#23: Happy Xmas

Happy Xmas“Happy Xmas (War Is Over)” was recorded by John Lennon, Yoko Ono and the Plastic Ono Band in late October 1971, with the help of producer Phil Spector. It features soaring, heavily echoed vocals, and a sing-along chorus. The children singing in the background were from the Harlem Community Choir and are credited on the song’s single. The song is a protest song about the Vietnam War, based on a campaign in late 1969 by John Lennon and Yoko Ono, who rented billboards and posters in eleven cities around the world that read: “WAR IS OVER! (If You Want It) Happy Christmas from John and Yoko”. The cities included New York, Los Angeles, Toronto, Rome, Athens, Amsterdam, Berlin, Paris, London, Tokyo and Hong Kong. At the time the US was deeply entrenched in the unpopular Vietnam War. The line “War is over, if you want it, war is over, now!”, as sung by the background vocals, was taken directly from the billboards.

The record starts with a barely-audible whisper of Christmas greetings to their children: Yoko whispers “Happy Christmas, Kyoko”, then John whispers “Happy Christmas, Julian”. The lyric sheet from the 1982 release The John Lennon Collection erroneously gives this introduction as “Happy Christmas, Yoko. Happy Christmas, John”.

The single was released in the US on 6 December 1971, but never charted on the Billboard Hot 100 charts; the UK release was delayed until the following November due to a publishing dispute. Upon release, it reached #4 in the UK Singles Chart. The song was re-released in the UK on 20 December 1980 shortly after John Lennon’s death on 8 December 1980, peaking at Number 3.

 

This song is my wife’s very favorite Christmas song. It was performed with Coulter Neale, who graciously volunteered to lend his guitar talents to the song.

Lyrics

So this is Christmas
And what have you done?
Another year over
And a new one just begun

And so this is Christmas
I hope you have fun
The near and the dear one
The old and the young

A very merry Christmas
And a happy New Year
Let’s hope it’s a good one
Without any fear

And so this is Christmas
For weak and for strong
For rich and the poor ones
The world is so wrong

And so happy Christmas
For black and for white
For yellow and red ones
Let’s stop all the fight

War is over,
If you want it.
War is over now.

#22: Were You There?

Were You ThereThe melodically captivating song “Were You There on That Christmas Night?” was written by Natalie Sleeth in 1976. Sleeth was an accomplished composer who received an Academic major in music and a BA in music theory at Wellesley College in Massachusetts. She married a Professor of Homiletics, Reverend Ronald E. Sleeth, and was a member of the Highland Park United Methodist Church, and even wrote some hymns which appear today in the United Methodist hymnal.

Lyrics

Were you there? Were you there
On that Christmas night?
When the world was filled with a holy light?
Were you there to behold as the wonder foretold
Came to Earth?

Did you see? Did you see?
How they hailed him king?
With their gifts so rare that they chose to bring?
Did you see how they bowed as they praised him aloud
At his birth?

Did you hear how the choirs of angels sang
At the glory of the sight?
Did you hear how the bells of Heaven rang
All through the night?

Did you know, did you know
It was God’s own son?
The salvation of the world begun?
Did you know it was love that was sent from above
To the Earth?

Did you know it was love that was sent from above
To the Earth?

#21: O Come All Ye Faithful

O Come All Ye FaithfulThe text to “O Come All Ye Faithful” was originally written in Latin (“Adeste Fideles”) and is attributed to John Francis Wade, an 18th-century hymnist. It was first published in a collection known as “Cantus Diversi” in 1751.

The original four verses of the hymn were extended to a total of eight, and these have been translated into many languages many times, though the English “O Come All Ye Faithful” translation by Frederick Oakeley in 1841 is particularly widespread. In 1841 Rev. Frederick Oakley worked on the familiar English translation which replaced the older Latin lyrics.

Lyrics

O Come All Ye Faithful
Joyful and triumphant,
O come ye, O come ye to Bethlehem.
Come and behold Him,
Born the King of Angels;
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
Christ the Lord.

O Sing, choirs of angels,
Sing in exultation,
Sing all that hear in heaven God’s holy word.
Give to our Father glory in the Highest;
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
Christ the Lord.

