Twelve Days of Christmas: The e-Concert – 2019 Edition

It’s time to Break It Down!

(Revised from Break It Down – 12/24/08, 12/22/10, 12/21/11, 12/26/12, 12/25/13, 12/23/15, 12/21/16, 12/26/17, and 12/26/18)

According to tradition, mine if no one else’s, my Christmas post includes a complement of Songs of the Season. Today’s issue will constitute the next edition in that tradition. It’s Tuesday night, or in my personal time dimension, Blog Night. In keeping with what I do, let’s make it so; Wednesday’s coming! And for the record, it’s actually Christmas Time in the City (and in and all over the country, for that matter). As incorporated in the title above, many purists celebrate Twelve Days of Christmas. This has been documented in song, book form, at least one movie, and in countless tales.

Here, as scheduled, is the blog. I hope you enjoy the blog/e-concert.

Merry Christmas to you! I know some of you are caught up in the whole “We Are The (Secular) World” trip; thus you substitute Holiday for Christmas in seasonal greetings. But that really shouldn’t be a problem since the man we call President has brought Christmas back (wink-wink). But seriously though, in case you don’t know, Christmas never went anywhere.  In fact, a quick check back over the Obama years reveals…Christmas was a staple in his repertoire. (  Of course, those innately curious enough to conduct the requisite etymological research know that the root derivation of holiday is “Holy Day;” but I digress; that is fodder for another day.

By the time you get around to this post, most, if not all of you will already have done whatever it is you do to observe and/or celebrate Christmas. But you know what, herein lies an opportunity to take one more moment, a time out if you will, before returning full tilt to your normal schedule.

As is my custom, I will not use this Christmas Season Post, if you will allow me to call it that, to challenge you to sort through the facts, be they esoteric or mundane. Not the election, or the economy, no wars, and absolutely no (further) references to our big-league President, who frequently focuses on tweeting and golfing (despite insisting that if elected, he wouldn’t have time for the links). Hey, I won’t even write out the I-word.

No, this is your time to take a break and leave all that behind. Notice, I did not say forget it, and I certainly would never ask that you pretend it doesn’t exist. Just give yourself a break.

In the true spirit of keeping it simple for both you and me, I am reprising an amalgam of previous posts. In fact, not just any posts…posts from several Christmas’ past. This is my ninth e-Christmas Concert. Two or three years ago I pressed the reset button on the Concert.  Instead of simply providing 12 standards, I upped the ante and provided 24, 12 by female artists, and 12 by male artists. In that Christmas Day is Wednesday this year, delivery day, as it were, I’m going to roll those out again.

The English playwright and poet, William Congreve, in the opening line of his 1697 Play entitled The Mourning Bride,” asserted, “Music has Charms to soothe a savage Breast, To soften rocks, or bend a knotted Oak.”  I think Congreve was on to something.  If indeed music is capable of enabling us to overcome our basest instincts, and in so doing, ennoble us to pursue our finer impulses, and then indeed, we should take more opportunities to render ourselves captivated by its magical spell. (By the way, it really is breast…not beast; caught you thinking, didn’t I?)

So, I identified and pulled together an assortment of my favorite Christmas Standards by several of my favorite artists. This year’s version includes a variation of the artistic olio I pulled together for your reading, viewing, and listening pleasure a number of years ago. Below, you will find hot links to YouTube video interpretations and two songs for each of the 12 Days of Christmas listed and included in today’s Yuletide e-concert.

