My Top Ten Christmas Songs, Living Artists Edition by Rich Paschall
While many of your favorite Christmas songs are done by artists who have gone on to that great recording studio in the sky (that is to say, they are dead), there are other perennial favorites done by performers who are still on the planet. This week’s hotly awaited Top Ten list will feature those living artists with songs we love. Well, I love them, anyway.
Some songs really did not seem to fit on the last Top Ten list of dead artists or this week’s list of Living artists because they are by groups where some of the members have passed and some are still performing. For example, “Little Saint Nick” by the Beach Boys is a favorite but Dennis and Carl Wilson have passed. “Please Come Home For Christmas,” by the Eagles is one of my favorites and Don Henley on vocals is still with us, but Glenn Frey on piano and backing vocals is not. Everyone seems to love “Last Christmas,” by Wham from the mullet haircut days. Half the duo, George Michael, is gone and Andrew Ridgeley is living comfortably off royalties.
Then there are the bands that broke up. I guess they can make this list. “Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays,” by ‘N Sync has gotten frequent airplay since its 1998 release and earns my Honorable Mention. I wonder whatever happened to Justin Timberlake?
Now if you have your Christmas pudding “singing in the copper,” I will offer up some performers to sing as well. This will be much better than your plum pudding or a two-hour video of a crackling Yule Log, I promise.
10. “Sleigh Ride” Chicago (the band). In 2019 Chicago released an album of Christmas songs, some were old favorites, some were originals. Here they put their unique sound on this familiar tune.
9. “Wonderful Christmastime,” Paul McCartney. The 1979 hit is from the Paul McCartney and Wings days.
8. “Step Into Christmas,” Elton John. The 1973 hit by John and Bernie Taupin was released as a single, and again years later as a Bonus track to a reissued “Caribou” album.
7. “Santa Baby,” Madonna. The 1953 Eartha Kitt version remains popular, but Madonna took over the airwaves with her 1987 version recorded for a charity album.
6. “All I Want For Christmas Is You,” Mariah Carey. The music video for the popular 1994 release has over 643 million views at this writing.
5. “All I Want For Christmas Is A Real Good Tan,” Kenny Chesney. Released in 2003 on the Christmas album of the same name, Chesney had a hit with the cross-over Contemporary Country sound. It was the first Christmas album for Chesney and has been certified as a “platinum album” in the United States (over one million copies sold).
4. “Feliz Navidad,” Jose Feliciano. The 1970 tune by the Puerto Rican star has become a classic pop tune world-wide. The song features a simple Spanish chorus and a simple English verse. The catchy music has taught people everywhere how to say Merry Christmas in Spanish. Not only is Feliciano still singing the song, but there is also a recent video presentation (see it here). I have opted for this more traditional version by the singer:
3. “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town,” Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band. The song dates back to 1934 and has been covered by dozens of artists. Springsteen recorded it live in 1975 and released it as the B-side of “My Hometown” in 1985. It soon found its way to radio station playlists everywhere. Now stars try to cover this version.
2. “Christmas Canon“, Trans-Siberian Orchestra. The powerful versions of Christmas songs (originals and covers) have made the “orchestra” popular. For over twenty years their annual Christmas tour was always a sell-out. This year it will be a live stream on Friday. The group is a cross between metal rock and symphony with laser lights. Startling renditions of “Carol of the Bells” or “Christmas Eve / Sarajevo” and other traditional tunes have come blasting through many holiday playlists. The milder 1998 “Christmas Canon” is an adaptation of Johann Pachelbel’s “Canon in D major.”
1. “Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree,” Brenda Lee. Until this year the 1960s pop star was still singing the 1958 hit by Johnny Marks. Mr. Marks also wrote “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” and “A Holly Jolly Christmas.” Lee (75) has not performed live since January and like most performers, she has nothing else planned this year. Her Christmas hit is in constant rotation on radio holiday playlists and one of the most downloaded holiday songs. I guess she’s not sorry now.
Christmas Past, My Top Ten Christmas Songs, Dead Artists Edition