A Holiday Music Playlist: Crossing Genres Like Gifts Off the List

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‘Twas the week before Christmas…yes, I said Christmas because…well… it IS the week before Christmas. The fact that it is Chanukah as well is not lost on me and I am glad to use the term “holiday music.” But it is just a fact of the calendar that Christmas, whether you celebrate it or not, is one week away. And, most folks I know, of ALL beliefs, enjoy holiday music during this period of time and truth be told, many of these songs include the word “Christmas.” Quinnipiac hasn’t done a poll on this, but I would bet that folks of all religious beliefs or even non-belief know the words to “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” and “The Christmas Song.” The songs are a part of our musical lexicon just like many other famous songs and I honestly don’t think anyone cares or even thinks about the word “Christmas” as they sing along with their favorite versions of these and many other holiday season songs that are burned into our brains like The Pledge of Allegiance.

BUT…I am not here to debate political correctness today but to offer up some of MY favorite music for this season.

For me, the holiday music I enjoy is that which is evocative of a mood, a certain feeling of melancholy, and hopefully causes us to pause from all that we are doing this time of year and just enjoy music that can put us in a particular headspace like no other…the “stuff” that one can kick back with a glass of wine, eggnog (hopefully in a moose head mug a la Chevy Chase in Christmas Vacation) or hell, even a PBR and relax into and simply enjoying some beautiful sounds.

True, most of these selections would not be considered rock and roll, which is what we are about here at Weeping Elvis, but with this list my only criteria is that it is simply good, and good holiday music can come to us from all genres. The 14-song playlist below comes from the world of pop, rock, country, R & B, jazz and some that really are not genre definable.

I am not sure why most every performer out there feels the need to regale us with an album of Christmas and holiday songs (especially those from the world of country music) but most do. Much of it is simply fine if you like that particular artist but once in a while a rendering will be given that is truly special and unique.

Playlists are all the rage these days so I will put this list in that form but certainly ALL of the albums these selections are from are worth a listen in their entirety, so if you have the gumption and the iTunes gift certificate or your Spotify “free trial” has not run out, dig the complete album of work.

Some side notes:

A Charlie Brown Christmas was actually a 1965 album of music made for the TV special. I prefer the analog hiss and jazz trio feel of Guraldi Trio original but smooth jazz pianist David Benoit lovingly remade most of the original album on his 2000 recording Here’s To You Charlie Brown: 50 Great Years…it’s a worthy substitute.

Handel’s Messiah: A Soulful Celebration was a 1992 Grammy winning R & B/gospel/hip-hop version of Handel’s Messiah helmed by Mervyn Warren of famed jazz vocal group Take 6. The concluding “Hallelujah Chorus” features an amazing assemblage of stars from the R & B and gospel world.

Christmas Stays The Same by acclaimed vocalist Linda Eder is a mixture of holiday/ Christmas classics and wonderful original tunes by composer Frank Wildhorn (who is Jewish, btw). I truly feel some of these originals are worthy of “classic” status…we will see what the years will say.

The David Bowie/Bing Crosby pairing has been called one of the most unlikely in music history. It certainly was in 1977 when the pair came together to record and film a version of “The Little Drummer Boy” for Crosby’s Christmas television special. It was decided that Bowie would sing in counterpoint to Crosby and “Peace on Earth” was composed for the occasion.

Greg Lake recorded several versions of “I Believe in Father Christmas”, which he penned himself. I find the version realized by his progressive rock trio Emerson, Lake and Palmer to be the most…well…”Christmasy.” It was an unexpected hit and widely misinterpreted as anti-religious. Lake, in an interview said, “I find it appalling when people say it’s politically incorrect to talk about Christmas, Christmas was a time of family warmth and love. There was a feeling of forgiveness and acceptance. And I do believe in Father Christmas.”  For me, some 40 years later, I think his words most perfectly describe my intent of putting together this list.

Over the years, I have kept a running list of some of my favorite Christmas/holiday songs from all genres and styles and many different types of artists. So head to iTunes or Spotify and create a playlist of these personal favorites. Even if you use it but for nothing save background music at your holiday gathering, office party or just sitting around with a significant other…hell, I think I enjoy this music the most listening by myself. However you choose to enjoy,  I hope you do.



“Merry Christmas Darling” – The Carpenters – Christmas Portrait


“The Christmas Song” – The Carpenters – Christmas Portrait


“Thanksgiving” – George Winston – December


“Joy” – George Winston – December


“The Little Drummer Boy/Peace on Earth” – Bing Crosby and David Bowie – Bing Crosby Christmas Classics


“Christmas Time Is Here” – Vince Guraldi Trio – A Charlie Brown Christmas


“Lucy and Linus” – Vince Guraldi Trio – A Charlie Brown Christmas


“The Holly and the Ivy” – Mannheim Steamroller – A Fresh Aire Christmas


“Do You Hear What I Hear” – Linda Eder and The Broadway Gospel Choir – Christmas Stays the Same

“The Bells of St. Paul” – Linda Eder – Christmas Stays the Same


“Christmas Stays the Same” – Linda Eder – Christmas Stays the Same


“Tennessee Christmas” – Amy Grant – A Christmas Album


“I Believe in Father Christmas” – Emerson, Lake and Palmer – Works Vol. 2


“Hallelujah” – Various Artists- Handel’s Messiah: A Soulful Celebration


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Clem emerged from the underbelly of NashVegas where he began his love of ALL things musical. College found him in the commercial music program at the University of Miami where he actually learned what the hell he was doing. New York was next and whether he “made it there” is still up for debate. From playing in the honky-tonks of Nashville and the dance clubs of Miami to Broadway and theatrical stages around the country, to Carnegie Hall (while practicing one day somebody told him how to get there) and the recording studios of New York and L.A., Clem’s variety of musical experience has transcended the boundaries of genre. He owns a production company, lectures on music in colleges across the country and is on the visiting faculty of Elon Univ. He has a port-o-johns named after him at Bonnaroo, Coachella and Lollapalooza.