Yep, still Chanukah!

Have a very traditional song: “Al Hanisim”; words from an extra paragraph inserted into the daily prayers on Chanukah (and Purim), melody by Dov Frimer, sung by Shira Kline:


Video by ShiraKline

Or if you are not feeling quite so traditional, here’s “Light Up the Night” by the Ein Prat Fountainheads (which actually quotes words from “Al Hanisim”):


Video by einpratfountainheads

Continue reading “Yep, still Chanukah!”

Just give it a couple of days…

“It’s Just Another New Year’s Eve” by Barry Manilow and Marty Panzer, sung by Barry Manilow:


Video posted by egaygigi

Yeah, yeah, I know, Barry Manilow, yadayada. But did you listen to the song? Because it’s really good. Try listening to the same song sung by Lea Salonga:


Video posted by LeaSalonga–Topic (Provided to YouTube by Sony Music Entertainment)

Beautiful, right? Very much like something you’d expect to find in a Broadway show or in an album of pop standards. People say that all Manilow’s songs sound the same, but my theory is that he sings in a very stylized way even though it sounds simply conversational, and it’s a strong enough style that the songs he sings sound more alike than different. (Not that he doesn’t have a definite music writing style, but the songs on his albums that he DIDN’T write sound as much like Barry Manilow as the ones he did. That’s a neat trick.)

Not to mention that right about now, I find it really nice to hear someone sing “We’ll get through this…we’ll be just fine,” don’t you?

Continue reading “Just give it a couple of days…”

It’s still Chanukah!

So here’s another Chanukah song: “Light One Candle,” by Peter Yarrow, sung by Peter, Paul, and Mary:


Video from the PBS Holiday Concert, posted by Loren Newsom

(The top comment on this particular YouTube is by the producer and director of the PBS show, how awesome is that?)

Peter, Paul, and Mary debuted “Light One Candle” during their 1982 Holiday Concert at Carnegie Hall. If you keep count, you will see that the lyrics “light one candle” repeat exactly eight times–and if you watch carefully, you can see that the children light one candle each time that phrase is repeated, making them a human menorah.

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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!

ch16_icop

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”