Female Artists

  1. Eartha Kitt is known for having had many talents skills, and abilities, among them acting and singing.  Last year I substituted her most popular Christmas song for “Nothing for Christmas.”  After a 1-year hiatus, I’m bringing back Santa Baby.  As I’ve noted before, the song was born in 1953, and as I will this Sunday, it turned 65 this year.  She slays (or if you’re really in the Christmas spirit — sleighs) it.
  2. Dianne Reeves is a Grammy-winning jazz artist who sings in the vein of Dinah Washington and Carmen McRae; a skilled lyricist and scat singer.  She presents “Christmas Time is Here” as if it’s her own.
  3. Vanessa Williams was the first black Miss America.  She had a short and tumultuous reign.  But cream rises to the top, and her talent ensured that losing her title was but a mere speed bump in a star-studded road.  Her rendition of “Do You Hear What I Hear” provides a glimpse of her musical flexibility and skill.
  4. Lena Horne was a jazz musician whose career spanned over 70 years.  She was also an actress, dancer, and civil rights activist.  She demonstrates her vocal caliber in this version of “Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!
  5. Cassandra Wilson was born December 4, 1955.  Her birthdate alone ensured that I included her on this list; ’06!  But that’s not the only reason she made the cut.  Her range includes blues, country, and folk music, as well as jazz.  Moreover, she stuck the proverbial landing in her rendition of “The Little Drummer Boy.”
  6. Toni Braxton is a lot of things: a talented songwriter, singer, pianist, record producer, actress, television personality, and philanthropist. She is known to be sexy, sultry, and an unpredictable reality show star.  She’s still best known for her music though, and her version of “Santa Please” will do absolutely nothing to change that.
  7. The Emotions are one of those classic Old School Girl Groups born in the 70’s.  Influenced greatly by Maurice White of Earth Wind & Fire Fame, they continue to perform today.  One of my favorite tunes by them is their version of “What Do The Lonely Do At Christmas?”
  8. Anita Baker released her first solo album in 1983.  In 1986, she released “Rapture” and it was the dawn of her stardom.  She is known for her trademark “husky” voice, and she is at her Christmas best in this version of “The Christmas Song.”
  9. Diana Ross and the Supremes were the “It” Group of Motown when Motown was the “It’ place of Soul Music.  The Supremes are America’s most successful vocal group with 12 number one singles on the Billboard Hot 100. Here they are with their 1965 rendition of “Silver Bells.”
  10. Ella Fitzgerald is jazz royalty.  Frequently referred to as the First Lady of Song, the Queen of Jazz, and Lady Ella, she was widely acclaimed for her purity of tone, impeccable diction, phrasing, and intonation, as well as a horn-like improvisational ability.  Virtually all scat singing is measured against her. Check out her version of “Sleigh Ride.”
  11. Whitney Houston had a voice known worldwide.  Her recordings accounted for nearly 200 million records sold.  Her’s was a clarion voice of our times.  This version of “Joy To The World,” taken from the movie, “The Preacher’s Wife,” is special, as was she.
  12. Ledisi (Anibade Young) is an R&B and jazz recording artist.  Her first name means “to bring forth” or “to come here” in Yoruba.  She was aptly named.  Enjoy her rendering of “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas.”

Male Artists

  1. James Brown was renowned for his energetic performances, which earned him another of his many titles, “Hardest working man in show business.” His rendition of “Merry Christmas Baby” is not so up-tempo, but still a reminder that he had earned his chops the hard way, and that he was much more than just flash and dash.
  2. Donny Hathaway was a multifaceted soulful crooner and a product of Howard University who excelled in jazz, blues, soul and gospel music; an Alpha Man.  He suffered from depression and died of suicide January 13, 1979 at 33 years old.  He rendered this marvelous recording of “This Christmas.
  3. The O’Jays were formed in 1965 and have been a staple in Soul and R&B music ever since.  They knock it out of the park with this version of “Christmas Just Ain’t Christmas Anymore.”
  4. The Temptations were a significant part of what made Motown, Motown, in the 60’s and 70’s.  Their rendition of Silent Night lives on as a classic among classics as far as Christmas music goes.
  5. Al Green, soul singer, turned minister, soul singer-minister was at his most popular during the 70’s.  He puts his considerable talents to good use in this version of “I’ll be Home for Christmas.”
  6. El DeBarge was the central figure in the group known as DeBarge, which reached its zenith in the 80’s.  El was one of several members of the group who went on to fashion solo careers.  He nails this version of “Christmas Without You.”
  7. Will Downing has been recording albums since 1988.  I’ve seen him in concerts twice, including a couple of weeks ago, and I own most of his recorded music.  He simply does not disappoint.  This recording of The First Noel is no exception.
  8. Joe (Lewis Thomas) released his debut album in 1993.  He has maintained a presence on the music scene ever since. His nuanced presentation of “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” is just another fine example of his limitless talent.
  9. Jerry Butler, popularly known as the Ice Man, fitting for an Alpha, is a singer, songwriter, and musician (guitar, electric guitar, bass, piano, saxophone, and drums) who was the lead singer for the Impressions before going on to a solo career. He recorded this classic version of O Holy Night.
  10. Luther Vandross was a musical icon. Period. End of story.  He is one of my favorite musicians, and his treatment of “My Favorite Things” is certainly among my favorite Christmas songs.
  11. The Whispers hail from LA, and have been around since the 60’s.  They became members of the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 2003…for good reason.  They got it like that.  And they prove it with this version of “Santa Claus is Coming to Town.”
  12. Kem (Owens) is an R&B/Soul singer who has made his uniquely fashioned mark on the music scene since 1999.  He enlists Ledisi (Anibade Young), another single named musical star to create a fabulous rendition of “Be Mine For Christmas.”

That’s it, 24 artists and videos and/or songs. Add it all up and you get “Twelve Days Of Christmas: The e-Concert – 2019 Edition!” Enjoy it throughout the Season, and by all means, remember the Reason for the Season!

BonusIt occurred to me that a concert thematically incorporating the Twelve Days of Christmas, without including a version of “Twelve Days of Christmas” is woefully incomplete. To wit, I doubled down by adding a 25thselection, “Twelve Days of Christmas,” two versions, one by Natalie Cole, and an instrumental by Kenny Burrell.

I’m done; holla back!

Read my blog anytime by clicking the link Find a new post each Wednesday.

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Slowly, Surely, Inexorably: Impeachment Is Upon Us

It’s time to Break It Down!

