Roxanne Tellier – But It’s Too EARLY!

roxanne-dbawis1

I know, I know … it’s too early to be listening to Christmas and holiday music. But on Thursday I spent my birthday serenading senior citizens at their seasonal parties, and I haven’t stopped feeling a little festive ever since.

senior xmas party

Music is a basic need for humans. The music we hear as kids pretty much determines our musical tastes for the rest of our lives. When we age, and most of our memories are gone, as in senile dementia, an old sweet song will bring a moment of clarity back to an ailing patient.

The seniors my partner and I entertained were delighted to hear classic songs from Christmas’ long ago. The repertoire was largely the silly songs we loved as kids, “Frosty The Snowman,” “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town,” and the like, with a few mellower and jazzier renditions of songs written for adults thrown in, like “The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on An Open Fire),” and “I’ll Be Home for Christmas.”

xmas pets

One lovely lady named Cynthia, who resembled a Mrs. Claus, smiled and sang along throughout the show. It was impossible not to return her smile with her obvious enjoyment of our musical offerings.  Later, she approached David and I and thanked us for performing. I thanked her for being such an amazing audience. She told me that she’d never seen the point of doing anything if you weren’t going to enjoy it to its fullest potential. A wise woman indeed.

mrs claus

For most of us, our childhood memories of Christmas are happy and associated with presents, the gathering of the clan, and an abundance of yummy food. Even if that wasn’t the case, there still remains a memory of a time when it really did seem like wishes could come true. But as we go through life, we’ll experience times of loneliness and sorrow, and even if those times are short and few, if we are unable to celebrate with a loved one, or our families, or if we are confronting the spectre of a holiday table that’s missing someone precious for the first time, our hearts may feel raw and ragged.

sad xmas dog2

I came to this song late, when a friend brought it to my attention a few years ago. From Joni Mitchell’s 1971 album “Blue,” the song is sheer perfection, highlighting all of the elements that make Joni such an unforgettable artist- the melody, the lyrics, the range and athleticism of her incredible voice. The song is not specifically about Christmas, although it touches on the anticipation of the day, but rather about a failed romance that she’s still grieving. I could put this song on ‘repeat’ forever.

Songs that we associate with good or bad times stick with us through the years. There’s a huge industry that mines our memories and pans for gold in our emotional veins, and never more so than during the holiday season. There’s a veritable sea of songs whooshing through the p.a.’s of every store, encouraging the punters to buy just one more present, one more ornament, in the hopes of recreating our mythical images of a perfect holiday.

Few holiday television specials have ever stayed with me like the classic “A Charlie Brown Christmas.“ Since the animation debuted in 1965, it`s been a beloved staple for the run-up to Christmas. Charles M. Schulz`s gentle critique on the commercialization of the season, acted out by the beloved Peanuts characters, replaced the glitz with the simple story of the birth of Christ. I have been known to get teary when Linus tells Charlie, “that’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.”

charlie brown xmas

The jazz score by pianist Vince Guaraldi perfectly complemented the special. The soundtrack also achieved commercial success, going triple platinum in the US.

Greg Lake’s 1975 solo release, “I Believe in Father Christmas“ is a lovely, delicate prog/folk tune that decries a commercialized holiday, and proudly claims the right to a childlike belief in the miracles of Christmas. Greg wishes the best for everyone, but adds, “the Christmas you get you deserve.”

After my first visit to England, I was a confirmed Anglophile. I love all things British, and something I enjoy doing during the holidays is watching the Christmas editions of “Doctor Who” and “Top of The Pops.” The Brits are fond of tradition, and will often bring a classic song of any kind back to the charts again and again.

Slade’s ‘Merry Xmas Everybody’  (1973) was a massive hit in Britain, but pretty much unknown in North America. This song has hit the British charts 20 times to date, with its slightly drunken, reeling simplicity. Since 2007 and the advent of downloads counting toward the UK Singles Chart, it has re-entered the charts each December. A goodtime sing-along song for the pub crowd.

In the same vein, and from the same time period, Wizzard released “I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day” in 1973.

In the ‘love it or hate it’ category, people have strong reactions to Paul McCartney’s 1979 release “Wonderful Christmas Time.” It’s a true ear worm of a song, and I really like the classic video of Paul with Linda and the gang of Wings.

I also get an enormous kick out of the silly polka version of “Must Be Santa” that Bob Dylan released in 2009. The song is based on a German drinking song, and structured as a “call and response” sing-along. And the video of Dylan taking the lead in the middle of a rambunctious house party cracks me up.

Also fun is this cover of “Little Drummer Boy/Peace on Earth” by Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly.  The two are both competent vocalists, who faithfully cover scene by scene the classic duet of Mr. Christmas himself, Bing Crosby, and David Bowie, first seen on Bing Crosby’s Merrie Olde Christmas in 1977. It’s a lovely homage, right up until the last minute, when they decide to throw in a little bit of funny.   David Bowie’s vocal counterpoint “Peace on Earth,” was written specifically for the show, after Bowie told the writers that he hated the song “Little Drummer Boy.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EJBFD-Wvc7U

Baby It’s Cold Outside,” first made famous in the 1949 film “Neptune’s Daughter,” has become a target for the politically correct in recent years. From my perspective, it was always a fun take on a sexy back and forth banter between a man and a woman. But some have criticized the song as being sexually predatory, with hints of the woman possibly being drugged, based on the line “Hey, what’s in this drink?”  Probably not a great song to trot out these days, as we redefine consent, post Ghomeshi.

In the film, the song is first performed as a duet by Ricardo Montalban and Esther Williams, with Montalban playing the pushy Latin lover. But in this second version from the same film, the roles are reversed, with comedian Red Skelton playing the pursued and actress/comedian Betty Garrett playing the more aggressive role. Garrett later went on to fame on the 1970’s sitcoms “All In The Family” as neighbour Irene Lorenzo, and as landlady Edna Babish in “Laverne and Shirley

I like the odd bit of Christmas cheese, and this 1986 release by Chris Rea is a smooth carol on wheels. Light and jazzy, it rolls along like tires on snow.

Last one, folks, at least for now. In my opinion, any holiday song that featured a Karen Carpenter vocal acquired a gravitas that ensured I’d never hear the song the same way again. Brother Richard Carpenter wrote this song with Frank Pooler. Released in 1970, the song went to number one on Billboard’s Christmas singles chart in 1970, and again in 1971 and 1973. This may well be my favourite Christmas song of all.

Just two and a half weeks to go!

keep calm xmas

=RT=

Roxanne’s column appears here every Sunday 

Contact us at dbawis@rogers.com

DBAWIS ButtonRoxanne Tellier has been singing since she was 10 months old … no, really. Not like she’s telling anyone else how to live their lives, because she’s not judgmental, and most 10 month olds need a little more time to figure out how to hold a microphone. She has also been a vocalist with many acts, including Tangents, Lady, Performer, Mambo Jimi, and Delta Tango. In 2013 she co-hosted Bob Segarini’s podcast, The Bobcast, and, along with Bobert, will continue to seek out and destroy the people who cancelled ‘Bunheads’.

The Bobcast

One Response to “Roxanne Tellier – But It’s Too EARLY!”

  1. …a slice of Christmas I can swallow. 🙂

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