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.

JEWISH AT CHRISTMAS – ELLIN CURLEY

Being Jewish during the Christmas season is like being a kid with your nose pressed up against the window of a candy store while all the other kids are inside eating candy. No matter how hard Jewish parents try to jazz up Hanukkah, eight candles can’t hold a candle to the sex appeal of corporate, commercial Christmas in America.

Every year, for two months (or more), everything you see and hear glamorizes the season of joy and giving. It’s all lights and glitter. Since Jesus was Jewish too, maybe we could come up with a holiday celebrating his Bar Mitzvah? Even Bar Mitzvahs are tame and dowdy compared to the hype and excess of Christmas.

Cowboy and Menorah

But then I married a gentile! I could finally — legitimately — participate in Christmas!

The first thing my daughter and I did — a week after my wedding, as soon and as the Thanksgiving dishes were put away — was buy a gigantic, live tree. Then we hit every Christmas tree store in the county. We bought enough ornaments to decorate the tree in Rockefeller Center! We made sure to buy several Dreidels, Jewish stars, and Chai ornaments to remind our tree it was also Jewish.

My husband suggested I might want to join a 12-step program for ornament addicts, but even he had to admit, the result was spectacular. Our sun room is round, with windows on three sides. At night, when the tree was lit, it reflected sparkling colored lights for 180 degrees. It was fairyland.

We kept the tree up until March that first year.

After several years of holiday decorating orgies, the novelty began to wear thin. The effort required to transform the house into (and out of) a winter wonderland felt unreasonable. Unnecessary.

christmas wrapping paper

I began to feel pressured and overwhelmed, like most of my Gentile friends. I decided to go back to my Jewish roots and leave the Christmas responsibilities to my Methodist husband. We now have a small, fake tree that comes up from the basement every year, fully decorated, for 6 weeks of daylight in the kitchen.

Ironically, Hanukkah, in its present incarnation, was also created by Madison Avenue to give Jewish kids their own schtick around Christmas, and to give Jewish adults something to spend money on during the “holiday” season.

These days, I happily light my Hanukkah candles and give, mostly small, gifts to my immediate family. I enjoy the festivities and fun of Christmas, but I’m at peace now with the simple, beautiful “Festival of Lights”.

Now that I’ve experienced how the other 90% live, I no longer covet my Christian neighbors’ holiday.

CHRISTMAS PRESENT

My Top Ten Christmas Songs, Living Artists Edition by Rich Paschall


While many of your favorite Christmas songs are done by artists who have passed over the space and time continuum into another existence (that is to say, they are dead), there are still 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.

There are songs that 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 during 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 crackling Yule Log, I promise.

10. “Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow,” Chicago (the band). This one comes from the rock band’s first Christmas album, aka Chicago XXV.

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 is approaching 208 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 a “gold album” in the United States (over 500,000 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, there is a new music video this year (see it here).  I have opted for a more traditional presentation by the singer below.

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 (original and covers) have made the “orchestra” popular.  Their annual Christmas tour is a sell out.  They are somehow a cross between metal rock and symphony.  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. 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.” Lee is still touring at 71 years old and giving holiday concerts. Her Christmas hit is in constant rotation on radio holiday play lists and one of the most downloaded holiday songs. I guess she’s not sorry now.

Related:
Christmas Past, My Top Ten Christmas Songs, Dead Artists Edition

BEING JEWISH AT CHRISTMAS – ELLIN CURLEY

Being Jewish during the Christmas season is like being a kid with your nose pressed up against the window of a candy store while all the other kids are inside eating candy. No matter how hard Jewish parents try to jazz up Hanukkah, eight candles can’t hold a candle to the sex appeal of corporate, commercial Christmas in America.

72-Christmas Eve_013

Every year, for two months (or more), everything you see and hear glamorizes the season of joy and giving. It’s all lights and glitter. Since Jesus was Jewish too, maybe we could come up with a holiday celebrating his Bar Mitzvah? Even Bar Mitzvahs are tame and dowdy compared to the hype and excess of Christmas.

Cowboy and Menorah

But then I married a gentile! I could finally — legitimately — participate in Christmas!

The first thing my daughter and I did — a week after my wedding, as soon and as the Thanksgiving dishes were put away — was buy a gigantic, live tree. Then we hit every Christmas tree store in the county. We bought enough ornaments to decorate the tree in Rockefeller Center! We made sure to buy several Dreidels, Jewish stars, and Chai ornaments to remind our tree it was also Jewish.

almost christmas

My husband suggested I might want to join a 12-step program for ornament addicts, but even he had to admit, the result was spectacular. Our sun room is round, with windows on three sides. At night, when the tree was lit, it reflected sparkling colored lights for 180 degrees. It was fairyland.

