The Four Tops, and other artists.

6. Mr. Tambourine Man – The Byrds (1965). A folk-rock classic that also represents the songwriting of Bob Dylan.

What you want

7. Respect – Aretha Franklin (1967). It is an empowerment anthem and a song that was much more successful than the original, in this case, from Otis Redding. Good Lovin’ (Young Rascals), Go Now (The Moody Blues) – heck, here’s a whole list of artists pulling this off.

8. For What It’s Worth – Buffalo Springfield (1967). It is almost a sixties cliche in that it appeared on many of the era’s compilations. Springfield and the Byrds helped birth CSNY, one of the first of the so-called supergroups.

9. Born To Be Wild – Steppenwolf (1968). There have been songs from movies that have appeared on the pop charts for a long time. But this is one of the first times someone took extant music and used it as the soundtrack, in this case, Easy Rider (1969). Subsequently, this has occurred in films from American Graffiti to American Hustle to every Tarantino flick.

10. Whole Lotta Love – Led Zeppelin (1969). The New Yardbirds morphed into a sound that helped define the NEXT decade.

But what about… Ray Charles, Johnny Cash, Stevie Wonder, James Brown, Marvin Gaye, the Rolling Stones, the Ronettes, Cream? Perfectly good choices. Put them on YOUR list of ten.

Songs Based On Historical Events

based on actual events!

Playbill_from_the_original_Broadway_production_of_HamiltonLooking for something else, I came across Songs Based On Historical Events.

“Many times, we listen to a song, not ever knowing it was based on an actual event in history. The list includes a very brief description of the historical event upon which the song is based, but you can find more by going to the song itself.”

If you have Apple Music, you can hear each of the whole tunes. Otherwise, you get 30 seconds per. So I’m going to link to the ones I could find. But the list is long, so I’ll do it piecemeal. AND I’ll add a little more context to the description where needed.

Also, the individual songs from the musical Hamilton pop up. A lot. I’m not going to list each of those. Listen to the whole thing here or here.

Don’t know much about…

Aberfan – Dulahan — “About the 1966 coal mine disaster in South Wales”. I didn’t know about this event.                                                                                        MY ADDITION: Abraham, Martin, and John –Dion; and also, with What The World Needs Now – Tom Clay. The song alludes to the assassinations of Lincoln (1865), MLK (1968), JFK (1963), and RFK (1968). The Clay version also uses actual 1968 audio clips of MLK’s last speech (April 3), RFK announcing MLK’s death (April 4), the actual RFK shooting (June 5), and Ted Kennedy’s eulogy to his brother (June 8).

Agent Orange – Kamalata — “Connects the use of Agent Orange to earlier U.S. war ‘activities'”. I knew a US serviceman who died from Agent Orange in the early 1980s, despite the government denials
A Great Day For Freedom  – Pink Floyd — “About the aftermath of the Berlin Wall collapse” in 1989.

A League of Notions – Al Stewart [with Lawrence Juber] — “About the League of Nations”, the predecessor of the United Nations after WWI. The US never joined.
Alice’ Restaurant [Massacree]- Arlo Guthrie –“An 18-minute long satirical account of 60s counterculture. Based on a real event” he experienced with his friend Rick Robbins in 1967. But a historical one? It HAS become a Thanksgiving tradition.
All And Everyone -PJ Harvey –“About the battle of Gallipoli.” At dawn on 25 April 1915, Allied troops landed on the Gallipoli peninsula in Ottoman Turkey, eventually knocking Turkey out of World War I.
All The Things She Said – Simple Minds — About Polish political prisoners who had been in Russia since the end of WWII

Dead musicians and other things

All Those Years Ago – George Harrison — “A tribute to John Lennon which references his 1980 assassination as well as events from his life”

America Pie – by Don McLean –“Music and social history for the roughly ten years after Buddy Holly’s death in 1959”
American Witch “- Rob Zombie — “About the Salem Witchcraft trials” between February 1692 and May 1693.
Amerigo – Patti Smith — “About Amerigo Vespucci’s 1497 voyage to America.” He’s the guy the Americas are named for.

Antarctica – Al Stewart — “About the exploits of Robert Falcon Scott and Sir Ernest Shackleton,” and their disputes in the first decade of the 20th century
Angel – Sarah McLachlan –” About the drug overdose of Smashing Pumpkins keyboardist Jonathan Melvoin” on July 12, 1996
Anthem For A Lost Cause – Manic Street Preachers — About the destitution caused by a 1980s mining strike” in Great Britain

A Pot In Which To Piss – Titus Andronicus — “About the Civil War”
April 29, 1992 (Miami) – Sublime — About the L.A. riots of 1992
Avalon Of The Heart – Van Morrison — “About the Arthur legend.” which may be based on a real person from history, possibly a Celtic warlord of the late 400s CE.

