(Pictured: Mary J. Blige on stage at Christmas 2013.)
It has been three years since I managed two of these Christmas shuffle features in one holiday season, so pin a rose on me, I guess. This playlist covers better than 60 years and a whole lotta styles.
“Moonlight, Mistletoe, and You”/Keb’ Mo’. This is the title song from Keb’ Mo’s 2019 Christmas album, which is not so much a blues record as it is an affable soul singer providing a pleasant 35 minutes of entertainment. I believe our friend Jeffrey Thames sent it along last year, and I don’t think I ever publicly thanked him, so thank you sir.
“I Yust Go Nuts at Christmas”/Orion Samuelson and the Uff-Da Band. Samuelson, a titan of broadcasting, has been at WGN in Chicago for 60 years and will retire at the end of this year, age 86. I can’t say for sure when his Yogi Yorgesson cover was recorded, but I don’t suppose it matters.
(Digression: there’s an amazing recording from November 22, 1963, in which Samuelson interrupts his noontime farm report to read the bulletin from Dallas. All he’s got is the first brief notice, little more than one line, and you can hear him thinking, “My god, what should I do now?” before deciding to continue with the farm news. But as he reads, it’s clear that he’s looking through the studio window into the newsroom praying that somebody will bring him more information.)
“God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen”/Aimee Mann
“God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen”/Billy Idol
Both of these are on albums released in 2006. Idol’s Happy Holidays is far better than it had to be. On One More Drifter in the Snow, Mann was going for a Charlie Brown Christmas vibe, but it’s mostly just morose. (Whole album here.)
“Christmas In Dixie”/Alabama. “Christmas In Dixie” came out in December 1982, when Alabama was just beginning its incredible run of success. Country stations still play it, although pop stations that might have done so when Alabama was crossing over do not. I like it, mostly for reminding me of Christmases from when I was a little baby DJ nearly 40 years ago.
“White Christmas”/Patti Smith
“White Christmas”/Hadda Brooks
Smith’s one-time run-through of “White Christmas” was released sometime around 1978, billed to “r.e.f.m.”, put out over the years on a couple of different labels, and produced by “the Runt,” Todd Rundgren. Brooks was a ballad and boogie-woogie piano player who first recorded in 1945, and so her “White Christmas,” from 1950, includes a long and lovely piano interlude. It came to me from the always-excellent site Any Major Dude With Half a Heart, where the Dude has reupped his entire collection of Christmas mixes. Stock your collection with 90 years of good stuff here.
“It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year”/Patti Labelle. Since my Christmas library plays mostly on shuffle, certain songs get overlooked, often for years at a time, and so I forget they exist. For example, there’s this complete reinvention of the Andy Williams warhorse from a 2007 album called Miss Patti’s Christmas.
“This Christmas”/Mary J. Blige. A Mary Christmas was released in 2013 and contains this terrific cover of the Donny Hathaway standard, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year.
“I’ll Be Your Santa Baby”/Rufus Thomas. The stars of Stax recorded a fair bit of Christmas music during the label’s heyday. Some of it which was collected on It’s Christmas Time Again, released in 1982, an album replaced by Christmas In Soulsville, released in 2007. “I’ll Be Your Santa Baby” makes the Hip Christmas List of Sexiest Christmas Records, which is a good horny read. (Hip Christmas is a fabulous site I hadn’t visited in several years until recently. You should go there too and explore its “dysfunctionally vast web archive dedicated to holiday music that rocks, rolls, swings, and twangs.”)
Note to patrons: Here’s our programming rundown for the remainder of 2020: there will be new One Day in Your Life posts here on both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day because they’re my favorite thing to write. Next week Monday and Tuesday you’ll read about another American Top 40 year-end countdown show. On New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, there will more new One Day in Your Life posts.
Also: I am not doing a Christmas podcast this year. If you want to listen to last year’s, find it here. (I listened to it again myself. It’s good.)
Also also: I will be on the air during Magic 98‘s annual 98 Hours of Christmas Magic tomorrow and Thursday from 6 til 10AM. I hope you’ll drop in for a while.