Saturday, December 21, 2013

Top Five All-Time Greatest Christmas Songs

Yes, I know exactly what opinions are like. And yes, these kinds of lists are a dime a dozen, with one being no more authoritative than the next. Nontheless, here are the five best songs for the Christmas season, in my not so humble opinion:
5. Do They Know it's Christmas--Band Aid
In 1984, Irish musicians Midge Ure (of momentary Thin Lizzy fame) and Bob Geldorf (from The Boomtown Rats) were determined to help with the famine currently taking place in Ethiopia. To that end, they founded Band Aid, a kind of supergroup that attracted the support and participation of a number of high profile musicians from the era, from Phil Collins, to Boy George, to Bono. Ure and Geldorf composed a song, which was then recorded by this supergroup released on November 28th, 1984. Here it is:

4. O Come, O Come, Emmanuel--Traditional Choir 
A traditional Christian hymn whose origins extend back to at least the 12th century (maybe much earlier), it was originally written and performed in Latin (Veni, veni, Emmanuel). The modern version was authored by John Mason Neale and Henry Sloane Coffin in the middle of the 19th century. Deeply spiritual, the beautiful music that accompanies the hymn is unmistakable from its very first bars. No Christmas is complete without this classic. Enjoy:

3. White Christmas--Bing Crosby 
Written by Irving Berlin in 1940--accounts vary with regard to the exact date and place--this song became an instant classic. It is easily the most covered holiday song of all times, as every artist who puts out a holiday album tends to include their own version of this song, and the best-selling single ever released, having sold some 50 million copies (100 million if all cover versions released as singles are included). And it also happens to be my wife's favorite Christmas song. Sit back and remember fondly Christmases gone by:

2. Silent Night--Vienna Boys Choir
Many people will probably be surprised to learn just how long this classic song has been around. The original was composed by Franz Xaver Gruber (melody) and Joseph Mohr (lyrics) in 1818 not far from Salzburg, Austria. Originally in German (as Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht), the song was translated into English by John Freeman Young in 1859. But I've opted for the original version, performed here by the Vienna Boys Choir in 1967:

1. I Believe in Father Christmas--Greg Lake 
For as long as I can remember, this has been my favorite Christmas song. Written by Greg Lake and Peter Sinfield in 1974, Lake released the song that same year as a single, though he was still actively a member of Emerson, Lake, and Palmer. Eventually, ELP included the song on their Works Volume 2 album. The song is at once joyful and remorseful; it reminds us of both the true meaning of Christmas and of innocence lost. The haunting acoustical introduction stays with us, long after the song is over, as do the words from the song's second to last verse:

I wish you a hopeful Christmas
I wish you a brave New Year
All anguish pain and sadness
Leave your heart and let your road be clear
Merry Christmas and happy holidays to all.

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