Welcome to your second pandemic Christmas (or Solstice or Hanukkah or whatever you celebrate)! Since you and I and the plague are still here, I’m doing a holiday installment of my ongoing PlagueSongs series AND sharing seven — that’s right, SEVEN! — playlists of mostly secular seasonal music. Enjoy!
Let’s start with the song, written by Ellie Greenwich and Jeff Barry, and first recorded by Darlene Love for A Christmas Gift for You from Phil Spector (1963).
Here’s Darlene Love’s original —
Here’s U2’s cover, done for A Very Special Christmas (1987). Love those hats!
And now, this post’s greatest contribution to your holiday festivities — playlists! (Seven of ’em!)
1) A Very Jazzy Christmas. This is my most popular Spotify holiday playlist. 3 hours, all jazz, no vocals. And no Kenny G. or other ersatz jazz. Just the good stuff: Charlie Parker, John Coltrane, Rashaan Roland Kirk, Terrence Blanchard, Bill Evans, Chet Baker, Duke Ellington, Oscar Peterson, Earl Hines, Coleman Hawkins, Charlie Haden, Hank Jones, Dexter Gordon, Stanley Jordan, MJQ, & more.
2) Yule Get Through the Holidays: Xmas Megamix 2020-2021. Over 8 hours of holiday music of many varieties — an updated, slightly expanded version of a mix created last year. And by “many varieties,” I mean everything from classics (Jackson 5’s “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town,” Louis Armstrong’s “Cool Yule,” Waitresses’ “Christmas Wrapping”) to songs you might not expect (Tom Waits’ “Chocolate Jesus,” Lyle Lovett’s “Penguins,” the Barry Sisters’ “Chiribim Chiribom,” Outkast’s “Player’s Ball”) to curious covers (the Fall’s “Jingle Bell Rock,” Daniel Johnston’s “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree”). Mariah Carey, Bad Religion, Duke Ellington, Stevie Wonder, Johnny Cash, the Muppets, Leslie Odom Jr., Paul Simon, Staple Singers, Thurl Ravenscroft, Ramones, Ella Fitzgerald, Bing Crosby, Marvin Gaye, Carly Rae Jespen, the dB’s, Wham!, the Kinks, James Brown, Fountains of Wayne, Daveed Diggs, Los Lobos, Curtis Mayfield, Dolly Parton, Jimi Hendrix, Barenaked Ladies, Billie Holiday, Donny Hathaway… and many more. Guaranteed to surprise! My goal here was to sustain interest by mixing the known and the lesser-known. And credit to the inspiration for this playlist: Carl Wilson’s Yule Make It Thru December.
3) Cool Yule. Primarily big band jazz (usually with vocals) and lounge. A holiday mix that swings! Includes Louis Armstrong, Mabel Scott, Ella Fitzgerald, Bing Crosby, Eartha Kitt, Kay Starr, Kay Thompson, Lena Horne, Duke Ellington, Billie Holiday, June Christy, Peggy Lee, Julie London, the Ravens, the Andrews Sisters, Fats Waller, Nat King Cole, many others.
4) Blue Christmas. Melancholic holiday music, including Sara Bareilles, Pilgrim Travelers, Harry Nilsson, Regina Spektor, John Prine, Shawn Colvin, Barenaked Ladies, Marshall Crenshaw, Lyle Lovett, Nick Lowe, Madeleine Peyroux, Gregory Porter, Phoebe Bridgers, Mark Knopfler, Bruce Cockburn, Hem, Everything But the Girl, Simon & Garfunkel, Nils Frahm, & others.
5) 1980s Christmas. Kurtis Blow, U2, Prince, Madonna, Ramones, RUN-DMC, Wham!, Squeeze, Erasure, Pretenders, Bruce Springsteen, John (Cougar) Mellencamp, Alison Moyet, Pogues & Kirsty MacColl, Hall & Oates, Sting and more sing Christmas songs in the 1980s! (Yes, even the Springsteen–though recorded in 1975, its first commercial release was 1981.)
