Craig Allen’s Top 10 Christmas Songs
Its a sure sign that the Christmas Holiday season is upon us…the Christmas Classics are heard on Jersey radios far and wide! As New Jersey 101.5 fills your Christmas stockings with “Ho-Ho” songs, its a good time for a Top-10 list…in count UP form, just to be different!
Holly Jolly Christmas–Burl Ives
Burl Ives was the voice of Sam, the snowman…the storyteller…the folk singer in the 1964 Classic Christmas Special “Rudolph The Red- Nosed Reindeer.” The song appears near the end of the show (the clip is from the show, not the full song as played on NJ101.5). While you enjoy this happy, upbeat holiday fave, I'll be looking for the stuffed Rudolph, Yukon Cornelius, Sam, Hermey and “Bumble” ornaments that I picked up back in the late '90s…they're in a box (somewhere) from one of my moves… And, as Yukon Cornelius reminds us: “Bumbles Bounce!”
Its The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year–Andy Williams
This holiday classic was recorded in 1963, as part of “The Andy Williams Christmas Album.” Its been a radio staple since then, and has been covered by many other recording artists over the decades. I included it on my 1997 “Christmas Star,” as mentioned in my Christmas music blog last weekend. Andy hosted a popular TV “Variety Show” in the late 60s/early 70s. I was just reading an article in a December 1969 LIFE magazine, where 683 dancers turned up in Hollywood to audition for a 12-person chorus line for the show. What people will do to be a “star.” Some things never change!
“You’re A Mean One, Mr. Grinch”–Thurl Ravenscroft
No, Boris Karloff, the “How The Grinch Stole Christmas!” narrator did not sing this classic song. I was too little to remember much about this Dr. Seuss special the first few years it aired (1966). However, my mother taped the TV audio, and played it (on a “Craig” portable “reel to reel”), as the car radio was broken. Mom played the Grinch over and over in order to keep 2 small kids occupied on a 15 hour drive to Wisconsin (Grandma's house) for family Christmas. This “special” has been special to me as long as I can remember (and I can quote much of it, as we gather 'round the TV)! BTW, I'm hopeful that there will be a neighborhood “Grinchfest” this year. Details in a later blog!
All I Want For Christmas Is You–Mariah Carey
Every time I play this 1994 Christmas hit, I have to turn the studio speakers up to the point where my ears bleed. I can't help it! After watching this video of Mariah frolicking in the snow, I just might have to move this song up on my faves list…
White Christmas–Bing Crosby
There are several versions of this classic. I've chosen this video, as this is the way the song was seen and heard for the first time, in the movie “Holiday Inn” in 1941. Bing recorded a studio version in 1942, which was #1 on the charts for 17 weeks! The version that you hear most often on the radio today (including NJ101.5), was recorded in 1947. It returned to the pop charts for 20 Christmases after that! Christmas just isn't Christmas, without this song!
Sleigh Ride–The Ronettes
“Just hear those sleigh bells jingling” thru Phil Spector's “Wall Of Sound.” This Christmas standard was recorded by the Ronettes in 1963. Composer/Conductor Leroy Anderson penned the tune during the warm summer of 1946, and recorded several orchestral versions of his own in the 1950s. My parents had a copy of his (1959) stereo album, and I played it alot as a kid at Christmastime. However, the Ronettes win, in this top-10 list (this time).
This Christmas–Donny Hathaway
Donny Hathaway wrote and recorded this song in 1970. He is best known for the duets he sang with Roberta Flack throughout the '70s. My buddy (the late, great) “Big Ron O'Brien” introduced me to this song back in my Philly radio days in the '90s. I remember hearing “This Christmas” on Big Ron's “Christmas Star.” Ron had a great ear for hit music…especially Soul and R & B!
It Doesn’t Have To Be That Way–Jim Croce
I've always felt that this is a “lost” Christmas song. In this song, the trappings of the Christmas season make Croce pine for a lost relationship. Making this song even more poignant, it was released for Christmas 1973. Croce was killed in a plane crash just weeks earlier, September 20, 1973. He was 30.
Linus And Lucy–Vince Guaraldi Trio
Schroeder…um…Vince (“a reformed boogie-woogie piano player”) could really tickle the ivories. Its not Christmas without “A Charlie Brown Christmas” (debuting in 1965), Charlie Brown's tree (just yesterday D&D were talking about Christmas trees, and a caller referenced Charlie Brown's tree), and this song! Remember what Lucy wants for the holidays? “Real Estate.” This year, its a buyer's market.
Christmas Eve/Sarajevo 12/24–Trans-Siberian Orchestra
Once again, its back to the Philly years. I remember our morning guy at the time (1996) coming in with this CD, and playing it one morning. He said something along the lines of: “These guys are friends of mine, they're poor, starving musicians from Eastern Europe. It would be really cool if you guys would like this song, and buy it, and support them.” Who knew? Poor and starving no more, Trans-Siberian Orchestra tours around the world playing sold-out shows. I'd like to think some of our “spins” in Philly got this whole thing started! The morning guy in question worked in NYC and San Francisco before he came to us…and has helmed the morning show on L.A.'s Oldies station for many years now. But, I digress. This is a stirring piece of music! I still get goosebumps when playing it on the air! Oh, and as you see, it makes for a really cool video, too!