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Whether you’re frosting cookies or opening up presents, holiday traditions always seem to invite music to be played alongside the making of festive memories. Here’s a list of the best classic holiday songs that will complement your holiday activities.
10) Chuck Berry – “Run Rudolph Run”
While many Christmas standards have been covered successfully by different artists over the decades, “Run Rudolph Run” is a song that will only ever truly belong to Chuck Berry. From the opening signature guitar lick to the rolling piano, the song lies at the heart of Berry’s unique blues style and will give listeners a festive song to boogie to while decorating.
9) Elvis Presley – “Blue Christmas”
Leave it to the rock ‘n’ roll heartthrob to impart his buttery vocals on the Christmas world in a way that keeps his melancholy song in heavy rotation on mixtapes today. The backup vocals that accompany the King are definitively ’50s and provide a type of hybrid between Christmas caroling and classic radio gold filling the song beautifully as Elvis sways his way into holiday timelessness.
8) Nat King Cole – “The Christmas Song”
Christmas aside, Nat King Cole’s version of “The Christmas Song” is one of the most elegant singles to come from the swing era, period. Cole approaches the song with a beautiful poise that complements his tuxedo-clad look, and the tender lyrical sentiment blends perfectly with the delicate string arrangement underneath.
7) John Lennon – “Happy Xmas (War is Over)”
Released in the final years of the Vietnam War, “Happy Xmas” highlights both the unifying sentiment that Christmas seems to distill in the world, as well as a global respite following an ugly and wildly unpopular war. Looking forward to the upcoming year with the lines, “Let’s hope it’s a good one / Without any fear,” Lennon provides a hopeful message to impart upon his fervent listeners of the time.
6) Joni Mitchell – “River”
In “River,” Mitchell puts her tender style over the melody of jingle bells. However, the song is anything but joyous. The beloved songwriter laments over the absence of love on Christmas and the lyrics, “I wish I had a river / I could skate away on” have resonated with heartsick listeners through the years since its release.
5) Otis Redding – “Merry Christmas Baby”
Getting some soul in your Christmas music rotation should be an imperative, and Otis Redding is a prime example why. The organ lead and brass instrumentation that accompanies the unhinged voice of Redding leaves his single as a Christmas signature, as well as a timeless soul hit.
4) Darlene Love – “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)”
Way before U2 and Mariah Carey decided to make it their own, “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” was popularized by Darlene Love under the creative direction of Phil Spector. The song comes alive with the power of not only Love’s forceful voice but also the grandiose instrumentation and backing vocals that are undoubtedly the work of Spector’s creative vision.
3) Frank Sinatra – “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”
You’ll find no shortage of swing era personalities peppered throughout Christmas playlists, but Sinatra and the holidays seem almost inseparable. The man’s iconic voice croons over handfuls of Christmas standards, but Sinatra’s “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” is regarded as his most tender, and a nice soundtrack to accompany the most heartwarming of Christmas memories.
2) Vince Guaraldi Trio – “O Tannenbaum”
There’s nothing that can so immediately put households in the spirit of the holidays than the subtly brilliant piano voicings of Vince Guaraldi. Made famous through his soundtracks for Charlie Brown, his version of “O Tannenbaum” heard in “A Charlie Brown Christmas” stands on its own as a jazz masterpiece to throw on in the background as families open up presents on Christmas morning.
1) Bing Crosby – “White Christmas”
The wartime single “White Christmas” is without a doubt the most timeless Christmas song to be recorded, and the nostalgia that Bing Crosby’s voice holds in the hearts of listeners throughout generations never seems to fade. Crosby’s hit song turns 75-years-old this year, and having been accredited as the best-selling song of all time, it seems unlikely that “White Christmas” will ever leave the airwaves no matter how many years it ages.
To contact Music Editor Hayden Goodridge, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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