Christmas By Jews

From the Facebook page of Mark Michaels comes an article about the best Christmas songs written by my Jewish brethren. The story appears here in Tablet and is written by Marc Tracy. I have excerpted the top 10.

10. “The Christmas Waltz,” music and lyrics by Sammy Cahn and Julie Styne. “Listen to Sinatra’s version of this interestingly self-referential lyric.”

9. “Silver Bells,” music by Jay Livingston, lyrics by Ray Evans.

8. “Winter Wonderland,” music and lyrics by Felix Bernard. “Michael Feinstein was my source on this one. And I’m surprised! The lyrics involve an impromptu wedding ceremony performed by a Parson Brown. The most interesting lyrical moment is the rhyme of ’snow man’ and ‘no, man.’”

7. “Santa Baby,” music and lyrics by Joan Ellen Javits and Philip Springer. “Very enjoyable song. The closest thing to a jazz song here. ‘Santa Baby, hurry down the chimney to me.’ It adapts the conventions of Christmas songs to become a kind of love and seduction song. Eartha Kitt sings a swell version.”

6. “Sleigh Ride,” lyrics by Mitchell Parrish. “Sometimes people encounter it as a musical backdrop. On a personal note, I remember flying between the U.S. and England in the 1970s, and at Heathrow or Gatwick or JFK, you would always hear that. I had never liked it particularly, but because of the association it is very dear to me. Parrish—born Michael Hyman Pashelinsky in Lithuania—wrote the lyrics to one of the most famous of all jazz standards, Hoagy Carmichael’s ‘Stardust.’”

5. “I’ll Be Home for Christmas,” music by Buck Ram, lyrics by Walter Kent. “Like ‘White Christmas’ and ‘Have Yourself,’ this song was popular during World War II, and it appeals to a certain nostalgia and homesickness, not only on the parts of the troops abroad, but the loved ones at home.”

4. “I’ve Got My Love to Keep Me Warm,” music and lyrics by Irving Berlin. “This is a great song that is sometimes overlooked when people think of great Christmas songs, in part because of the other major Berlin effort in this category, and in part because it is one of the few songs on this list that can be done come snow or shine, year in and year out.”

3. “Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow,” lyrics by Sammy Cahn, music by Julie Styne. “This is my own favorite of the ‘Jingle Bells’-type Christmas song. I love the way it is used as the exit music in Die Hard.”

2. “The Christmas Song” (“Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire”), music and lyrics by Mel Tormé and Bob Wells. “These first two picks are traditional Christmas songs—they mention the holiday explicitly, are full of heartfelt sentiment, and may jerk a few tears.”

1. “White Christmas,” music and lyrics by Irving Berlin. “Bing Crosby’s version is the best-selling single ever.”

No matter what the religion or level of religiosity you are I hope that this season, and all others, are times of peace and joy.

Happy holidays!

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I’m Dreaming Of A White…Sand Beach

A white Christmas is guaranteed here in Chicago. Plenty of snow covers the ground. If the temps stay in the 20s like today I won’t mind it too much but Winter has hit with a vengeance here in the Midwest.

Over the last week, starting Tuesday December 16, still officially autumn, we have had 3 major snowstorms and most days the temps have been single digits–some with a minus sign. The first snow came during rush hour and my 45 minute commute took over 3 hours followed immediately by an hour of shoveling snow.

The second storm was accompanied by high winds and single digit temperatures. The storm last night also hit at rush hour but apparently I was one of the few idiots still working. The driving was challenging, where was my dog team and sled when I needed it, but with few cars on the road the commute only took an hour and a half.

It is only December with months of winter to go. Yes I am ready to get away to warm weather and sandy beaches. Something like this.

majestic

In the meantime I will settle in my warm house, light Hanukkah candles, and sing Hanukkah and Christmas songs. Here is one of my favorite Christmas ballads.

(BTW. Der Bingle first sang the song White Christmas — written by Irving Berlin, a good Jewish boy– in the movie Holiday Inn not in the copycat movie White Christmas. A common misconception. One story claims Berlin wrote the song in early 1940 while sitting poolside at the Arizona Biltmore Resort and Spa in Phoenix, Arizona. Another says he was in his home in upstate NY. I like the former story better.)