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.
For the Friday mix today, I am presenting the third and possibly final installment of music I love to share with my daughter (for the other two, check the category named “Children” to the right). Like anything else you enjoy – favorite foods, cool old movies – sharing great music with your kids gives you a chance to sort of appreciate some of your favorite songs for the first time again. And you get the added benefit of not having to listen to thin, shallow music that is aimed at kids. It makes sense, really. The cartoons you loved most as a kid weren’t the ones made for kids; they were the ones made for adults. Music is the same way.
On my iPod, my daughter’s mix is at over 300 songs and counting, but I think the three posts I have written on this topic give you a good flavor for it and some good suggestions. Perhaps after I have accumulated another hundred songs on her playlist, I’ll put together another mix for all of you.
- I Wanna Be Like You – Big Bad Voodoo Daddy
An energetic cover of the Disney song from The Jungle Book. I never thought I’d say this, but I like the BBVD’s take on this song more than Los Lobos’ version.
- Don’t Worry Be Happy – Bobby McFerrin
If you can stand to hear this one anymore, you will make your kids happy.
- Mahna Mahna – Cake
Those Nettwerk Records people know their business. Cake’s take on the Jim Henson classic is as much fun as the original.
- Lie in Our Graves – Dave Matthews
OK, so the title is grim. The song is a celebration.
- Your Song – Elton John
I sang this song to my daughter dozens of times when she was an infant. Not surprisingly, she likes it now.
- Apple Scruffs – George Harrison
This is from his first post-Beatles release in 1970. The harmonica work is so sunny and the song is fun.
- The Way I Am – Ingrid Michaelson
Michaelson professes her love because “you take me the way I am,” which is a great message for kids.
- I Wanna Stay Home – Jellyfish
Everyone can identify with feeling this way, even little kids.
- Fool in the Rain – Led Zeppelin
A fat piano hook, the danceable bridge, Robert Plant wailing a love song… heck, it even has a police whistle. Of course kids like it. Bron-Y-Aur Stomp (written for Robert Plant’s dog) is also a winner.
- Guantanamera – Los Lobos
My daughter’s mix has over 20 songs by Los Lobos, but their version of this classic Cuban song is perhaps her favorite.
- Say Hey (I Love You) – Michael Franti & Spearhead
A new and infectious song about love at first sight.
- Mamunia – Paul McCartney & Wings
Paul could always write a pleasing melody and this is a straightforward song about appreciating rain.
- Bathtub Gin – Phish
This song is just wall-to-wall fun, from the funny lyrics to the goofy end.
- Groovin’ – The Rascals
You like this song. Why wouldn’t your kids? I actually recommended this song last week on another mix, but my daughter likes this song and I didn’t want to leave it out.
- Birdhouse in Your Soul – They Might Be Giants
Like ‘Istanbul (Not Constantinople),’ this is absolutely irresistible to kids.
- The Lion Sleeps Tonight – The Tokens
“Ee dee dee dee dee dee dee dee dee dee um um a weh. A-wimoweh a-wimoweh a-wimoweh a-wimoweh a-wimoweh a-wimoweh a-wimoweh a-wimoweh…”
- Cantaloop (Flip Fantasia) – Us3
The loops and samples in this are so much fun and the rapping just about the music itself.
- I’ve Seen All Good People – Yes
I don’t think my daughter is ready for the ponderous prog rock of “Tales from the Topographic Oceans,” but this song has a sunny beginning, a funky bridge, and grows to complexity by the end.
Interestingly, my daughter also really enjoys my world mix, which has more than 100 songs from the Middle East, Asia, Africa, South America, the Pacific, etc. Like me, I think she enjoys hearing songs that strike my Western ear funny, but are undeniably beautiful or cool. Maybe that will be the next mix I put together.
In any event, I hope you have enjoyed these and that you play music for your kids that isn’t mindlessly produced for kids (think Kidz Bop) or is hopelessly bland pablum (think Raffi). I’m sure you will find their lives and yours are richer for it. Enjoy with a tall orange juice. Like quality music, it’s good for you and almost everybody likes it. Have a good weekend.
Happy Friday, everyone. Today I am returning to the topic of music I share with my daughter. There are two things I would encourage all parents to do. First, read to your kids. Really, they learn so much from it. Vocabulary, sentence structure, inflection, how stories work… Plus, although I’m not a fan of the concept of “quality time,” reading qualifies if anything does.