All Hail! Lord, we greet Thee,
Born this happy morning,
O Jesus! for evermore be Thy name adored.
Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing;
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
Christ the Lord.

#20: You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch

You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch“You’re A Mean One, Mister Grinch” was originally written and composed for the 1966 cartoon special How The Grinch Stole Christmas! The lyrics were written by Theodor “Dr. Seuss” Geisel, the music was composed by Albert Hague, and the song was performed by Thurl Ravenscroft. The song’s lyrics describe the Grinch as being foul, bad-mannered and sinister using increasingly creative metaphors and synonyms.

Because Ravenscroft was not credited in the closing credits of the special, it is often mistakenly attributed to Boris Karloff, who served as narrator and speaking voice of the Grinch in the special. After becoming aware of this oversight, Seuss himself called Ravenscroft and apologized profusely, and later wrote letters to columnists nationwide telling them that it was Ravenscroft who provided the vocal.

Ravenscroft recorded two versions of the selection, one version for the television special and the other version for the soundtrack. The two versions differ in the order of the verses; the instrumentation — the soundtrack version’s accompaniment is more straight-forward, and features fewer instruments and “sound effect” musical events, than the version heard during the special; the nature of singing and the transitions between verses — the soundtrack’s transitions are shorter and less abrupt.

Lyrics

You’re a mean one, Mr. Grinch.
You really are a heel.
You’re as cuddly as a cactus,
You’re as charming as an eel.
Mr. Grinch.

You’re a bad banana
With a greasy black peel.

You’re a monster, Mr. Grinch.
Your heart’s an empty hole.
Your brain is full of spiders,
You’ve got garlic in your soul.
Mr. Grinch.

I wouldn’t touch you, with a
thirty-nine-and-a-half foot pole.

You’re a vile one, Mr. Grinch.
You have termites in your smile.
You have all the tender sweetness
Of a seasick crocodile.
Mr. Grinch.

Given the choice between the two of you
I’d take the seasick crocodile.

You’re a foul one, Mr. Grinch.
You’re a nasty, wasty skunk.
Your heart is full of unwashed socks
Your soul is full of gunk.
Mr. Grinch.

The three words that best describe you,
are, and I quote: “Stink. Stank. Stunk.”

You’re a rotter, Mr. Grinch.
You’re the king of sinful sots.
Your heart’s a dead tomato splot
With moldy purple spots,
Mr. Grinch.

Your soul is an apalling dump heap overflowing
with the most disgraceful assortment of deplorable rubbish imaginable,
Mangled up in tangled up knots.

You nauseate me, Mr. Grinch.
With a nauseaus super-naus.
You’re a crooked jerky jockey
And you drive a crooked horse.
Mr. Grinch.

You’re a three decker sauerkraut and toadstool sandwich
With arsenic sauce.

#19: Santa Baby

Santa Baby“Santa Baby” was written in 1953 by Joan Javits and Philip Springer. The song is a tongue-in-cheek look at a Christmas list sung by a woman who wants the most extravagant gifts like sable, yachts and decorations from Tiffany’s. “Santa Baby” was originally sung and recorded in 1953 by Eartha Kitt. The song was a huge hit for Kitt, and she later said that it was one of her favorite songs to record. A sequel, “This Year’s Santa Baby”, was recorded by Kitt in 1954, to no commercial success; Kitt also reprised the original song for a 1963 re-recording with a more uptempo arrangement (Madonna’s popular rendition for the 1987 charity album A Very Special Christmas is based on this latter version). The song was featured in the 1989 film Driving Miss Daisy.