6) Thank God It Isn’t Christmas Every Day. Named for a Mitch Benn song not on Spotify, this playlist contains only odd, off-beat holiday songs. It used to begin with Stephen Colbert’s “Another Christmas Song,” but that’s just slipped off Spotify. In its CD version it also contains the original version of “R2 D2, We Wish You a Merry Christmas” (Jon Bon Jovi’s recording debut, inexplicably not on Spotify), but here uses Brian Dewan’s cover. It does include many other oddities on Spotify, including performances from the Sonics, Weird Al Yankovic, Tom Lehrer, Tom Waits, Oscar the Grouch, Wild Man Fischer, Lisa Miller, Parry Gripp, Buck Owens, Jill Sobule, Jimmy Jules, Woody Phillips (“Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy” played on power tools!), & more.
7) Rockin’ Through the Holidays: Classic Christmas Mix. A Spotify version of a favorite CD compilation I made for my sister Linda (and have given to others). Springsteen, Waitresses, Ronettes, U2, Chuck Berry, Beach Boys, Ventures, Fountains of Wayne, Solomon Burke, Stevie Wonder, Macy Gray, and others. Upbeat rock, pop, R&B. If you’d like a more eclectic upbeat mix, try Countdown to Christmas.
What? You seek more Christmas music? Well, OK, I hope you know Duke Ellington’s version of The Nutcracker Suite (1960). If you don’t know it, click on the link in the previous sentence.
The playlist below offers many tunes that (directly or tangentially) intersect with our plague era. But do turn to the music that speaks to you most clearly.
- Plague Songs
- Sing. Sing a Song. #PlagueSongs, no. 1 (17 Mar. 2020). Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive.”
- Do Not Touch Your Face. #PlagueSongs, no. 2 (24 Mar. 2020). The Weeknd’s “I Can’t Feel My Face.”
- The Bright Side. #PlagueSongs, no. 3 (31 Mar. 2020). Monty Python’s “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life.” Also the first post where I began my practice of using a lyric as the title.
- It’s later than you think. #PlagueSongs, no. 4 (7 Apr. 2020). Prince Buster’s “Enjoy Yourself.” (Also, in recording this, I discovered that I cannot play ska. Musically, my rendition of this is easily the worst #PlagueSong.)
- There doesn’t seem to be anyone around. #PlagueSongs, no. 5 (14 Apr. 2020). Tommy James and the Shondells’ “I Think We’re Alone Now.”
- Be an optimist instead. #PlagueSongs, no. 6 (21 Apr. 2020). The Kinks’ “Better Things.”
- Kick at the darkness. #PlagueSongs, no. 7 (28 Apr. 2020). Bruce Cockburn’s “Lovers in a Dangerous Time.”
- So far away, but still so near. #PlagueSongs, no. 8 (5 May 2020). Robyn’s “Dancing on My Own.”
- If you just call me. #PlagueSongs, no. 9 (12 May 2020). Bill Withers’ “Lean on Me.”
- In the end, they’ll be the only ones there. #PlagueSongs, no. 10 (19 May 2020). Hanson’s “MMMBop,” and a few chords from Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit.”
- No matter how I struggle and strive. #PlagueSongs, no. 11 (25 May 2020). Hank Williams’ “I’ll Never Get Out of This World Alive.”
- Love. #PlagueSongs, no. 12 (1 June 2020). Medley of Nick Lowe’s “(What’s so Funny ‘Bout) Peace Love, and Understanding” and the O’Jays’ “Love Train,” with brief snippets of the Staple Singers’ “This Train” and the Beatles’ “All You Need Is Love.”
- This is the time. #PlagueSongs, no. 13 (9 June 2020). Lou Reed’s “There Is No Time.”
- My neighbor and my friend. #PlagueSongs, no. 14 (16 June 2020). Fred Rogers’ “Won’t You Be My Neighbor.”
- If you’re lost, I’m right behind. #PlagueSongs, no. 15 (23 June 2020). Everything But the Girl’s “We Walk the Same Line.”
- Live to see another day. #PlagueSongs, no. 16 (30 June 2020). The Bee Gees’ “Stayin’ Alive.”
- Offer me solutions, offer me alternatives, and I decline. #PlagueSongs, no. 17 (7 July 2020). R.E.M.’s “It’s the End of the World as We Know It (and I Feel Fine).”