Christmas favorites

Time to start ANSWERING those Ask Roger Anything questions. And you may STILL pose your queries.

Tom the Mayor asked:

What is your Favorite Christmas Song, not devotional, but popular, e.g., “White Christmas”?

This is similar to that asked by noted author Jaquandor:

I imagine by the time you answer these it’ll be after Christmas…

Well, in the Christian calendar, we’re in Christmastide until Epiphany, which is Three Kings Day on January 6, so we’re still good.

…but what’s your favorite Christmas song?

Besides the aforementioned Stevie Wonder and Julie Andrews songs:

Since Tom mentioned White Christmas, I should note Mele Kalikimaka -Bing Crosby with the Andrews Sisters
White Christmas -The Drifters
Christmas All Over Again – Tom Petty
Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) – Darlene Love
Christmas Wrapping – The Waitresses
Coventry Carol – Alison Moyet
Christmastime is Here – Vince Guaraldi
The Mistletoe and Me – Isaac Hayes
This Christmas – Donny Hathaway
Winter Snow – Booker T & the MGs (starts at 2:30)
Happy Xmas (War Is Over) – John Lennon and Yoko Ono
Jingle Bells – The Fab 4, which is NOT the Beatles
Santa Claus is Coming to Town – the Jackson 5. But not so much the version by the moving snowman The Daughter brought down from the attic last week.

I’m a sucker for pretty much any version of Little Drummer Boy, mostly because I used to sing it in church as a child. So it’s OK by Harry Simeone Chorale (the single I grew up with), or Bing & Bowie (I watched that program when it first broadcast, just after Crosby died) or a number of others.

BTW, Jaquandor makes a good case for Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas, but NOT by a certain crooner. Which reminded me, somehow, of the saddest Christmas song, “I’ll Be Home For Christmas.” I heard Kim and Reggie Harris sing it several years ago; damn thing made me cry.

Jaquandor also asked a few other questions:

Least favorite [Christmas song]?

It tends to be more VERSIONS of songs. Run, Rudolph, Run by Chuck Berry is OK, but the version by Bryan Adams irritates me. I have some compilation albums, and on virtually every country album, when someone sings O Little Town…, they pronounce it Beth-LEE- Hem, instead of Beth-LEH-Hem; astonishingly grating.

That said, Dominick the Christmas Donkey by Lou Monte is probably my least favorite song. While others get tiresome from repeated listening, this one I hated from the outset.

Favorite [Christmas] movie?

Tough one. Just haven’t seen a lot of them; never saw Elf or Christmas Vacation, e.g. Just saw Miracle on 34th Street last year for the first time, and it had its charms. I guess I’ll pick It’s A Wonderful Life, maybe because I misjudged it as pablum, sight unseen, maybe because it was deemed as possible Commie propaganda.

But I always love A Christmas Carol. The George C. Scott version is my favorite, though I’m quite fond of versions with Alistair Sim, and with Mr. Magoo.

Is Trading Places a Christmas movie? Is Home Alone? I might add them to my list.

Least favorite [Christmas movie]?

There was a terrible one on the Disney Channel recently, but it wasn’t even worth noting the title.

Do you have a favorite hymn?

Oh, that’s impossible! One thing for sure, though: it probably won’t be a unison piece. I like four-part music with my hymns.

So I pulled out my recently replaced Presbyterian hymnal, and picked a few. These are in book order:

Angels We Have Heard On High
Break Forth, O Beauteous Heavenly Light (I mean it’s JS Bach harmonization!)
Lo, How A Rose E’er Blooming
Ah, Holy Jesus
O Sacred Head, Now Wounded (more Bach)
Christ the Lord Is Risen Today!
Thine is the Glory (Handel)
Holy, Holy, Holy! Lord God Almighty (this was on page 1 of the Methodist hymnal I grew up with)
Come, Thou Almighty King (also reminds me of my growing up)
All Hail The Power of Jesus’ Name! (the Coronation version, rather than Diadem)
My Shepherd Will Supply My Needs
Our God, Our Help in Ages Past
A Mighty Fortress Is Our God
God of the Ages, Whose Almighty Hand (always associated with Thanksgiving, and more specifically, with the songbook in my elementary school)
Amazing Grace
Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah (LOVE the bass line)
Fairest Lord Jesus (a childhood favorite)
O Master, Let Me Walk with Thee
Just As I Am (definitely a childhood favorite, probably from watching those Billy Graham programs)
The Church’s One Foundation
Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee (Beethoven!)
Here I Am, Lord (the only one on the list with a unison verse)
Lord, Dismiss Us with Thy Blessing
Lift Every Voice and Sing (a whole ‘nother context)

Not a lot of spirituals here. Now the choirs I’ve been in have done arrangements of hymns I enjoy (Every Time I Feel The Spirit probably most often), but for congregation and choir singing, not so much.

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