Sunday, December 4, 2016

The Best Christmas Songs of All-Time, December 4

December 4, three weeks before Christmas Day.  Here are six more of The Best Christmas Songs of All-Time*:

"We Three Kings
by the Ray Conniff Singers
The Singers do as fine a job as anyone on "We Three Kings".  The song was written by the Reverend John Henry Hopkins, Jr. in 1857.
The song is featured as part of a medley with "Oh Holy Night" and "Deck The Halls".
The reality is that few artists can sound as good on Christmas songs as Conniff's Singers do and that's certainly the case on "We Three Kings".

"12 Days of Christmas"
by John Denver & the Muppets

The song, generally thought to be of French in origin, could have began as a Twelfth Night game, in which a leader cited a verse, each of the players repeated the verse, the leader then added a verse, and so on until one of the players made a mistake. That person would then pay a penalty, such as offering a kiss or a sweet, or simply dropping out of the game. "The 12 Days of Christmas" was first published in 1780 in England. 

It has been performed by hundreds of different artists and often is annoying because of the repetitive nature.  
But when John Denver hosted The Muppets Show and did this song with Jim Henson's characters, that version gave it enough of a twist to become one of the favorite versions (if not the favorite).
"God Rest Ye, Merry Gentlemen"
by Perry Como

This song was first published by William B. Sandys in 1833, although it is believed to have been written in the mid-18th century.
Few have performed it as genuinely as did Perry Como, and that is why his version makes The Best Christmas Songs of All-Time*.

"Step Into Christmas"
by Elton John
This was written by Bernie Taupin and Elton John and recorded at Morgan Studios in London in 1973.  Billboard's policy at the time was not to include Christmas songs on its "Hot 100" chart, but the song did reach #1 on a special Christmas chart.  It is one of a select few new songs in the last 40 years to be included in this feature.

"Carol of the Bells"
by John Williams

The song originated in the Ukraine as a pagan chant performed during the celebration of the New Year, which was in April.  When Christianity came to the Ukraine, the New Year's celebration was moved to January.   Composer Mykola Leontovych used the words of this chant in his song, which was adapted to English by Peter J. Wilhousky.

However, most versions of the song we now hear are instrumental, oddly enough.  One of the best is this one from John Williams.

"White Christmas"
by the Drifters

The great Irving Berlin wrote this masterpiece, although there are differing accounts as to the time of the composition.  After writing it, Berlin told his secretary, "Grab your pen and take down this song.  I just wrote the best song I've ever written.  Heck, I've just written the best song anyone's ever written."  

Although Bing Crosby dominates the song on the airwaves today, this version is good enough to also make The Top 150 Christmas Songs*.  The Drifters hit #2 with it in 1954 and it made seven appearances on the chart through 1962.

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