- Someday we’ll find it. #PlagueSongs, no. 18 (14 July 2020). Kermit the Frog’s “Rainbow Connection.”
- Can’t control my brain. #PlagueSongs, no. 19 (21 July 2020). Ramones’ “I Wanna Be Sedated.”
- 4’33” #PlagueSongs, no. 20. AND 43 notes on silence, time, and the corona era (28 July 2020). John Cage’s 4’33”, plus an essay inspired by the piece.
- Mann, wer hätte das gedacht, dass es einmal soweit kommt #PlagueSongs, no. 21 (4 Aug. 2020). Nena’s “99 Luftballons.”
- Banish sadness and strife. #PlagueSongs, no. 22 (11 Aug. 2020). “Look for the Silver Lining,” composed by Jerome Kern and Buddy DeSylva. My version is based on the Chet Baker recording. The final weekly #PlagueSong.
- Don’t write yourself off yet. #PlagueSongs, no. 23 (27 Oct. 2020). Jimmy Eat World’s “The Middle.” With this song, #PlagueSongs return at irregular intervals — roughly once a month.
- What’s that sound? #PlagueSongs, no. 24 (3 Nov. 2020). The Buffalo Springfield’s “For What It’s Worth.”
- Go tell that long-tongued liar. #PlagueSongs, no. 25 (17 Nov. 2020). A song known variously as “Run on for a Long Time” and “God’s Gonna Cut You Down.”
- I got the medicine. So, you should keep your eyes on the ball. #PlagueSongs, no. 26 (21 Dec. 2020). BTS’ “Dynamite.”
- I’m lucky to be here. #PlagueSongs, no. 27 (5 Jan. 2021). Warren Zevon’s “Don’t Let Us Get Sick.”
- Don’t run. #PlagueSongs, no. 28 (9 Feb. 2021). The Ventures’ “Walk — Don’t Run.”
- Don’t worry that it’s not good enough. #PlagueSongs, no. 29 (1 Mar. 2021). “Sing,” written by Joe Raposo for Sesame Street.
- Still worthwhile. #PlagueSongs, no. 30 (16 Mar. 2021). “Smile,” written by Charlie Chaplin, John Turner and Geoffrey Parsons. The best-known recording is by Nat King Cole.
- Give Love. #PlagueSongs, no. 31 (2 Apr. 2021). “Under Pressure” by David Bowie and Queen.
- That’s what storms were made for. #PlagueSongs, no. 32 (4 May 2021). “Pennies from Heaven,” written by Arthur Johnston and Johnny Burke. Made famous by Bing Crosby and Billie Holiday.
- Situation’s tolerable. #PlaugeSongs, no. 33 (3 June 2021). The Traveling Wilburys’ “Handle with Care.”
- Get back up again. #PlagueSongs, no. 34 (2 July 2021). Chumbawamba’s “Tubthumping.”
- Don’t weaken. #PlagueSongs, no. 35 (30 Aug. 2021). “It’s a Great Life (If You Don’t Weaken),” written by Leo Robin, Richard A. Whiting, and Newell Chase. Popularized by Maurice Chevalier.
- I guess this might well be it. #PlagueSongs, no. 36 (11 Oct. 2021). Marcus Mumford and Tom Hove’s theme to Ted Lasso.
- What Is Your COVID-19 Routine? & related
- What Is Your COVID-19 Routine? (22 Mar. 2020)
- What Is Your COVID-19 Routine? Part 2 (5 Apr. 2020)
- What Is Your COVID-19 Routine? Part 3 (19 Apr. 2020)
- What Is Your COVID-19 Routine? Part 4 (16 May 2020)
- What Is Your COVID-19 Routine? Part 5 (29 June 2020)
- A Shot in the Arm (10 Mar. 2021). In which I get the first shot of Pfizer’s covid vaccine.
- A 2nd Shot in the Arm (29 Mar. 2021). In which I get the second shot of Pfizer’s covid vaccine.
- Holiday posts from years gone by
- Merry Christmas from Mr. O’Malley (24 Dec. 2010). A December 1947 color Sunday Barnaby comic strip.
- You’re a mean one, Dr. Nel. Your voice is full of gunk! (20 Dec. 2016). In which I perform “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch.”