Lyrics

Santa baby, just slip a sable under the tree, for me
Been an awful good girl
Santa baby so hurry down the chimney tonight

Santa baby, a ’54 convertible too, light blue,
I’ll wait up for you dear
Santa baby, so hurry down the chimney tonight

Think of all the fun I’ve missed,
Think of all the fellows that I haven’t kissed
Next year I could be just as good
If you check off my christmas list

Santa baby, I want a yacht and really thats not a lot
Been an angel all year
Santa baby, so hurry down the chimney tonight

Santa honey, one little thing I really need, the deed
To a platinum mine,
Santa baby, so hurry down the chimney tonight

Santa cutie, and fill my stocking with a duplex and cheques,
Sign your “X” on the line
Santa cutie, and hurry down the chimney tonight

Come and trim my Christmas tree,
With some decorations bought at Tiffany’s
I really do believe in you,
Let’s see if you believe in me

Santa baby, forgot to mention one little thing, a ring,
I don’t mean on the phone,
Santa baby, so hurry down the chimney tonight

Hurry down the chimney tonight
Hurry, tonight

#18: White Christmas

White ChristmasIrving Berlin wrote “White Christmas” in the early 1940s, reminiscing about an old-fashioned Christmas setting. Bing Crosby made this song famous, and his single has been credited with selling 50 million copies, the most by any release. Even the Guinness Book of World Records lists Crosby’s song as a 100-million seller, encompassing all versions of the song, including albums. The song was even made into a movie, under the same name, starring Bing Crosby together with Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney and Vera-Ellen.

Accounts vary as to when and where Berlin wrote the song. One story is that he wrote it on the poolside at the Biltmore hotel in Phoenix, Arizona. He often stayed up all night writing — 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!”

Whatever the origins may be, “White Christmas” is a long-time cherished Christmas favorite.

Lyrics

I’m dreaming of a white Christmas
Just like the ones I used to know
Where the treetops glisten,
and children listen
To hear sleigh bells in the snow

I’m dreaming of a white Christmas
With every Christmas card I write
May your days be merry and bright
And may all your Christmases be white

I’m dreaming of a white Christmas
With every Christmas card I write
May your days be merry and bright
And may all your Christmases be white

#17: What Child Is This?

What Child Is This?“What Child Is This?” was written by William Chatterton Dix in 1865. At the age of 29, William was struck with a sudden near-fatal illness and confined to bedrest for several months, during which he went into a deep depression. Yet out of his near-death experience, Dix wrote many hymns, including “What Child Is This?” It was later set to the traditional English tune “Greensleeves.”

Lyrics

What child is this who laid to rest
On Mary’s lap is sleeping
Whom angels greet with anthems sweet
While shepherds watch are keeping

This, this is Christ the King
Whom shepherds guard and angels sing
Haste, haste to bring him laud
The babe, the son of Mary

Why lies he in such mean estate
Where ox and ass are feeding
Good Christian fear, for sinners here
The silent Word is pleading

So bring Him incense, gold, and myrrh
Come peasant king to own Him
The King of kings, salvation brings
Let loving hearts enthrone Him

This, this is Christ the King
Whom shepherds guard and angels sing
Haste, haste to bring him laud
The babe, the son of Mary

#16: Mary’s Lullaby

There are many songs by the name “Mary’s Lullaby,” but this particular one comes from the Children’s Primary songbook, used by the LDS Church. It  is based on an old German folk tune, and is a simple sweet lullaby to the Christ child. The words were written by Jan Underwood Pinborough in 1989, with the music arranged by Darwin Wolford.

Lyrics

Lullaby, lullaby, my little one.
Lullaby, my child so dear.
Thy precious life has just begun;
Thy mother holds thee near.
While Joseph watches through the night,
A star reflects thy radiant light.

Thy gentle head shall wear a crown,
For thy Father is the King.
Thy tender hands, so tiny now,
Have blessings great to bring.
Let all creation join my song,
For peace and love this night are born.

Lullaby, lullaby, my little one.
Lullaby, my child so dear.

Descant
While Joseph watches through the night,
A star reflects thy light.

Let all creation join my song,
For peace and love are born.

#15: O Come, O Come, Emmanuel

adoration-of-the-shepherds-gerard-van-honthorst-1590-1656The words to “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” are a translation of the Catholic Latin text “Veni, veni, Emmanuel” by John Mason Neale in the mid-19th century. Their origins are very old indeed, and may date as far back as the 12th century. They were of such importance in medieval days that in monasteries a separate stanza, to be sung from December 16 through December 23, was assigned to each of the most pious monks. In the 1800s, a musical setting that would accommodate the stanzas and the refrain “Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee O Israel” was fashioned out of some plainsong sequences. (There was no refrain in the original Latin.) And, since plainsong has no measures and no specified rhythmic scheme, the quality of this hymn is always flowing and free.