We kept the tree up until March that first year.

After several years of holiday decorating orgies, the novelty began to wear thin. The effort required to transform the house into (and out of) a winter wonderland felt unreasonable. Unnecessary.

christmas wrapping paper

I began to feel pressured and overwhelmed, like most of my Gentile friends. I decided to go back to my Jewish roots and leave the Christmas responsibilities to my Methodist husband. We now have a small, fake tree that comes up from the basement every year, fully decorated, for 6 weeks of daylight in the kitchen.

Ironically, Hanukkah, in its present incarnation, was also created by Madison Avenue to give Jewish kids their own schtick around Christmas, and to give Jewish adults something to spend money on during the “holiday” season.

75-Night-Statehouse-NK_0111

These days, I happily light my Hanukkah candles and give, mostly small, gifts to my immediate family. I enjoy the festivities and fun of Christmas, but I’m at peace now with the simple, beautiful “Festival of Lights”.

Now that I’ve experienced how the other 90% live, I no longer covet my Christian neighbors’ holiday.

THE PERFECT GIFT

Wreath Lights

“I want these earrings, or something as close to it as you can find,” I said, handing him the picture, item number and the website address. The trouble is, my husband doesn’t take orders. If I say I want those earrings, he will buy the other ones because he likes them better. Which would be fine, if he were going to wear them.

I am pretty good at following orders, but it isn’t much fun.  I always tried to find something a little creative … until I realized he didn’t want something unique. He wanted that shirt, that sweatshirt. He didn’t want different colors. He wanted it to look exactly like all his other ties, all his other shirts.

A couple of years ago, my best friend got desperate. She bought the beautiful hand-made leather bag she wanted, handed it to her husband. “Wrap it up,” she said. “You just bought my Christmas present.” That is one approach. I came up with an alternative.

We buy each other something relatively small for Christmas — an “under the tree” gift. We try to be sure it’s something each of us wants. Amazon wish lists can be a big help (just saying). After Christmas, we go shopping. He gets stuff he wants and tries it on. So what if it’s the same stuff he always buys? That’s his choice.

Tree Lights 14

I buy the earrings I want, a sweater that fits. The electronic gadget I’ve been yearning for, the lens on my wish list.

We are both happy. We shop together, share the experience, get to make suggestions, offer input and have a lot of fun. Prices are always rock-bottom after the holidays are over and if you wait a few extra days, the stores aren’t crowded. It totally removes the stress from trying to find a perfect gift.

It turns out if you bring the recipient with you — and he or she can choose — they will always find the perfect gift.

FOR THE CHILDREN – BOSTON CHILDREN’S HOSPITAL FUNDRAISER

for the childrenBoston Children’s Hospital relies on donations to continue the critical task of healing sick kids. Your help is greatly needed and appreciated.

In return for your kindness, I’ll send you a copy of “For the Children XIII,” my latest booklet of inspiring stories, poetry, recipes, humor and illustrations.

Kindly send your donation of $20.00 (or whatever you can afford) payable to BOSTON CHILDRENS HOSPITAL to:

Jordan Rich
WBZ Radio
1170 Soldiers Field Rd.
Boston, Ma. 02134

I’m proud to once again be associated with Boston Children’s Hospital…Until Every Child is Well.
Have a great holiday season and thank you for your generosity and kindness. Your donation means a lot!

Peace,
JR
Jordan Rich
WBZ

 

Weekly Photo Challenge: My 2012 in Pictures

All months are not equal and many of the most important things that happen are never documented. Hospital stays and medical procedures are life and death but never show up in photo albums. Some months are more crowded than others: summer vacations, holidays and almost all of the month of December, with Christmas at its apex, usually feature unique and photogenic activities, so these tend to be a heavily documented months.

Morning, Dec 30, 2012 ... a real snow blankets our world. Happy New Year!
Morning, Dec 30, 2012 … a real snow blankets our world. Happy New Year!

Then, there are those months that are beautiful.  Autumn in New England … specifically, October … gets more attention almost the rest of the year combined. November, a visually dull month unless we have an early snow or storm, is not a natural lure to photographers. I have no pictures from March because I was in the hospital for most of it and not in the mood for photography the rest of it.

Spring flowers and gardens are magnificent, but late summer gardens can be lackluster, the best of the color having passed. Vacati0ns are documented end to end, but ordinary weeks and months pass without much notice.

So this is … and isn’t … my year. It is my photographic year, but not necessarily my real year.