THE DEFINITIVE VERSION – Rich Paschall

The Christmas List, by Rich Paschall

As you are racing to and fro in this holiday season you are probably being bombarded by holiday songs. Even if you are listening to Talk Radio in your automobile or sleigh, you can not escape the holiday music in stores, malls, and on television.

With so many versions of certain songs floating through the air, down the block and Rockin Around The Christmas Tree, we thought you might need to know the best recordings of the top songs. It might be a little Frosty outside where you are and we don’t want you to have a Blue Christmas. So for your Happy Holidays before Little St. Nick arrives, here is our latest Top Ten list of definitive versions of these holiday classics.

10. A Holly Jolly Christmas, Burl Ives (1909-1995) The song was released in 1965 after being featured the previous year in the animated cartoon classic, Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.

9. Feliz Navidad, Jose Feliciano.  The 1970 tune by the Puerto Rican star has become a classic pop tune worldwide.  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.

8. Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas, Judy Garland (1922-1969) The tune was written for the 1944 film Meet Me in St. Louis.  It’s a hard song to interpret and I think many singers need to see the movie.

7. Jingle Bell Rock, Bobby Helms (1933-1997) The 1957 “Rockabilly” sound was an immediate hit and eventually went gold for Helms.

6. Christmas Time Is Here, Vince Guaraldi (1928-1976) The jazz musician is best known for composing the score to 17 Peanuts animated television specials and a feature-length film.  The first of these was A Charlie Brown Christmas, 1965.  Words to this jazz tune were provided by the Charlie Brown television producer, Lee Mendelson (1933-2008).

5. (There’s No Place Like) Home For The Holidays, Perry Como (1912-2001)  The popular crooner recorded the song in 1954 and sang it for the next 40 years.  “Mr. C” recorded it in stereo in 1959 and it is this version you probably hear today.  Like many popular television variety stars of his era, Como continued holiday shows after his weekly TV shows ended.  This video is from his 1969 Christmas special.

4.  The Christmas Song, Nat “King” Cole (1919-1965) The tune was written by Bob Wells (1922-1998) and another will known singer, Mel Torme (1925-1999), in 1945.  In June 1946 Cole recorded the song, then recorded it again in August with more instruments.  The second version was released.  There was a third recording, then a fourth in stereo in 1961.  It is that last version you here so much today.  Torme also recorded the song some years later, but it is the Nat King Cole version that is best remembered.

3.  It’s The Most Wonderful Time of the Year, Andy Williams (1927-2012).  Williams was another popular television crooner.  The song was written in 1963 and recorded by Williams for his first Christmas album.  It was used on his television show the same year and became a Christmas standard over time.  Now it is one of the top 10 Christmas songs of all time.  On this video, Williams appears to be singing along with the popular recording.

2. Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree, Brenda Lee. The 1960s pop star is still singing the 1958 hit by Johnny Marks. Mr. Marks also wrote “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” and “A Holly Jolly Christmas.”  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.

1. White Christmas, Bing Crosby (1903-1977) The Irving Berlin hit was apparently written for the movie Holiday Inn (no-telling with the prolific Mr. Berlin). Crosby first sang it on his radio show in 1941 but recorded it in 1942 for the Holiday Inn movie. It was recorded again in 1947 as the original master wore out from frequent use. The song appeared in two other movies and Crosby sang it for the rest of his life. This video is the final performance. He died soon after, doing what he liked best, playing golf.

What are your favorite versions of holiday classics?  Click on any song title above for the music video.

AUTUMN LEAVES – RICH PASCHALL

Les Feuilles Mortes

The falling leaves
Drift by the window
The autumn leaves
Of red and gold

I see your lips
The summer kisses
The sunburned hands
I used to hold

Since you went away
The days grow long
And soon I’ll hear
Old winter’s song

But I miss you most of all
My darling
When autumn leaves
Start to fall.

Notes: Roger Williams had a number 1 hit with the instrumental version in 1955. Above he is playing in 2010 on his 86th birthday.

Andy Williams (no relation) appeared with Jose Feliciano in 1969. He first recorded the song in 1959.

Yves Montand introduced the song in 1945 in the movie “Les Portes des la nuit.” Above is from a 1951 movie “Parigi è sempre Parigi.”

