Is it too late to ask? Or too early? Or…

“What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve” by Frank Loesser, sung by Barbra Streisand:

Video posted by ChristmasCottage’s channel

According to the Songfacts blog, this is the second most popular song for the end of the year, and it is “the kind of ballad that is usually sung in a melancholy tone because the singer instinctively knows the answer (you’re probably busy).” Fits.

So let’s undercut the melancholy with this playful version sung by Zooey Deschanel and Joseph Gordon-Levitt:

Video by HelloGiggles/Zooey Deschanel

Maybe it’s that they’re clearly having so much fun, or maybe it’s that it’s a duet, but one way or another, that doesn’t sound sad or wistful to me at all–they sound like the answer they’re expecting is, “Spending it with you, you idiot!”

Deschanel is wrong about one thing, though–the original isn’t by Nancy Wilson, whose recording of the song came out in 1965. The song was written by Frank Loesser (about whom I have already written this year) in 1947 as an independent song,

(Which leads me to believe that Gordon-Levitt has a penchant for Loesser’s music–which is not a complaint, just an observation!)

and it was first recorded by The Orioles a couple of years later.

Continue reading “Is it too late to ask? Or too early? Or…”

Happy first night of Chanukah!


In honor of which, I bring you two–yes, two!–Chanukah songs.

The first is “Candlelight,” sung by the Maccabeats:

Video by Uri Westrich

In case you were wondering about the lines in “Candlelight” that run:

We say “ma’oz tzur”
Oh, yeah, for all eight nights,

that is my second song, a very traditional Chanukah song.

“Ma’oz Tzur,” sung by students of Israel’s Technion*:

Video by Technion

Continue reading “Happy first night of Chanukah!”

May your days be merry and bright

We’re a bit short on snow in my part of the world right now, which is not unusual–it’s still on the early side for the white stuff. Of course, the following song‘s rarely-performed opening verse begins “The sun is shining, the grass is green.”

“White Christmas” by Irving Berlin, sung by The Three Tenors:

Video posted by congodfather. (I think the best bit is when the children’s choir joins in.)

Or, if you prefer, a 2008 cover by Jason:

Video posted by dare2dreamJC

The song was written for the Bing Crosby/Fred Astaire vehicle Holiday Inn and became an instant classic. Crosby’s version of “White Christmas” is the best selling record of all time, the single selling at least 50 million copies; when all the various covers are taken into account, the song is estimated to have sold over 150 million copies. This despite–or perhaps because of?–the fact that it’s not so much about Christmas itself as an ideal or dream of what a Christmas should be.

[NOTE: Since the Crosby’s single was released before singles charts were a thing, I’m going by the conclusions of the researchers at the Guiness Book of World Records.]

Continue reading “May your days be merry and bright”

One songwriter, so many Christmas songs

Three examples:

“Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” by Johnny Marks, based on a poem by Robert L. May, as sung by Destiny’s Child (you heard me):

Video posted by DestinysChildVEVO

“Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree,” by Johnny Marks, sung by Bill Haley:

Video posted by PEARLY

“A Holly Jolly Christmas,” by Johnny Marks, sung by Sufjan Stevens:

Video posted by Sufjan Stevens – topic (Provided to YouTube by BWSCD, Inc.)

There is a very interesting story behind the writing of “Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” Robert May was an in-house copywriter for Montgomery Ward, and in 1939, as his wife was dying of cancer, they asked him to write a Christmas story that they could give away to shoppers to spur holiday sales. A little booklet titled “Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer” was the result. Sometime in 1939, Johnny Marks became aware of the story and made a note in his idea notebook that it might make a good song. In 1947, Johnny Marks married May’s sister, and in 1949 he wrote the song based on his new brother-in-law’s poem. Gene Autry recorded the song as a B side in 1949 because his wife liked it (Autry didn’t), and it went on to sell 15 million copies.

Continue reading “One songwriter, so many Christmas songs”

Here’s to making hearts grow three sizes in one day

“You’re A Mean One, Mr. Grinch” by Albert Hague and Theodor Geisel, sung by Thurl Ravenscroft:

Video courtesy of horgemlingurinn

And here’s a version by the Pickens High School Jazz Band (really quite good!):

Video posted by Jennifer Bryan

To quote from Albert Hague’s obituary in the The New York Times:

“When he played the song he wrote for the Grinch assignment to Theodore Geisel, Mr. Geisel (a k a Dr. Seuss) exclaimed, ‘Any man who slides an octave on the word Grinch gets the job.'”

Continue reading “Here’s to making hearts grow three sizes in one day”

Now would be a good time…

“Christmas (Baby, Please Come Home)” by Ellie Greenwich, Jeff Barry, and Phil Spector, sung by Jon Bon Jovi:

Video posted by Doddie004

And sung by the original singer, Darlene Love (with Patti LaBelle), just a few days ago:

Video posted by The View

According to Rolling Stone (2010), if you’re looking for the best rock ‘n’ roll Christmas song, look no farther because you’ve just heard it. And if it reminds you of “Be My Baby” or “Da Doo Ron Ron” you have a good ear, because those were written by the same three (Jewish) songwriters.

Continue reading “Now would be a good time…”

If you are planning to be home, you probably should have already headed out

“I’ll Be Home for Christmas,” by Walter Kent, Kim Gannon, and Buck Ram, sung by Lady Antebellum:

Video by Lady Antebellum

And an acoustic cover of “I’ll by Home for Christmas,” sung by Jason and Michael Castro:

Video by Jason Castro (Okay, yes, the stache is unfortunate.)

The song, wistful and haunting, first recorded in 1943, was an instant hit, resonating strongly with soldiers at the front during WWII as well as with their families. It still speaks to those who can’t be with their loved ones during the holidays (or indeed at any time).

Continue reading “If you are planning to be home, you probably should have already headed out”

It’s Christmastime even where it’s not wintry

“Silver Bells” by Jay Livingston and Ray Evans, sung by Colbie Callait:

Video posted by Rita Spencer; audio posted by Colbie Caillat-Topic, “Provided to YouTube by Universal Music Group International.”

And here is the same song as sung by Bob Hope and Marilyn Maxwell in the movie for which the song was written, The Lemon Drop Kid:

Video posted by TCBNS. (Clip comes complete with visual “jokes” based on ethnic stereotypes; the movie came out in 1951, which is no sort of an excuse but is an explanation of sorts, alas.)

“Silver Bells” was frequently referred to by Livingston as “our annuity.” The title, by the way, was originally “Tinkle Bells.”

[I pause while you take that in.]

Then Livingston went home and told his wife about their new song and she said, “Are you out of your mind? Do you know what the word ‘tinkle’ means to most people?” They changed the title (and lyrics) to “Silver Bells” forthwith.

Continue reading “It’s Christmastime even where it’s not wintry”