Thursday, December 22, 2011

Holiday Classics: The Christmas Song

Les Brown & his Orchestra feat. Doris Day : The Christmas Song

John Edwards: The Christmas Song
Out of print

Smokey Robinson & The Temptations: The Christmas Song

The Christmas Song might be the best of all Christmas songs in the pop canon. It was written in the space of 45 minutes on a hot summer’s day in 1944. Mel Tormé wrote the lyrics, Bob Wells the lyrics — on that hot day the lyricist sought to conjure images of winter in a bid to keep cool.

It was first recorded in 1946 by the King Cole Trio, also on a hot day. These recordings apparently did not make great waves. The trio recorded a new version in 1953, with an orchestral arrangement by Nelson Riddle. The version that we are most familiar with is Nat ‘King’ Cole’s 1963 recording, which is closely patterned on the 1953 take, right down to the jingle bells outro.

Tormé recorded the song he co-wrote in around 1954, and again in 1961 for the My Kind Of Music album, and in 1992. Also see this delightful video of Tormé and Judy Garland (wondering about flying rainbows) from Garland’s 1963 Christmas show. A couple of weeks ago, Glee paid homage to Garland’s Christmas special, to great effect.

But none of these versions feature here. First we have Doris Day and the Les Brown Orchestra doing The Christmas Song in 1946, around the same time the Cole Trio recorded the orignal. Note how this version incorporates strains of the "Noel" carol, and plays out with a nod to "Silent Night" where Nat would later opt for "Jingle Bells".

Then there is a slow-burning version by John Edwards from 1976, which sounds a lot like Donny Hathaway might have sung it. Edwards, an excellent soul singer in his own right who was once mentored by Curtis Mayfield, later became lead singer for The Spinners, most notably on "Working My Way Back To You".

A rather different soul version is delivered by Motown giants Smokey Robinson and The Temptations. I am unsure when they recorded it, but comments on the video on YouTube suggest the year 1987.

Normally contributors to the Star Maker Machine don't really plug their own blogs, but I think it is fair, at this time of the year when some may need a fix of new seasonal music, to make readers of this blog aware of the Christmas mixes I have posted in the past, ranging from soul to country to "Christmas in Black & White" and, of course, pop. ALL HERE.

And so, to my fellow contributors and all readers, may your Christmas be bright and may the new year bring you lots of joy.

Photo by Phill Joynes (

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