The text is based on the biblical prophecy from Isaiah 7:14 that states that God will give Israel a sign that will be called Immanuel (literally, “God with us”). Matthew 1:23 states fulfillment of this prophecy in the birth of Jesus of Nazareth.

Lyrics

O come, O come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear.

Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Wisdom from on high,
Who orderest all things mightily;
To us the path of knowledge show,
And teach us in her ways to go.

Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free
Thine own from Satan’s tyranny;
From depths of hell Thy people save,
And give them victory over the grave.

Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Day-spring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here;
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night,
And death’s dark shadows put to flight.

Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Key of David, come,
And open wide our heavenly home;
Make safe the way that leads on high,
And close the path to misery.

Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, O come, great Lord of might,
Who to Thy tribes on Sinai’s height
In ancient times once gave the law
In cloud and majesty and awe.

Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Root of Jesse’s tree,
An ensign of Thy people be;
Before Thee rulers silent fall;
All peoples on Thy mercy call.

Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Desire of nations, bind
In one the hearts of all mankind;
Bid Thou our sad divisions cease,
And be Thyself our King of Peace.

Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

#14: Jingle Bell Rock

Jingle Bell Rock“Jingle Bell Rock” was written by Joe Beal, a New England-born public relations man, in 1957. It’s in the “rockabilly” style, and was written during a time when rock-and-roll was coming on strong and casting its new rhythmic vitality over everything, including the Christmas season. Joe Beal collaborated with Jim Boothe, a Texas writer in the advertising business, to create this unique novelty, which became a best-selling record for Bobby Helms.

Lyrics

Jingle bell, jingle bell, jingle bell rock
Jingle bells swing and jingle bells ring
Snowing and blowing up bushels of fun
Now the jingle hop has begun

Jingle bell, jingle bell, jingle bell rock
Jingle bells chime in jingle bell time
Dancing and prancing in Jingle Bell Square
In the frosty air

What a bright time, it’s the right time
To rock the night away

Jingle bell time is a swell time
To go gliding in a one-horse sleigh
Giddy-up jingle horse, pick up your feet
Jingle around the clock

Mix and a-mingle in the jingling feet
That’s the jingle bell,
That’s the jingle bell,
That’s the jingle bell rock

#13: Joy to the World

Joy to the WorldThe words to the triumphant song “Joy to the World” are by English hymn writer Isaac Watts, based on Psalm 98 in the Bible. The song was first published in 1719. Watts wrote the words of “Joy to the World” as a hymn glorifying Christ’s triumphant return at the end of the age, rather than a Christmas song celebrating his first coming as a babe born in a stable. Only the second half of Watts’ lyrics are still used today.

The music was adapted and arranged to Watts’ lyrics by Lowell Mason in 1839 from an older melody which was then believed to have originated from Handel, not least because the theme of the refrain (“And heaven and nature sing…”) appears in the orchestra opening and accompaniment of the recitative “Comfort Ye” from Handel’s Messiah, and the first four notes match the beginning of the choruses “Lift up your heads” and “Glory to God” from the same oratorio. However, Handel did not compose the entire tune.

As of the late 20th century, “Joy to the World” was the most-published Christmas hymn in North America.

Lyrics

Joy to the world! the Lord is come;
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare him room,
And heaven and nature sing,
And heaven and nature sing,
And heaven, and heaven, and nature sing.

Joy to the Earth! the Saviour reigns;
Let men their songs employ;
While fields and floods, rocks, hills, and plains
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat, repeat the sounding joy.

No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found,
Far as the curse is found,
Far as, far as, the curse is found.

He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders, wonders, of His love.

#12: It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like ChristmasYou may know Meredith Wilson as the composer of the Broadway hit The Music Man in 1957, but before that in 1951 he had already achieved success with “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas.” Perry Como and The Fontane Sisters with Mitchell Ayres & His Orchestra on September 10, 1951. Bing Crosby recorded a version on October 1, 1951 which was also widely played.