The second thing all parents should do is share music with your kids. It’s even better if you make music of your own. If you play an instrument you can teach them, let them play an easier instrument, or just let them sing along. If not, you can still appreciate music with them. They learn a lot from that as well and teaching them how to enjoy music – to really listen and appreciate it – will give them joy all through their lives. My daughter is 8 and already has a pretty sophisticated ear. I love to watch her develop her own tastes and to be enthusiastic about something she’s hearing.
I’ve written up a couple of mixes on this topic already and I might return to this topic again some time. If you’re struggling to think of songs that would be appropriate for kids and that you would both like, try these. I’ve had a lot of success with them.
- Angelique Kidjo – Voodoo Child
I have some Jimi Hendrix doing his own music on my daughter’s mix, but this cover is updated and funky. This song is on her album, “Oremi,” but here’s a link to a good live performance.
- Billy Joel – Don’t Ask Me Why
Billy Joel made an appearance on Sesame Street, which gave him an in with my daugter. She likes the bossa nova beat and the “I told you so” lyrics.
- Bruce Springsteen – Hungry Heart
I must have played “Born to Run” for my daughter a dozen times, but this is the Bruce song she likes best.
- Cibo Matto – Spoon
My daughter likes Cibo Matto, which is one of the reasons I think she’s the coolest kid in her class.
- David Mead – I Like to Run, I Like to Jump
From the compilation, “For the Kids Too.” A pretty little song with some delightful flute work.
- Frank Sinatra – On the Sunny Side of the Street
A song this happy and catchy can hardly miss. We sang this together walking around San Francisco while on vacation this year.
- Harry Belafonte – Jump in the Line
Calypso beat, horns, and Harry’s energetic delivery make this irresistible.
- Jack Johnson – Mudfootball (For Moe Lerner)
The entire Curious George soundtrack is good for kids, but this one from “Brushfire Fairytales” is my daughter’s favorite one to sing.
- Jessca Hoop – Summertime
This is just a great melody and if you’ve never heard it, you will like it as much as my family does.
- Lenny Kravitz – Let Love Rule
The positive message, uplifting chord progression, and broad harmony vocals make this a winner. The sax solo is just gravy.
- Macy Gray – Hey Young World
I like Macy’s cover more than the Slick Rick original. Check the lyrics; it may be the most positive message a kid can hear.
- Musical Youth – Pass the Dutchie
My daughter is delighted that the lead singer was only 15 when they recorded this international hit.
- Peter Frampton – Rocky’s Hot Club
A cute song about how much he loves the dog he got for Christmas as a kid. He also gets a little help from Stevie Wonder on harmonica.
- The Puppini Sisters – Walk Like an Egyptian
Sounds like the Andrews Sisters covering the Bangles. The lyrics are cool and the jazz is hot.
- Raymond Scott – Powerhouse
You know a lot of Raymond Scott music because Carl Stalling adapted it for use in over 100 Warner Brothers cartoons. The two melodies in this song are instantly recognizable and fun to listen to.
- Three Dog Night – Black and White
A song about racial harmony that makes you want to clap your hands and sing along.
- Train – Hey Soul Sister
My daughter introduced me to this song. She requested it after hearing it on her mom’s satellite radio. Poppy but appealing.
- Yael Naim – New Soul
A simple melody with uncomplicated horns and handclaps. It sounds like it was written for kids, though I don’t believe it was.
Enjoy with some Sunny D, if you can still drink the stuff. Have a great weekend.
I’m posting the Friday mix a day early this week because I know I won’t get a chance to post tomorrow.
A little over a year ago, I wrote a post about music that I share with my daughter. I’ve had a couple comments lately from readers who appreciated the topic so I wanted to return to it today.
I have a mix on my iPod with my daughter’s name on it that has a few hundred songs. Sometimes when we get in the car or at home she asks if we can listen to her mix. It’s never a problem because there is none of the thin crap aimed directly at kids on it, or very little anyway.
As I encounter new music, I often notice a song that I think she might like and I throw it on her mix. She decides later whether it stays or goes. When we’re listening to any of my other mixes, she occasionally hears a song she likes and asks me to put it on her mix, which is great. She also comes to me sometimes with titles she has heard elsewhere and asks me to go find them to include in her collection, which is fantastic. I have actually found some cool music because of her.
