Remembering the songs of Xmas

Published 12:00 am Thursday, February 3, 2005

Christmas and music make a perfect pair. While there may not have been caroling on that very first Christmas, we all somehow imagine the glorious host of angels didn’t just say those words of praise – they sang them.

I have always loved the music of Christmas – the traditional sacred carols, the sentimental songs recalling the joys of holiday hearth and home, the &uot;snow&uot; songs that don’t even mention Christmas (but are so much fun to sing) – even the goofy ones like &uot;Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer&uot; (the personal &uot;fav&uot; of our sports editor, Griffin Pritchard).

I grew up in an era when the Christmas special reigned supreme: Andy Williams, Perry Como, Bob Hope, Bing Crosby – and does anyone else remember those King Family specials of yesteryear?

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All the women were blonde, as I recall; everyone in the family (and there seemed to be an unlimited supply of Kings to go around) could sing and dance.

One year, they even performed a groovy bassa nova version of &uot;’Twas the Night Before Christmas&uot; – very 60s.

I remember well the Bing Crosby special the year David Bowie appeared with him.

Talk about two opposites – the ultra-relaxed, conservative Crosby with his ever-present pipe and the gender-bending, spandex-wearing, spike-haired Bowie.

Yet, these two very different men from different generations came together to do a marvelous medley of &uot;The Little Drummer Boy&uot; and &uot;Peace on Earth&uot;. It was a magical moment.

We had a collection of much-loved and much-used Christmas albums at my home – everything from the famed &uot;Singing Cowboy’, Gene Autrey, to the wonderful Tennessee Ernie Ford and his &uot;Star Carol&uot; LP.

Autrey is the singer who first popularized the song &uot;Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer&uot; (I’ve since discovered Autrey didn’t even want to record it, but his wife talked him into it – a smart woman).

&uot;Rudolph&uot; went on, of course, to become a great hit, and we certainly enjoyed it in our household – just as we adored the stop-motion animated version that came out some 40 years ago.

We also sang along with &uot;Up on the Housetop&uot; and Autrey’s own creation, &uot;Here Comes Santa Claus&uot;, written after his experience as the Grand Marshal of the Hollywood Santa Claus Parade. Those songs put the Killough sisters in the holiday mood, for sure!

Years later during my first teaching job, at the Alabama School for the Blind in Talladega, I sang for the Institute-wide Christmas party one year and again for the school’s own celebration – songs like &uot;Winter Wonderland&uot;, &uot;Let it Snow!&uot;, &uot;The Christmas Song&uot;, &uot;Silver Bells&uot;, &uot;Jingle Bells&uot; and others. Those were good times had by all.

When I was at Fort Dale, I taught my high school students Christmas carols in French, which we then shared with the kindergarten and elementary classes on the last day of school before the holidays.

When my students were taking tests in the weeks before Christmas, they listened to Christmas music – everything from pianist Jim Brickman to the Trans-Siberian Orchestra. (I shall never forget Clint Philpot telling me TSO’s version of &uot;The Carol of the Bells&uot; was like &uot;Santa Claus meets Metallica, Miz Long…cool!&uot;)

Caroling with friends and church members…singing along with Christmas songs on the radio…singing ON the radio one year, quite unexpectedly… church cantatas, musicals, holiday specials – all have woven together into a tuneful tapestry that, for me, perfectly suits the season.

May you all have yourselves a very Merry (and musical) Christmas!

Angie Long is the lifestyles reporter for the Greenville Advocate and can be reached at 383-9302, ext. 132 or via email at