Lyrics

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas
Ev’rywhere you go
Take a look in the five-and-ten,
Glistening once again
With candy canes and silver lanes aglow.

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas
Toys in ev’ry store
But the prettiest sight to see
Is the holly that will be
On your own front door.

A pair of hopalong boots and a pistol that shoots
Is the wish of Barney and Ben
Dolls that will talk and will go for a walk
Is the hope of Janice and Jen
And mom and dad can hardly wait for school to start again.

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas
Ev’rywhere you go
There’s a tree in the Grand Hotel,
And in the park as well
The sturdy kind that doesn’t mind the snow.

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas
Soon the bells will start
And the thing that will make them ring
Is the carol that you sing
Right within your heart.

#11: Let It Snow!

Let It Snow!“Let It Snow!” was written by lyricist Sammy Cahn and composer Jule Styne in July 1945 in Hollywood, California during one of the hottest days on record.

First recorded by Vaughn Monroe on October 31, 1945, it became a popular hit, reaching #1 on the Billboard music charts the following year. One of the best-selling songs of all time, “Let It Snow!” has been covered countless times. Due to its seasonal lyrics, it is commonly regarded as a Christmas song. Yet despite its cheery, holiday feel, it is a love song that never mentions Christmas and both the composer and lyricist were Jewish.

Lyrics

Oh the weather outside is frightful,
But the fire is so delightful,
And since we’ve no place to go,
Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!

It doesn’t show signs of Pauseping,
And I’ve bought some corn for popping,
The lights are turned way down low,
Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!

When we finally kiss goodnight,
How I’ll hate going out in the storm!
But if you’ll really hold me tight,
All the way home I’ll be warm.

The fire is slowly dying,
And, my dear, we’re still good-bying,
But as long as you love me so,
Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!

#10: Coventry Carol

Coventry CarolThe “Coventry Carol” is a Christmas carol dating from the 16th Century. The carol was performed in Coventry as part of a play called The Pageant of the Shearmen and Tailors. The play depicts the Christmas story from chapter two in the Gospel of Matthew. The carol refers to the Massacre of the Innocents, in which Herod orders all male infants under the age of two in Bethlehem to be killed. The lyrics of this haunting carol represent a mother’s lament for her doomed child. It is the only carol that has survived from this play. Our knowledge of the lyrics is in considerable doubt, as the only surviving manuscript copy was burnt in 1875, and only two poor quality transcriptions remain from the early nineteenth century.

Lyrics

Lully, lullay, Thou little tiny Child,
Bye, bye, lully, lullay.
Lullay, thou little tiny Child,
Bye, bye, lully, lullay.

O sisters too, how may we do,
For to preserve this day
This poor youngling for whom we do sing
Bye, bye, lully, lullay.

Herod, the king, in his raging,
Charged he hath this day
His men of might, in his own sight,
All children young to slay.

That woe is me, poor Child for Thee!
And ever mourn and sigh,
For thy parting neither say nor sing,
Bye, bye, lully, lullay.

#9: Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas“Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” was introduced in 1944 by Judy Garland in the musical Meet Me in St. Louis, “a love of a film” as one critic put it. Frank Sinatra later recorded a version with modified lyrics, which has become more common than the original. The song was credited to Hugh Martin and Ralph Blane, although during a December 21, 2006 NPR interview, Martin said that Blane had encouraged him to write the song but had not had anything more to do with writing it. In 2007, the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) ranked “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” the third most-performed Christmas song written by ASCAP members of the past five years.

Lyrics

Have yourself a merry little Christmas,
Let your heart be light
From now on,
Our troubles will be out of sight

Have yourself a merry little Christmas,
Make the Yuletide gay,
From now on,
Our troubles will be miles away.

Here we are as in olden days,
Happy golden days of yore.
Faithful friends who are dear to us
Gather near to us once more.

Through the years
We all will be together,
If the Fates allow
Hang a shining star upon the highest bough.
And have yourself
A merry little Christmas now.