Friday on My Mind: Modern Holiday Classics

It’s time again for Friday on My Mind, our weekly blog post where we look at videos centered around one theme. This is a collaboration between KEXP and King 5 News. It’s that time of the season again, so we’re looking at holiday songs.

In A.D. 350, Pope Julius I, bishop of Rome, proclaimed December 25th the official celebration date for the birthday of Christ. Humanity then decided, “sure, he was born on the 25th of December”. Granted that would be like someone deciding I was born on March 19th in 2362, but you’ve got to schedule things somewhere. The tradition of Christmas stockings allegedly stemmed from a story of three sisters who were too poor to afford a marriage dowry and were, therefore, doomed to a life of prostitution. They were saved, however, when the wealthy Bishop Saint Nicholas of Smyrna (the precursor to Santa Claus) crept down their chimney and generously filled their stockings with gold coins. Robin Hood meets Batman becomes Santa. British illustrator John Callcott Horsley invented the first Christmas card in 1843. Early illustrations of St. Nicholas depict him as stern, commanding, and holding a birch rod. He was more a symbol of discipline and punishment than the jolly, overweight dude that children think about today. The whole naughty and nice thing probably had a more serious tone, be good or Santa will DESTROY YOU. In Germany, Heiligabend, or Christmas Eve, is said to be a magical time when the pure in heart can hear animals talking… depending on how much egg nog one has had. Christmas trees have been sold in the U.S. since 1850. Christmas purchases account for 1/6 of all retail sales in the U.S. And now, here are a few modern holiday favorites:

Band Aid – Do They Know It’s Christmas

A who’s who of the 80’s music scene were brought together by Boomtown Rats front man, Bob Geldof, to raise money and awareness for African famine. “Do They Know It’s Christmas” was recorded and pressed in less than 48 hours and helped raise money. The song shot to number one on the Billboard charts almost immediately after being released. The song featured vocal contributions from Simon Le Bon, Andy Taylor, Bono, Sting, George Michael, and Phil Collins to name a few. To some it was seen as the start of musicians creating songs for charity and to others it was the bastard child of We are the World. But did We are the World have Banannarama? No, they had Dan Ackroyd. Look it up.

Wham!- Last Christmas & The xx- Last Christmas

Wham’s “Last Christmas” was released around the same time as “Do they Know It’s Christmas”, which George Michael was also a part of. Wham made sure that the money made by the single was donated to the Band Aid cause. Nothing says Christmas like Wham!. You can also see the xx covering this:

Bing Crosby and David Bowie – The Little Drummer Boy/ Peace on Earth

“The Little Drummer Boy/ Peace on Earth” was performed as a duet by Bing Crosby and David Bowie, making it one of the oddest pairings seen in music. The duet appeared as a part of the holiday television special, Bing Crosby’s Merrie Olde Christmas. So the story goes “Peace on Earth” was specifically written because Bowie hated the idea of singing “The Little Drummer Boy”. The performance was recorded on September 11, 1977, five weeks before Crosby passed away on October 14th. The special then aired on television on November 30th. It aired on MTV years later and gained popularity just for its shear awesomeness. Granted, you look back at both and neither are really the gather around the Christmas tree kind of folks, but man that was awesome and weird all at the same time.

Honorable Mentions

John Lennon & Yoko Ono with the Harlem Community Choir – Happy Christmas (War Is Over)

A Christmas song and protest song combined into one. Only John Lennon could pull this off. Written as a protest against the Vietnam War. The recording was produced by Phil Spector. The song has now been covered by many artists and has become a modern holiday standard.

Sufjan Stevens – I’ll Be Home for Christmas

Included on his epic holiday music box set, Silver & Gold: Songs For Christmas. The full set equals three hours of holiday music across 5 CDs. Besides bright and busy cover art, the full box set also includes an 80 page booklet, a poster, temporary tattoos, stickers, coloring book, and a kit to build your own Christmas ornament. He’s also starred in a series of wacky promo videos for the release.

Cee-Lo Green with The Muppets – All I Need Is Love

A new Christmas song that riffs off of the well known and loved “Mah Na Mah Na” made popular by the Muppets back in late 60’s, early 70’s. Cee-Lo sings along with Pepe the Prawn, Swedish Chef, Rowlf, Dr. Teeth, Bobo, Bubba, Mahna Mahna, Gonzo, Statler & Waldorf, Dr. Bunsen Honeydew and Beaker, Beauregard, Fozzie Bear, Animal, Snowth, Rizzo, Miss Piggy, and Craig Robinson from The Office plays Santa. Cee-Lo even sings with a Muppet version of himself known as Lo-Co.

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One Comment

  1. Maggie
    Posted August 27, 2013 at 3:11 am | Permalink

    Cee-Lo Green recorded a great album with Christmas songs. “All I Need Is Love” is very energetic and merry – perfect for singing during Christmas time!

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