Top 5 Christmas Recordings of the Rock And Roll Era
Whether in the car, office, department store or the home, Radio provides the soundtrack for the Holiday Season so often and for so many. Here is my list of the Top 5 Singles released during the Rock And Roll era. The recordings included are not necessarily Rock And Roll music. I just wanted to limit my choices a bit. So much Christmas themed music has been released every Fall and Winter for the past century, that narrowing the list of favorites down to less than half a dozen would be like trying to pick your favorite 5 hairs on your head (regrettably much easier when it comes to my head).
5.“The Little Drummer Boy” – Harry Simeone Chorale (1958). Aside from a triangle or two, just human voices heard on this popular recording. This song is the English translation of a Czech carol titled “The Carol of the Drum.” The recording was released every Christmas season from 1958 to 1962, and made the top 40 each of those years.
4. “White Christmas” – The Drifters (1954 & 1955). The rockin’ Doo Wop version of the Christmas Pop standard was recorded by the original Drifters with Clyde McPhatter late in 1953. It hit #2 on the Billboard R&B charts in 1954 and entered the Pop charts in 1955. In 1957 Elvis Presley recorded a version of “White Christmas” heavily influenced by the Drifters’ single, and this one caught the attention of the song’s composer, Irving Berlin, who hated Presley’s rendition and waged a serious campaign to try and get radio stations to ban the Presley version. He was unsuccessful, the Elvis Presley “White Christmas” single topped the Billboard charts, and the royalty checks rolled on in.
3. “The Christmas Song” – Nat King Cole (1946 & 1960). Written one hot July day by Mel Torme’ and Bob Wells, who were just trying to see if they could mentally cool themselves off by writing about a different season, this modern standard was originally recorded in 1946 by the Nat King Cole Trio. Nat rerecorded the song in 1953 with Nelson Riddle’s string arrangement. The orchestral version was released in 1960, only spent a couple of weeks on the Billboard charts, but that was all it needed to earn a Gold Record. Often called/referred to by it’s first line, “Chestnuts roasting on an open fire…”
2. “Happy Xmas (War is Over) – John Lennon and Yoko Ono (1971). In 1969 the Lennons put up billboard advertisements in major cities around the world that stated simply: “War is Over! (If You Want It).” This became the theme around which John Lennon composed an anti-war Christmas song. Recorded with the Harlem Community Choir and produced by Phil Spector (who’s own legendary Christmas Album suffered the fate of having been released the very same day President Kennedy was assassinated, and was quickly pulled from release), the single did not initially chart well. But as with so many records with a short but annual shelf life, it sold much better the following year. It has since been covered by a wide variety of musical artists, and the original recording is regularly heard on radio and TV whenever the Christmas Season rolls around.
1. “Merry Christmas Baby” – Johnny Moore’s Three Blazers (1947). Slightly pre-dating what is generally accepted to be “the Rock And Roll era,” this influential 1947 composition was and continues to be covered by nearly every performer who feels a need for a Christmas song in their set list whenever December rolls around. It’s been recorded by such authentic artists as Chuck Berry, Bonnie Raitt and Otis Redding, as well as wanna-be artists like Jessica Simpson, Christina Aguilera and Hanson. For the original recording Johnny Moore stacked things in his favor by hiring guitarist Oscar Moore of the Nat King Cole Trio, and singer/pianist Charles Brown. The single reached #3 on the Billboard R&B charts.