She is developing her own tastes in music and as a parent I am compelled to brag that she has a pretty sophisticated ear. Here are some more songs that we both enjoy. I noticed after I picked these out today that there is a lot of classic rock in this mix. Well, it’s all new to her.
- Blue Sky – The Allman Brothers
“Don’t fly Mr. Bluebird, I’m just walking down the road.” Universal lyrics and joyful guitar.
- Hoodoo Voodoo – Billy Bragg & Wilco
Honky Tonk music provided by Wilco and Bragg with lyrics by Woody Guthrie. It’s as good as you think.
- More Than a Feeling – Boston
There’s a reason classic rock songs are classic.
- Everything’s Not Lost – Coldplay
You can never be too young to appreciate this truly beautiful song.
- Kooks – David Bowie
A parent invites his kid to stay in “our lover’s story” and gives her advice, promises, and a beautiful song.
- Lucky Man – Emerson Lake and Palmer
It’s a little sad, and the prog rock keyboard solo at the end is weird, but my kid seems to like this one as much as I did.
- Just Happy to Be Me – The Fugees
From the brilliant ‘Songs from the Street’ collection of performances on Sesame Street. “Now Snuffy and Big Bird are havin’ a good time. They’re walking and gawking, trying to talk to a mime. In the square where they just seen it all, but they never seen a yellow bird 7 feet tall.” Lauryn Hill is a genius.
- Carrie-Anne – The Hollies
My daughter likes a lot of old music, including simple poppy songs like this one from the 60’s.
- I’m Yours – Jason Mraz
I’m luke-warm on this one but I can tell you my daughter absolutely loves this track.
- Hey Hippopotamus – Justin Roberts
Roberts does music for very young kids. Not any older than kindergarten. Nevertheless, this isn’t just on my daughter’s mix, it’s in my main rotation as well. I love this song.
- Neopolitan Dreams – Lisa Mitchell
The glockenspiel is a perfect accompaniment to the simplicity of the playful melody.
- Blinded by the Light – Manfred Mann’s Earth Band
I was my daughter’s age when this song hit the radio and she likes it as much as I did.
- Nine in the Afternoon – Panic! At the Disco
They pound out a strong chord progression on the piano, the melody is pleasing, and the beats they occasionally drop keeps the song a little surprising.
- Solisbury Hill – Peter Gabriel
Does anyone NOT like this song?
- In Only Seven Days – Queen
My daughter has requested I put all my Queen on her mix, which I did (except for ‘Get Down Make Love’). She’s a big fan. This is a pretty but sad song about falling in love on vacation. The story is easy to follow and the emotions are accessible even to kids.
- The Only Living Boy in New York – Simon and Garfunkel
A beautiful song about loneliness. The harmonies between verses are gorgeous.
- Hodja – Todd Rundgren
In addition to being a fantastic song about a kid asking an old man to teach him a dance move, this song is completely a capella, which leads to a fun discussion. Amazon has this track mislabeled. It says ‘Pretending to Care,’ but the sample really is ‘Hodja.’
- Big Bad Bill (Is Sweet William Now) – Van Halen
This was written in 1924, but I like Van Halen’s 1982 version with ripping clarinet and David Lee Roth doing his best Satchmo imitation.
Don’t give in to the marketing machine that wants to sell your kids cheaply produced, derivative crap. Feed them a healthy diet of quality music. Good for them. Good for you. Enjoy with some apple juice. That’s good for you too. Have a great weekend.
When my daughter was 3, we were riding in my car when the U2 / B.B. King collaboration When Love Comes to Town came on the radio. “I like B.B. King,” she piped up from the back seat. I don’t own this song and to my knowledge she had never heard it before. She recognized his distinctive voice from the letter B song he did on Sesame Street. That’s when I realized kids listen to music. Really listen.
Music has brought a lot of joy into my life. I believe this is because the main thing music does is bring people together. As performers, as dancers, or just as appreciators. I share my love of music with my daughter and try to foster it in her as well. The downside is this means attending things like the Father/Daughter Square Dance at her school (shudder). The upside, however, is tremendous and I hope it will pay dividends for the rest of her life.
