The Friday mix: Old school Christmas music
I’m sitting in the front window of a coffee shop writing this post. I have a hot mocha and I’m watching the snow fall outside. Seems like a perfect week to compile a mix of Christmas music. I have a Christmas mix on my iPod with 167 songs totaling 8 ½ hours of music. I like Christmas jazz because you get fresh and interesting takes on some standards, but I often have trouble finding links to the versions I love. Also, nothing is quite as Christmasy as the classic versions.
With that in mind, today I’m posting a mix of my favorite old school Christmas songs (except for Diana Krall, but she kind of leans old school anyway). I thought I had posted a version of this mix another year, but I went through my records and it looks like I never have. I think I always run out of time Christmas weekend.
Many of these songs have been covered well multiple times, but these are my very favorite versions. I hope you like them.
- White Christmas – Bing Crosby
One story says that when Irving Berlin wrote this song, he told his secretary, “Grab your pen and take down this song. I just wrote the best song I’ve ever written — heck, I just wrote the best song that anybody’s ever written!” Bing nails this song and this particular arrangement is my favorite.
- Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer Mambo – Billy May
This was always my least favorite Christmas carol, but May’s 1958 version is hip and energetic, even now. This is a cleverly edited video, too.
- Baby It’s Cold Outside – Dean Martin
This is such a cute song and Martin is exactly the mischievous type to deliver it. Incidentally, there is a fantastic remix of this song on a great album called “Merry Mixmas” on which they regroove the classic vocal track. This is the original, though.
- The Christmas Blues – Dean Martin
Why not a double shot of Dean Martin? He never shied away from a double shot.
- Christmas Everyday – Smokey Robinson & the Miracles
Smokey’s voice is classic and the great Motown sound is wonderful. The best thing about this song, though, is I haven’t heard it 1000 times.
- The Christmas Song – Nat King Cole
EVERYONE has done this song. I think my version is out there on YouTube somewhere. No one has done it as beautifully as Nat King Cole, though. This arrangement is gorgeous and Cole’s voice is as warm and gentle as a down comforter.
- Christmas Time Is Here – Diana Krall
You should already have the original Vince Guaraldi version of this song. “A Charlie Brown Christmas” is the best Christmas album ever made bar none. Krall’s version of this song is lovely, though.
- Christmas Waltz – Peggy Lee
A lot of people have covered this song too, but Peggy Lee’s 1960 version of this great Sammy Cahn tune makes me feel like a kid when I hear it.
- Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas – Lou Rawls
I love the way Rawls swings this song and every note the horns drop is gold.
- Holly Jolly Christmas – Burl Ives
I know this isn’t a great song but, God help me, I still like it. I watched the claymation Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer every year as a kid and this is the closer.
- I’ll Be Home for Christmas – Frank Sinatra
Bing Crosby and Perry Como both had hits with this song first, but I like Frank’s version. The lyrics were written by Buck Ram when he was a homesick college student, but they came to symbolize the wishes of American soldiers in both World Wars.
- Jingle Bells – Bing Crosby and the Andrews Sistes
Here is another song I don’t often like to hear at Christmas, but this zippy version with Bing and the Andrews Sisters is so much fun.
- Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow! – Vaughn Monroe
Monroe himself recorded this song multiple times, but this is his best rendition. It’s the one they usually use in movies, too (Die Hard, for example).
- Little Drummer Boy / Peace on Earth – Bing Crosby & David Bowie
Best. Christmas. Song. Evah. The “Peace On Earth” counterpoint was added for this TV special, which was recorded just a month before Bing’s death, because Bowie hates “Little Drummer Boy” and wanted to sing something else. The music starts about 1:45 in.
- The Holly She Bears a Berry – The Chieftains
This is from The Chieftains’ pretty good Christmas album, “The Bells of Dublin.” Traditional Irish music is kind of Christmasy anyway, in my opinion.
- Please Come Home for Christmas – Charles Brown
More blues for your Christmas mix. We’ve all had a sad Christmas or two and this one might make you feel better.
- Winter Wonderland – Lena Horne
Another standard that has been covered over and over. I like Lena Horne’s version, if we’re talking old school.
Enjoy this mix with – what else? – egg nog with nutmeg and a generous shot of rum. Have a great week and a Merry Christmas.