The Board, NMH
December 31, 2019
In this curated playlist, the NMH branch of The Tavern presents to you a combination of songs representing the joy, anticipation, and melancholy of the holidays. A mix of classic and contemporary, this playlist demonstrates the way new traditions complement and build upon the old. Happy holidays!
“Let It Snow” – Luscious Jackson
This is a contemporary rock cover of “Let it Snow”, sung in its most famous iteration by Frank Sinatra. This song sets the tone for the playlist, presenting a modern take on a song originally published in 1945 – perfectly celebrating old traditions with a new iteration.
“Rocking Around The Christmas Tree” – Brenda Lee
Fast forward a little in time from 1945, “Rocking Around the Christmas Tree” was first published in 1958 and quickly gained critical success. One of the “classics” of the playlist, this song is representative of many of the age-old traditions that have reappeared for generations around Christmastime, including caroling, partying, and enjoying the company of friends.
“Christmas Is All Around” – BAILEN
Originally released in 2003 by Billy Mack, this cover by BAILEN continues the playlist theme of new traditions building upon the old. This song speaks to both the best and the worst of spending time with family around the holidays, especially the feelings that manifest when holiday traditions and family reunions occupy too close a space. The brief interlude at 2:16 is more than enough to convey what happens when family togetherness can become a bit much.
“Winter Wonderland” – Bing Crosby
Written in 1934 and covered by Bing Crosby, a heavyweight producer of Christmas albums, “Winter Wonderland” describes a dreamy, merry snowscape. Never actually mentioning Christmas in the lyrics, “Winter Wonderland” represents a throwback to earlier childhood snow days, where one could spend hours playing in the snow. Although those days may be long gone for some, “Winter Wonderland” serves to reminisce on carefree winter outings.
“The Desert Babbler” – Iron & Wine
This song represents the kind of melancholy that can present itself around the holidays, with poignant lines like “Back home the kitchen's warm with Christmas wine
/ And every girl has got an axe to grind.” “The Desert Babbler” speaks to the odd happy-sad feelings that manifest amidst the hustle and bustle of the holidays. Whether it’s spending time around family we haven’t seen in a while, feeling alone amid the pre-Christmas rush, or simple realization of the passage of another year, this song expresses what it’s like to be feeling blue around the holidays.
“Wonderful Christmastime” – Paul McCartney
Paul McCartney’s hit song is representative of the classic traditions that we commonly associate with the holidays, albeit decked out in hip ‘80s synths. In a similar vein to “Rocking Around the Christmas Tree”, caroling and enjoying annual Christmas parties are prominent examples of enjoying oneself around the holidays. McCartney paints a picture of a joyous Christmas scene to be enjoyed by families all around.
“Did I Make You Cry on Christmas Day? (Well You Deserved It!)” – Peach Pit
One of the most recently released songs on this playlist, I chose this song because the spare guitar chords and melancholy tune present the holiday season in a mellower light. Following some of the themes of “The Desert Babbler”, the song addresses the listener, asking – “did I make you cry / On Christmas day?” – a sobering question to be asked around the holidays. Reinventing the traditional view of a Christmas song, Peach Pit’s innovative cover of Sufjan Stevens’ popular song continues with the idea that holiday staples can be reimagined with the passage of time.
“Sleigh Ride” – Carpenters
This song was originally composed by Leroy Anderson in the 1940s, describing the merriment of a sleigh ride through the snow, and this version, recorded by the Carpenters in the 1970s, enjoyed wild success. In an age where finding time to simply play outside in the snow is scarce, reminiscing on sleigh rides long gone provides a sense of comfort for anyone imagining the experience of playing in the snow. And in any case, Karen Carpenter’s joyful singing motivates us to get outside and enjoy the snow while we can!
“Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” – Haley Reinhart
Haley Reinhart delivers a powerful rendition of Judy Garland’s original song in 1943. Reinhart’s 1950s-styled percussion and piano brings to mind crushed velvet cafes and jazz bars with a distinctly holiday flavor. This song acknowledges the nostalgia that reveals itself around the holidays, because Reinhart asks listeners to recall in 2019 the “olden days” and “happy golden days of yore,” of Christmases past.
“Happy Xmas (War Is Over)” – John Lennon
This song was part of John Lennon’s anti war campaign in the 1970s, consciously asking listeners, “what have you done” to bring peace into the world in the past year. An important question for all of us to consider, this invokes the age-old ideas associated with the holidays: love, generosity, and welcoming peace into our lives and others’. The gift-giving and consumerism surrounding the holidays certainly is fun, but the values of peace and love certainly deserve a song of their own.