Songs for the Christmas season [Spotify playlist]

The eve of Christmas is upon us and it’s time to start feeling jolly. Some of Santa’s elves need a little extra pep. So, step on it reindeer, we need to deck the halls for tomorrow. Whether you’re doing some last minute shopping, decorating, baking Christmas cookies or preparing a holiday feast; The High Note has picked its favorite tracks to help everyone get into the mood this holiday season.

Open this link or click on the Spotify playlist at the bottom of this post to take these tunes with you into the kitchen, car or party as we celebrate the season with the best holiday songs. 

Bob Dylan and Santa Claus from the "It Must Be Santa" video.
Bob Dylan and Santa Claus from the “It Must Be Santa” video.

“It Must Be Santa” – Bob Dylan
Bob Dylan’s take on the obscure “It Must Be Santa,” is full of audial and visual surprises. Released on the 2009 release “Christmas in the Heart” Dylan always keeps us guessing. Dylan dons a wing and teleports into scenes and lists former United States presidents pulling Santa’s sleigh. This song makes the argument that there isn’t enough accordion in Christmas tunes.

"Christmas with the Chipmunks"
“Christmas with the Chipmunks”

“The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don’t Be Late)” – The Chipmunks
Will Alvin ever get a hula hoop? The Chipmunks Christmas songs will always be at the top of my list. Of course we can all laugh at it now, but there is little wonder why this song won three Grammy’s in 1958; Best Comedy Performance, Best Children’s Recording, and Best Engineered Record (non-classical). Dave Seville, the stage name of Ross Bagdasarian, Sr., wrote, performed and sung all the parts on this song by changing the speed of the recording and speeding up the playback to alter the octave.

Sufjan Stevens
Sufjan Stevens

“Lumberjack Christmas/No One Can Save You From Christmases Past” – Sufjan Stevens
As part of Sufjan Stevens’ massive 10-volume epic of Christmas songs that were recorded 2001-2012, “Lumberjack Christmas/No One Can Save You From Christmases Past,” the second track on the 2012 release “Sliver & Gold” has become one of my all time favorite holiday songs. If you want to delve into this collection, there is one YouTube video that combines both “Songs for Christmas” and “Silver & Gold” which totals 4 hours, 50 minutes and 46 seconds. Someone really loves Christmas.

"A Very She & Him Christmas"
“A Very She & Him Christmas”

“Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” / “The Christmas Waltz” – She & Him
Since actress and musician Zooey Deschanel stole the hearts of audiences with an a cappella version of “Baby, Its Cold Outside” opposite Will Ferrell in “Elf” we knew she would be perfect for a Christmas album. “A Very She & Him Christmas” recorded with her bandmate M.Ward in 2011, includes a folksy take on classics like “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” and “The Christmas Waltz” which was originally recorded by Frank Sinatra in 1954.

"The Classic Christmas Album"
“The Classic Christmas Album”

“Frosty the Snowman” – Willie Nelson 
This holiday classic is only made better by Willie Nelson’s gruff cowboy drawl and his classic Martin guitar, “Trigger.” Released last year on “The Classic Christmas Album,” Uncle Willie sings “Frosty the Snowman” in a way that we can almost hear the Nelson families warming by the fire.
“Happy Xmas (War is Over)” – John & Yoko and The Plastic Ono Band
This ubiquitous Christmas song  was originally written to protest the Vietnam War. Lennon released the song in 1971 as a single but it wasn’t until his death in 1980 that it rose to popularity around the holidays. True to its beginnings, the music video that was released in 2003 contains footage from war zones including Afghanistan and Iraq.

“Christmas (Baby Please Come Home” – Darlene Young
Every year since 1986, David Letterman’s last show before Christmas includes a performance of “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” by Darlene Young. Love still expresses the same emotion and power as she did nearly 30 years ago. The song is also iconic for its use in GoodFellas.  See Friday’s performance with Paul Shaffer below.