Songwriters: Jacques Prevert (music) / Joseph Kosma (lyrics) /  Johnny Mercer (English Lyrics)

CHRISTMAS PAST

My Top Ten Christmas Songs

Dead Artists Edition, by Rich Paschall


As I listened to holiday songs on the local Christmas songs radio station, one fact became apparent over time.  Almost all of the songs I hear are performed by artists who have gone on to that great holiday party in the sky.  This is, of course, a nice way of saying they are dead.  Nevertheless, we continue to listen to their songs year in and year out.  In fact, some of these have been flying across the airwaves for many decades and there is no sign they will ever stop being played.

It is safe to say that all of these songs have been covered many times over.  Any singer with staying power in the industry has a Christmas album.  It is true that a few of these songs received great success by other artists when released, but there are certain versions of these holiday hits with the ability to live on long after the artist has gone.  It is these well-remembered and honored songs that fill my playlist.

Your 8-track and cassette tape versions of these may have become tangled and broken, your records and CDs may have become scratched and broken, but you can still download and stream these hits because they are not going away.  First I will offer up an honorable mention.

In 1977, David Bowie (1947-2016) was to appear on the Bing Crosby Christmas television special recorded in London.  He was asked to sing Little Drummer Boy, but did not like the song and asked for something else.  As a result a counterpoint to the song called Peace on Earth was written for Bowie and Crosby sang Little Drummer Boy.  We could simply say the rest is duet history, but that would not exactly be true.  The now well-beloved version may have died away if not for the popularity of a bootleg recording.  As a result, RCA released the song as a single in 1982.  Sadly Crosby died after the show was recorded and before it was ever played for the public.

Now if you will put the yule log on the fire, get a glass of eggnog and some Christmas cookies, we will present my top Christmas tunes from artists whose songs continue to echo down your decked halls.

10.  Blue Christmas, Elvis Presley (1935-1977) The song was first recorded in 1948, but the 1957 recording by Elvis remains the most popular.

9.  Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, Gene Autrey (1907-1998) The 1949 song hit number 1 on the charts.

8.  A Holly Jolly Christmas, Burl Ives (1909-1995) The song was released in 1965 after being featured the previous year in the animated cartoon classic, Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.

7.  Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas, Judy Garland (1922-1969) The tune was written for the 1944 film Meet Me in St. Louis.

6.  Jingle Bell Rock, Bobby Helms (1933-1997) The 1957 “Rockabilly” sound was an immediate hit and eventually went gold for Helms.

5.  Christmas Time Is Here, Vince Guaraldi (1928-1976) The jazz musician is best known for composing the score to 17 Peanuts animated television specials and a feature-length film.  The first of these was A Charlie Brown Christmas, 1965.  Words to this jazz tune were provided by the Charlie Brown television producer, Lee Mendelson (1933-2008). The network, as well as the producers, thought the show was too depressing and predicted a failure with the public.  It won an Emmy, a Peabody and the love of generations of kids.

4.  The Christmas Song, Nat “King” Cole (1919-1965) The tune was written by Bob Wells (1922-1998) and another will known singer, Mel Torme (1925-1999), in 1945.  In June 1946 Cole recorded the song, then recorded it again in August with more instruments.  The second version was released.  There was a third recording, then a fourth in stereo in 1961.  It is that last version you here so much today.  Torme also recorded the song some years later, but it is the Nat King Cole version that is best remembered.

3.  (There’s No Place Like) Home For The Holidays, Perry Como (1912-2001)  The popular crooner recorded the song in 1954 and sang it for the next 40 years.  “Mr. C” recorded it in stereo in 1959 and it is this version you probably hear today.  Like many popular television variety stars of his era, Como continued holiday shows after his weekly TV shows ended.  This video is from his 1969 Christmas special.

2.  It’s The Most Wonderful Time of the Year, Andy Williams (1927-2012).  Williams was another popular television crooner.  The song was written in 1963 and recorded by Williams for his first Christmas album.  It was used on his television show the same year and became a Christmas standard over time.  Now it is one of the top 10 Christmas songs of all time.  On this video, Williams appears to be singing along with the popular recording.

1. White Christmas, Bing Crosby (1903-1977) The Irving Berlin hit was apparently written for the movie Holiday Inn (no-telling with the prolific Mr. Berlin). Crosby first sang it on his radio show in 1941 but recorded it in 1942 for the Holiday Inn movie. It was recorded again in 1947 as the original master wore out from frequent use. The song appeared in two other movies and Crosby sang it for the rest of his life. This video is the final performance. He died soon after, doing what he liked best, playing golf.