Book–Sleigh Rides, Jingle Bells, and Silent Nights (RTE Radio 1)

Discussion of Sleigh Rides, Jingle Bells, & Silent Nights on RTE Radio 1. 00892v

A Classic Rock Christmas

keithrichards_blogAs a teenager, growing up in Meadows of Dan, Virginia, classic rock was my music of choice. Even in the depths of December, though, my local station–WROV, the Rock of Virginia–played very little Christmas music. Why? Mostly because there was very little to play. There just weren’t any Christmas songs–in 1979-1980–by Dylan, the Rolling Stones, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Led Zeppelin, or Aerosmith.

Still, I do remember a handful of tracks that got regular airplay. Keith Richards’ version of “Run Rudolph Run“ came out in 1978 and Paul McCartney, the following year, released “Wonderful Christmastime.” Both the Kinks’ “Father Christmas” (1977) and Greg Lake’s “I Believe in Father Christmas” (1975) were staples, as was Lennon’s “Merry Christmas (War Is Over)” (1971). Others included the Beach Boys’ “Little Saint Nick” and David Bowie/Bing Crosby’s “Peace on Earth/Little Drummer Boy.”

As a wildcard, I’d also mention the Who’s “Christmas” (1969), one of my favorites from Tommy.

As the seventies spilled over into the eighties, recording Christmas songs suddenly became cool again and there’d be a lot more records for DJs to spin. In 1979-1980, though, classic rock Christmas songs were slim pickings.

Untitled, 12/07/1929 (Holiday Cartoon)

ARC: Henry Ford was one of America’s (and the world’s) richest men; he was also known for his parsimonious habits. In reaction to a female historian including $100 in her will for Ford, cartoonist Clifford Berryman depicts a smiling Ford, dressed more like a child in knickers and polka dot tie, commenting: “Oh, I do love the Christmas ‘giving’ season.”  12-07-1929_S-071_46_Berryman

Sleigh Rides, Jingle Bells, And Silent Nights: A Cultural History of Christmas Songs (WAMC Interview).

An interview with WAMC.  vintage_radio_by_jesse-d4xymyv

Christmas 1914 (Puck)


Winter Scene (Winter Art)

LC.  08892v

Old-fashioned Christmas carols have staying power, remain cherished favorites (Toledo Blade)

An article that I was interviewed for . . .  in the Toledo Blade.  01512v

The Aesthetics of Cheddar: “Have a Cheesy Christmas!”

X858_41_bwEven though most American listen and presumably like Christmas music, lots of people also complain about it. One complaint is that when it comes to matters of good taste, holiday music is somehow lacking. That while country, pop, rock, and rap seek to entertain and, on occasion, achieve artistic excellence, a lot of Christmas music refuses to take itself seriously. In essence, a high percentage of our Christmas song heritage is up to it’s neck in cheese. With jingle bells ringing, whimsical lyrics, and background singers that refuse to takes their places in the background, Christmas music is cheesy!

Now cheesy wasn’t a word I grew up with so I’ll take a moment or two to define it as I understand it and as it relates to Christmas music. Cheesy isn’t usually used as an aesthetic term. Kitsch, another great (borrowed) Americanism, comes close, but not quite. Corny may be closer, especially if you toss in a little sentiment. Cheese, then, is something lacking in taste and worse, something that is overly emotive and cloying as in, “this belongs on a Hallmark card.” It probably traffics in clichés (like kitsch) too, borrowing common ideas and breaking them down to the easiest accessible denominator.

3b50242rThe problem with calling Christmas music cheesy, however, is that its kind of an oxymoron: holiday music can be serious and artistically rendered, but Christmas itself has traditionally been a cheese-fest for Americans. At Christmas, we mix and match decorations, blurt out our feelings to one another, and when we’re unable to express how much we love or are in love with the season, Christmas songs do it for us. This is one of the very few times during the year when it’s okay to tell your friends and family that you love them, and it’s perhaps the only time of the year that we can get gushy about our connection to our broader human family.

Good Christmas songs, then, work by their own rules of taste, one that allows direct declarations of love, care, devotion, and wonder. Like green and red decorations, cheesy Christmas songs are a proud American tradition.


Untitled, 01/05/1942 (Holiday Cartoons)

ARC: After a break for the 1941 Christmas holiday, the 77th Congress returned for its second session on January 2, 1942. In the first session, Congress had entered the country into a world war which meant a dramatic increase in taxes to fund the effort as well as passed several pieces of legislation which curtailed the ability of industrial workers to strike. The cartoon by Clifford Berryman shows the state of the previous congress and hopes that it could only get better compared to the year prior. 1-05-1942_F-056_46_Berryman

Unhappy Holidays? Conflicts, Contradictions and the Ghosts of Christmas Music Past and Present (Pop Matters)

Here’s an interview from Pop Matters related to Sleigh Rides, Jingle Bells, & Silent Nightsfeature-unhappyholisays-qualitystreetcvr-650