Based loosely (or entirely, depending on your point of view) on a Facebook note I wrote just about a year ago, I’m going to share my favorite 20 Christmas songs with those who aren’t friends with me on the Book.
20. Who Took The Merry Out of Christmas, The Staples Singers, 1973: Needless to say Roebuck “Pops” Staples is the most underrated patriarch in black music, but this song with your typical Stax groove of that era laments the lack of understanding about “the reason for the season.”
19. It’s Christmas All Over The World, New Edition, 1986: Christmas all over the world was a GREAT album and this was the lead single from it. The post-Bobby, pre-Johnny New Edition = Good times.
18. Sleigh Ride, TLC, 1992: “Lets have a very merry Christmas and a Happy New Year” *does the wop* Fresh off of Ooooh…on the TLC tip, this song had everybody doing the Kid ‘N Play at their holiday parties.
17. What do the lonely do at Christmas, The Emotions, 1973: Yet another deep Holiday cut from Stax, this time the Emotions ponder a relationship gone bad around the time of year where your family will incessantly ask you what on Earth are you doing single? …Sorry, random moment.
16. Silver Bells, A Few Good Men – On the Facebook note, I wasn’t able to remember the name of the group, but thanks to YouTube, we now know it’s A Few Good Men. And it’s the rendition of that song I enjoy the most.
15. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, The Temptations, 1970: Hey Rudolph! C’mon and guide my sleigh! *Temptations walk* Obviously this version of Rudolph is the one most known in R&B circles, but it’s not even the best Temptations Christmas cut. The best one makes an appearance further along in my countdown…
14. Christmas Presence, Gerald Alston and Shanice: The Holidays usually means having your family close to you, but for the characters in this song, a daughter who’s never seen her father and a father who misses the daughter he never knew, the Holidays are a time for longing to be in each other’s lives. Just a bit of perspective for you parents out there…love your kids. That is all.
13. Christmastime is here, Alvin & The Chipmunks, 1961 and White Christmas, The Drifters: What’s Christmas without a silly song? Alvin still wants his hula hoop and I still want a laptop. We’re both waiting still, lol. The Drifters also earn this spot with probably the best doo-wop Christmas carol known to man.
12. Christmas Rappin’ , Kurtis Blow, 1979: After “Rappers Delight” but before “The Message,” there was the homeboy Christmas carol by Kurtis Blow, when Santa stopped by to get his groove on before continuing on his route. Mrs. Claus couldn’t have been happy about the young girls trying to rock his world, though.
11. Give love on Christmas Day, The Jackson 5 and Johnny Gill. I put both artists up there because their versions are unique in various ways. Johnny’s smooth New Jack Swing version was a nice update of the high-octane version with the hopeful pleading of Michael’s teenage voice.
10. At Christmastime, Luther Vandross, 1976: This is really the only known single of Luther’s when he had his self-titled group on Cotillion Records that go some airplay. Pretty good one, I would say. This started a tremendous career of Christmas hits for Luffa, a couple of more ahead of it on my countdown.
9. Christmastime in Hollis, Run DMC, 1987: Where else can you hear the tale of Santa chillin the park and DMC’s madea hookin’ up that good soul food for Christmas dinner? The video was also brilliant as the little elf went messing with Santa’s naughty and nice list, causing all kinds of havoc.
8. I saw mommy kissing Santa Claus, The Jackson 5, 1971: Do I REALLY need to lay this one out for you? “C’mon fellas, you gotta believe me!”
7. I listen to the bells, Luther Vandross and Darlene Love: Another classic from Luther with a very talented duet partner in Darlene Love. Another break-up to make-up Christmas song, but perfect for blasting while decorating your house and trimming the tree – I know that’s what I use it for.
6. Silent Night, The Temptations, 1980: Dennis Edwards’ voice carries this song in between Blue Franklin’s memorable bass. It’s probably a song everybody associates with Christmas because other than another song in this countdown, this is usually the first one the radio stations play when it gets to be that time.
5. Every year, Every Christmas, Luther again: Can you tell who my favorite Christmastime artists are?
4. Let it snow, Boyz II Men featuring Brian McKnight. Not a song for single people, but still beautiful just the same.
3. The Christmas Song, Nat King Cole: My fondest memory of this song entails Harold Burnett in his flip flops and DSU hoodie sitting at his desk at the Hornet office singing “Everybody knows, a turkey and some mistletoe makes the season bright” over and over again. Good times, lol.
2. This Christmas, Donny Hathaway, 1970: The black Christmas Carol, period. It’s not the holidays until you hear those horns and “Hang all the mistletoe, I’m gonna get to know you better this Christmas…” Some say it’s the greatest Christmas song ever, but it’s only Number 2 on this countdown because…
1. Happy Holidays To You, The Whispers, 1979: I literally tear up every time I hear this song because it brings all of my Christmas memories, the true reason for the holiday, family, friends, the whole nine, all together in one beautiful piece of music with the most underrated vocal group of all time. I can only listen to this song once or twice a week or else risk the waterworks.