10) Feliz Navidad – Jose Feliciano. Do you know what Jose Feliciano wants more than anything? …for you to have a Merry Christmas. In 3 minutes and 2 seconds he hammered home that one simple message no less than 39 times. He didn’t beat around the bush. He didn’t paint a picture of frosted windowpanes or pretty paper. No mention of snow, or Reindeer or even the Big Cheese himself. Never has anyone been so determined to express so succinctly a desire for others to be joyful and have a wonderful holiday season. Musically, I’m not sure that I can name another song where the chorus is the verse and the verse is the chorus.
9) If We Make It Through December – Merle Haggard. There is no way that Merle Haggard, in 1973, could have known the meaning that ‘If We Make It Through December’ would have taken on 48 years later. Down on his luck and facing some hard times, If We Make It Through December tells the tale of one working class man’s optimism while dealing with economic hardship.
8) Merry Christmas (I Don’t Want to Fight Tonight) – The Ramones. What better message of healing can be gleaned from the Ramones lyric; “I Love you and you Love me. That’s the way it’s got to be. I Love you from the start – cause Christmas ain’t the time for breaking each other’s hearts?”
7) I Won’t Be Home for Christmas – Blink 182. Released at the height of their juvenile phase, this Blink 182 Scrooge-infused gem rocks! “It’s Christmas time, Again, it’s time to be nice to the people who you can’t stand, all year, I’m growing tired of this Christmas cheer. You people scare me, please stay away from my home, if you don’t wanna get me down, just leave the presents and then just let me alone.” Skate rats shredding a half pipe a swigging Mountain Do would work.
6) The Monster Mash – Bobby “Boris” Pickett. YES. A Halloween song for Christmas. Disruption at its best!
5) All I Want for Christmas Is You (Extra Festive) – Mariah Carey. I know what you’re thinking – the most played out Christmas song of all time?! Bad idea…But wait…it’s the “Extra Festive” version. This really exists. It’s the same exact song but with an extended intro and additional production.
4) O Tannenbaum – Vince Guaraldi Trio. O Tannenbaum is the opening track on the jazzy ‘A Charlie Brown Christmas’ album by the Vince Guaraldi Trio released in December 1965 to complement what would become TV’s greatest Christmas Special. A Charlie Brown Christmas (aired on Dec 9th of that same year on CBS, pulling a 45 share). It paved the way for a series of Peanuts television films and specials. Since the show was devoted to Charlie Brown’s search for the perfect Christmas tree, I thought this song would work well with some type of “searching” theme; a lost dog searching for his home, a child searching for a lost letter to Santa, a dopey guy wandering around like a clueless putz in search of the perfect gift for his wife. In the end everything works out and the marketer plugs their “be with the ones you love…blah blah blah” message.
3) Snoopy’s Christmas – The Royal Guardsmen. According to Spotify, “the Royal Guardsmen enjoyed a brief reign of pop fame in 1966-1968 by recording a series of songs taking off from the Peanuts cartoon character Snoopy and his fantasy about aerial dog fighting with German WW1 flying ace Baron Von Richthofen”. The song depicts a fierce dogfight in the sky between Snoopy and his foe on Christmas Eve. The Baron has Snoopy ‘dead in his sights’, but upon hearing ‘Christmas bells ringing from the village below’, spares our hero and instead wishes him a Merry Christmas! Even arch enemies can lay down their swords at Christmas time.
2) We are the People Our Parents Warned Us About – Jimmy Buffet. Another non-Holiday song, but that works with the right visual. Picture a group of Gen X’ers at an ugly sweater Holiday house Party, after the kids have all gone to bed, empty wine bottles strewn everywhere. “We are the people, they couldn’t figure out. We are the people our parents warned us about”. If you’re a marketer targeting A40-58, you’d be a fool not to adopt this concept and make it your own.
1) A Baby Just Like You – John Denver and the Muppets / Frank Sinatra. Although I’m partial to the Frank Sinatra version, I must give credit first to John Denver who wrote and performed the original version on 1975’s ‘A Rocky Mountain Christmas’ and then again in 1979 on ‘John Denver and the Muppets A Christmas Together’. According to muppet.fandom, “Denver wrote the song for his then-infant son, Zachary at Christmas time and recounts the joys of the season”. Sinatra changed the lyric to “Merry Christmas little Angela” to include the name of his new granddaughter (daughter of Nancy Sinatra). In his grand olive oil baritone, he floats the lyrics “O little angel, shining light, you’ve set my soul to dreaming. You’ve given back my joy in life and filled me with new meaning”. It’s beautiful, with one beautiful wish – “That peace on Earth fills up your time, that brotherhood surrounds you. That you may know the warmth of love and wrap it all around you.”