Nicole: My number one Christmas classic is the tale of unrequited love and wintry blues: “Blue Christmas,” penned in 1948 by Billy Hayes and Jay W. Johnson, but made famous by the King in 1957. Over the years, many have done the melodramatic country ballad justice (The Beach Boys), and a few have provided renditions that I could do without (read: Kelly Clarkson or Michael Bublé). I’ve provided two of my favorite versions: one being a television performance of Elvis with Martina McBride — the duet could be seamlessly imitated by an country/indie pair like Conor Oberst and Jenny Lewis. Bright Eyes recorded a version of “Blue Christmas” for their holiday album released by Saddle Creek in 2002, and it may very well be the most appropriate Christmas classic of all for the band to cover.
Ben: if you are visiting family this holiday season, chances are you will be subjected to some absolutely garbage Christmas music. Hear enough of it, in fact, and you might forget that there are actually some really good melodies behind a number of traditional holiday numbers. But fear not! Local guitar master Sean Smith‘s Christmas, released a few years ago, offers a solo instrumental takes on classic songs that will be Christmasy enough to satisfy your relatives but quality enough that you’ll really enjoy it. Seriously, keep a copy with you this time of year. You never know when you might need it.
Anna: Turning on the radio this time of year can be a bit dangerous. You might just want some background noise while you run errands, and instead you’ll be faced with a barrage of holiday music: either yet another cover of “White Christmas” and “Baby It’s Cold Outside”, or new and original attempts at holiday tunes. Maybe some people enjoy these new attempts at holiday music, but they’re usually not my favorites. Instead, I look forward to hearing what can now be considered “original classics” – specifically, Paul McCartney’s “Wonderful Christmastime.” It’s corny but not annoying, and is a nice reminder of the sounds of Paul McCartney during his Wings era.
Jason: Not sure how Gayla Peevey‘s “I Want A Hippopotamus For Christmas” slipped under my Christmas song radar for the first 30 or so years of my life, but it did. Written by professional songwriter John Rox and then recorded and released by Peevey in 1953 – when she was only ten years old – the track is straight goofy, the perfect song to listen to with kids young enough to be discovering the magic of the holidays for the first time (like my little almost-three-year-old). Despite quitting show business fifty years ago, Peevey is still reveling in the small bit of fame “I Want A Hippopotamus For Christmas” brought her, maintaining a website that tells the history of the song and even has video of her Ed Sullivan performance all those years ago.