I have a mix on my iPod with her name on it that we often listen to in the car or at home. It is full of an array of songs she likes from Classic Rock, Jazz, Oldies, World Music, and other genres (sadly, she doesn’t like Hip Hop, but I’m working on her). One of the benefits of sharing music with her is I don’t buy and don’t have to listen to the likes of Raffi, Kid Bop, or The Wiggles. The really great thing, though, is we enjoy listening to it together. We both sing along and we talk about music — what the drummer is doing, what the lyrics mean, how much I might like a horns bridge, or how much she likes a piano solo.
I recommend doing this, if you can. Burn some mix CDs if you don’t have an iPod. I have a couple hundred songs on her mix, but these are some of our favorites.
1. Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds – The Beatles
My daughter loves The Beatles. Some other notables include Here Comes the Sun, Strawberry Fields, and Drive My Car.
2. Underground – Ben Folds Five
This song is a lot of fun, changes character several times, and keeps a kid’s attention.
3. Steal My Kisses – Ben Harper
A sweet song with a bouncy feel.
4. Happy Feet – 8 1/2 Souvenirs
This has kind of a retro-swing feel and is sung in French. It’s all about broadening horizons.
5. Chicken Payback – Band of Bees
I recommended this track a couple weeks ago. Four out of five kids agree.
6. Three Is a Magic Number – Blind Melon
My favorite track from the School House Rock Rocks CD. There is no sample on Amazon, but here is a link to the video on YouTube.
7. The Tide Is High – Blondie
I liked it when I was a kid. My kid likes it now.
8. Round & Round – Bob Schneider
I’m going to do a post about Bob Schneider soon. For now, play this for your kids.
9. Beyond the Sea – Bobby Darin
Children like a little crooning & big band. I’ve got some Sinatra on her mix as well.
10. Lost in the Snow – Bruce Hornsby
My daughter is fascinated by the story of 8 year-old Bruce lost in a snowy woods and gets exposed to Bruce‘s incomparable keyboard work.
11. Les Chrysanthèmes – Cosmos Sound Club
You will like this song as much as your kids will.
12. Looking for Satellites – David Bowie
I get such a kick out of the fact that my daughter likes this spacey weirdness from David Bowie.
13. Life in a Northern Town – Dream Academy
Kids aren’t old enough to understand nostalgia, but this song is evocative for them anyway.
14. Mr. Blue Sky – Electric Light Orchestra
A high energy song with kid-accessible lyrics and studio production values 15 years ahead of its time.
15. Bennie and the Jets – Elton John
My mom played it for me. Now I’m paying it forward.
16. Baby Elephant Walk – Henry Mancini
Yes. And the Pink Panther theme too.
17. Take Me the Way I Am – Ingrid Michaelson
A pretty little song with a sweet message.
18. They – Jem
This is a cool song that has an added bonus: when she hears the Bach’s Prelude in F Minor, she’ll recognize it.
19. Imagine – John Lennon
Play this for your kids.
20. Let Love Rule – Lenny Kravitz
Another funky song wrapped around a great message.
21. Cherry, Cherry – Neil Diamond
Maybe you can hang with Neil. Maybe you can’t. The happy melody, harmonies, and handclaps appeal to kids.
22. Let ‘Em In – Paul McCartney & Wings
Not one of Paul’s deeper tunes, but it’s simplicity makes it easy to listen to.
23. Canary in a Coalmine – The Police
This is such a fun, danceable song. I just had to explain about how coal miners used canaries.
24. Seaside Rendezvous – Queen
Freddy Mercury at his most flamboyant. Warning: contains the line “What a damn jolly good idea.” But it’s so charmingly delivered I let it pass.
25. Woo Hoo – The 184.108.40.206.’s
From Quentin Tarantino’s living room straight to your kid’s brain.
26. Spirit of the Radio – Rush
Mine likes it, but I have a sneaking suspicion results may vary.
27. Fishin’ Blues – Taj Mahal
One of the happiest blues songs evah.
28. Istanbul (Not Constantinople) – They Might Be Giants
Honestly, how could a kid not love this song?
29. I Saw God – Victor Wooten
Victor plays bass for banjo virtuoso Bela Fleck. In his spare time, he writes beautiful, philosophical gems like this one. I really, really like this song.
30. Linus and Lucy – Vince Guaraldi
To my knowledge, everyone who has ever heard this song likes it.
Enjoy with Oreos and milk. Have a good weekend.