Friday, December 23, 2011

It ain't un-Rock to celebrate.

I love Christmas music.  Just about any kind.  Not every, but just about.  There are some songs out there that should truly never be played again.  But overall, I look forward to breaking out my catalog of Christmas music and making my way through as much of it as I can.

So I find it a little disheartening that more people don't enjoy it.  Especially in the rock circles.  Whether they think it's hokey, or they got inundated with it as children that it now makes them sick, or they hate all organized religion so vehemently, or just Christianity in general, that Christmas music is just anathema.  But one that is actually more funny than not is the argument that rock music is about being anti-establishment and there is nothing more "establishment" than the music of both a religious and federal holiday.

Well, to put it simply, the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame disagrees with you.  And all you need to do is look at their inductees.

First off, some of my favorite albums are Christmas albums by Hall Of Famers: Booker T. & The M.G.'s, the Ventures, the Four Seasons, the Beach Boys, Elvis Presley, Fats Domino, and the legendary album from Non-Performer Phil Spector (which featured Hall Of Famers the Ronettes, Darlene Love, and session players Hal Blaine and Leon Russell).  
And let's not forget Motown either.  Classic renditions of Christmas songs from the family built by Berry Gordy, Jr. including the Temptations, the Supremes, Gladys Knight And The Pips, the Jackson Five, plus original gems from Stevie Wonder  (which would also include James Jamerson and Benny Benjamin as Sidemen).  And not just Motown, but other soul greats that have chipped in at Christmastime include James Brown, the O'Jays, Aretha Franklin, Solomon Burke and Otis Redding.

The founding fathers of rock'n'roll were kind to Christmas too.  Already mentioned James Brown, Fats Domino, and Elvis, but let's not forget Chuck Berry, Bill Haley, Ray Charles, Roy Orbison, Ricky Nelson, the Drifters (both eras), etc.  We also can add Bobby Darin and Dion to that list as well.

Want it to be more modern?  We can go with Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers' "Christmas All Over Again", U2's versions of "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)" and "Ave Maria".  Past nominee Bon Jovi has also had a couple Christmas songs.  Run-D.M.C.'s "Christmas Is" and the slightly embarrassing "Christmas In Hollis" bring rap to the scene.  Love her or hate her, Madonna's a part of both the Hall and the holidays with her rendition of "Santa Baby."  Bob Seger in the early days had "Sock It To Me Santa" and in later years had a version of "The Little Drummer Boy."  Police frontman Sting gave us the ethereal "Gabriel's Message" and former Fleetwood Mac member Stevie Nicks had a somber and sincere rendition of "Silent Night".  The leading sisters of past ballot nominee Heart aso took part in the festivities.  And even though they haven't been considered yet, new-wave devotees will note the amazing "Thanks For Christmas" performed by XTC under the pseudonym of "Three Wise Men."

Even the Beatles would put out annual Christmas records for members of their fan club (produced by George Martin), including "Christmastime Is Here Again."  Paul McCartney of course went on to put out "Wonderful Christmastime" backed with the interesting "Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reggae."  And while satirical at the time, we play John Lennon's "Happy Xmas (War Is Over)" with all sincerity and hope.  Though not as blatantly holiday related, I was pleased to ring in the New Year with George Harrison's "Ding Dong; Ding Dong."

And of course there's Darlene Love and Brenda Lee, two Hall Of Famers remembered best for their Christmas material.  Or Elton John with his perennial classic "Step Into Christmas".  2011 inductee Neil Diamond also has his "You Make It Feel Like Christmas."

And how about Early Influences?  Louis Jordan and Charles Brown for instance, and hopefully soon Sister Rosetta Tharpe or Amos Milburn?

The point is, there is nothing un-Rock about Christmas.  Even the likes of future possibilities Jethro Tull and Twisted Sister have found a way to be part of the celebration.  Christmas is for all music, all genres, and all people, whether you're the people who actually celebrate the Christian aspect, those who simply love seeing the glow on children's faces when they get that new toy they wanted, those who believe in goodwill towards mankind as helping establish world peace... Christmas has something for everyone. 

And to quote the song made famous by Early Influence inductee Nat "King" Cole: Although it's been said many times, many ways: Merry Christmas to you.

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