Another ten songs for your holiday listening pleasure!
- The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire) – Nat King Cole: This was written by Mel Tormé and Bob Wells in Summer, 1945; it was quite hot, and they wrote it as a way to keep cool. The King Cole Trio (Nat on piano and vocal, Oscar Moore on guitar, and Johnny Miller on bass) first recorded it in June 1946; this is the second recording, done a couple of months later, which added an ensemble of a string quartet, a harpist, and a drummer, under the direction of Charlie Grean. The first wasn’t released until 1989, and then by accident. This is the classic.
- Merry Christmas Baby – B. B. King: Originally recorded in 1947 by Johnny Moore’s Three Blazers (which included Oscar Moore from the King Cole Trio), it’s been covered many times since, including this version by Riley B. King, the Beale Street Blues Boy, who sadly passed earlier this year.
- Please Come Home For Christmas – The Eagles: Halfmoon Mollie wanted to include this one, and who am I to refuse? This is a cover of Charles Brown’s 1960 hit, and reached #18 on the Hot 100 in 1978.
- The Little Drummer Boy / Peace On Earth – Bing Crosby and David Bowie: My only regret is that Bowie didn’t come out as Ziggy Stardust. That would have been a sight to see. Nevertheless, this has become a classic, and Bing and Bowie work very well together, a testament to the professionalism of both men.
- I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus – The Ronettes: One of the original girl groups accompanied by Phil Spector’s infamous “Wall O’ Sound.” It’s still good.
- Sleigh Ride – The Ventures: I never knew this until today, but this was written by Leroy Anderson, who gave us last Saturday’s “The Syncopated Clock” and “The Typewriter.” The Ventures combined the song with their hit “Walk Don’t Run,” and this was the result.
- Santa Baby – Eartha Kitt: Last year, I did a post about the number of Christmas favorites written by Jewish composers, and this one, along with “The Christmas Song” and several others I’ll feature today, is one of them. This was written by Joan Javits (niece of Senator Jacob Javits) and Phil Springer. Eartha Kitt, a remarkable singer who nevertheless is better known as the woman who replaced Julie Newmar as Catwoman on the Batman TV series, recorded this in 1953.
- White Christmas – Bing Crosby and Martha Mears: This Irving Berlin classic was a hit for Bing Crosby before the 1942 movie White Christmas, which also starred Fred Astaire and Marjorie Reynolds, whose voice is dubbed here by Martha Mears. I always liked Bing playing the bells with his pipe.
- I’ll Be Home For Christmas – Carpenters: Another Christmas song first made popular by Bing Crosby, this was written by Kim Gannon, Walter Kent, and Buck Ram, who wrote the poem on which it was based and who sued to get a songwriting credit. For all the grief we gave the Carpenters in the 1970’s, Karen Carpenter had a beautiful contralto voice.
- Silver Bells – Dean Martin: When Jay Livingston and Ray Evans wrte this, they named it “Tinkle Bells.” Livingston went home and told his wife, who thought he was meshugah for naming it that. So they renamed it. The song debuted in 1951’s The Lemon Drop Kid starring Bob Hope and Marilyn Maxwell. As I remember the movie, the first person to sing it was William Frawley (Fred Mertz from I Love Lucy, Bub O’Casey from My Three Sons), who mangled the words (he made the last line “Or Santa will slip you a mickey”) before Bob took over.