"The Beach Boys' Christmas Album"
“The Beach Boys’ Christmas Album”

“Little Saint Nick” – The Beach Boys
Mike Love singing Christmas songs is a beautiful thing. It’s basically “Little Deuce Coupe” in a Santa suit but it’s a lot of fun. Released in 1963 as a single soon after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, “Little Saint Nick” was rereleased on “The Beach Boys’ Christmas Album” in 1964. Brian Wilson, who co-wrote the song with Love, rerecorded the song on his 2005 album, “What I Really Want For Christmas.”

Chuck Berry
Chuck Berry

“Run Rudolph Run” – Chuck Berry 
Written by Johnny Marks, Chuck Berry made “Run Rudolph Run” a hit when he released it in 1958. The 12-bar blues is signature Berry and is frequently used in Christmas movies, including “Home Alone.” It’s one of the few Christmas songs that I turn the volume up when it comes on the radio.
“Christmas in Hollis” – RUN-D.M.C.
Leave it to RUN-D.M.C. to master the holiday rap. It didn’t make much impact in 1987 when it was released but in the early 2000s it made a comeback and grows in popularity every year. Hollis, is an area of Queens, New York City and listen for the samples of “Jingle Bells,” “Joy to the World” and “Frosty the Snowman.”

“Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” – Jack Johnson
The modern king of surfing music, Jack Johnson, has taken the fable of “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” and switched up the ending with his own laid-back signature style. This was released on “Brushfire Holiday Vol. 1” in 2008 and Johnson brought it back for a performance on “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon” earlier this month backed by The Roots. Check out the super smooth solo by “Captain” Kirk Douglas to close out the performance.   All profits from the song are being donated to the Red Cross Philippines relief effort.

"A Jolly Christmas"
“A Jolly Christmas”

“Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” – Frank Sinatra
Judy Garland may have debuted it to the world in “Meet Me in St. Louis” in 1944 but Frank Sinatra made “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”  his own in 1957. The modified lyrics include “Hang a shining star upon the highest bough,” instead of the original “Until then we’ll have to muddle through somehow.”
“The Chanukah Song” – Adam Sandler
I memorized the lyrics to  “The Chanukah Song” when I was 12 years old. Adam Sandler created an instant classic when he first performed it on “Saturday Night Live” and it lived on subsequent comedy albums “What the Hell Happened to Me?” and on “Stan and Judy’s Kid,” with “The Chanukah Song, Part II.” If you remember “Eight Crazy Nights,” the animated Chanukah movie written by Sandler, a Part III was added to the soundtrack with actor Rob Schneider joining Sandler on vocals.

“Wonderful Christmastime” – Paul McCartney
As a kid, I didn’t know a Beatle wrote this song. The synth-filled “Wonderful Christmastime” was released in 1979 and never reached mass popularity. Many Beatles and McCartney fans completely dismiss it as one of his worst songs. The video features McCartney wearing an amazing Christmas vest and have a party with members of Wings.

“Santa Claus is Coming to Town” – Bruce Springsteen
“The Boss” can embody the spirit of almost any project he tackles, including Christmas. Released in 1985 as a b-side to “My Hometown,” the Bruce Springsteen version of “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” is a favorite among New Jerseyians. It’s always playing during the holiday season and I, for one, can’t get enough of it. Especially the Clarence Clemons baritone “You better be good for goodness sake.”

"A Winter Romance"
“A Winter Romance”

“Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow!” – Dean Martin
The Christmas songs recorded by the Rat Pack are among my favorites. I know they are cliche but there is a reason they are classics. Recorded first in 1945, Sinatra recorded it in 1950 before Martin included it on the 1959 album, “A Winter Romance” and again in 1966 on “The Dean Martin Christmas Album.” This is a great song to sing at the end of the night with a cocktail in one hand and the other arm wrapped around a close friend.

What songs did we miss? Leave your comments below.

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