A week from now, most of us will be immersed in all things Christmas. But before we get there, we must navigate and traverse the here and now. While it won’t have happened by the time I press the send button for this post, in a matter of hours, the U.S. House of Representatives will in all likelihood impeach Donald Trump.

In that regard, Wednesday, December 18, 2019 is a day that will live in infamy. Since George Washington became our nation’s first President on April 30, 1789, in the 230 years that have since ensued, for just the third time a U.S. President will be forever linked with the I-word.

For our nation, it’s indeed a sad day. Conversely, for anyone who cringed as Trump frequently referred to the media as the enemy of the people, for anyone who recoiled at his frequent taunts of fake news in response to multiple sourced reporting, for anyone repulsed by his 13K plus false and misleading statements since taking office, for anyone left despondent by his scathing, often relentless attacks on not just his political opponents, but on more than a few occasions, allies of our great nation, for anyone flummoxed by his accepting Vladimir Putin’s views above those of our entire intelligence community, and for anyone distressed by his alleged wanton abuse of power and repeated efforts to cover it up…I suppose it could not happen to a nicer (read that more deserving) fellow.

Yesterday, as the impending proceeding wound down to its inevitable conclusion, resulting in the approval of the rules by which tomorrow’s impeachment will be managed, Mr. Trump sent Speaker Pelosi a 6-page letter many observers viewed as a reflection of his being unhinged. I’m not persuaded by that opinion. Rather, I think Trump has repeatedly shown himself to be impulsive, while his advisers and body men have just as frequently demonstrated an inability, or an unwillingness, or both, to rein him in. To wit, left unchecked, and to his own devices, he has no proclivity whatsoever to filter himself, or to govern himself in a less tantrum-filled way. In other words, the letter was not so much an example of him being unhinged, as it was a depiction of what you get when you follow the strategic advice issued by a number of his handlers during his campaign; “Let Trump be Trump.”

In the letter, Trump attacked Democrats as the “ones interfering with America’s elections,” and absurdly claimed he’s being treated worse than defendants at the Salem Witch Trials (proceedings at which the accused were put to death without evidence). While there were a number of other whoppers included in Trump’s 6-page epistle, they were almost all designed to play into a personal victimhood narrative, and recycled bromides to boot.

Impeachment rules and Trump’s missive were not the only significant items to unfold yesterday. George Conway, he of Kellyanne Conway spouse fame, and a group of erstwhile conservative Republicans, who will now forever be known as never-Trumpers, deep statists, and RINOs, formed a Political Action Committee called Project Lincoln, aimed at ousting Donald Trump and the lawmakers that support him in 2020. Using Lincoln, our 16thPresident as their guide, they wrote an op-ed which compared contemporary America with the Lincoln age, a time when the leader had the task of saving the union and weaving the nation back together. They wrote, “Mr. Trump and his enablers have abandoned conservatism and longstanding Republican principles and replaced it with Trumpism. An empty faith led by a bogus prophet.”

The group acknowledged that commitment to and achieving its goal may yield a Democratic majority in the Senate and the House of Representatives. Tim Murtaugh, Trump Campaign communications director, told Newsweek that the co-authors of the op-ed were part of the Washington, D.C. swamp. In TrumpWorld, such is the case for anyone that dares oppose Trump. One is either with them or one is the enemy, not just of Trump, but of the people.

That may be how Trump sees it, and also how his supporters, sycophants, and surrogates see it. But as of today, they likely will also see, “Slowly, Surely, Inexorably: Impeachment Is Upon Us!”

I’m done; holla back!

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Another One: Just Add It To The List

It’s time to Break It Down!

According to the Washington Post, by August 12, 2019, Donald Trump had made more than 12K false and misleading claims. Mr. Trump’s aversion to veracity is so legendary that a number of media outlets have shied away from calling them lies, but rather, false and misleading claims. That’s impressive in and of itself, in a perverse sort of way.

I’ll make this short and sweet. A couple of days ago, we were reminded, once again, of the preferred Trumpian communications style. Long ago, Trump himself, was apparently so enamored with his proficiency at dissembling that he gave the practice his own very special appellation. In a 1987 book that he authored, I won’t promote it for him today, he called it truthful hyperbole. About the phenomenon, Trump is quoted in the book as saying, “I play to people’s fantasies… People want to believe that something is the biggest and the greatest and the most spectacular. I call it truthful hyperbole. It’s an innocent form of exaggeration.”

Even as a private businessman, it’s questionable whether Trump’s exaggerations were innocent. They were almost certainly not harmless. His business practices, including truthful hyperbole contributed to numerous lawsuits, claims, and even bankruptcies. Many of his erstwhile employees reported they we underpaid, or not paid at all, stemming from his deceptions.

With such a predicate, it is no surprise Trump would claim President Obama wiretapped him, or that the FBI’s Russia probe was a function of deep statists, never-Trumpers, and people trying to overthrow a duly elected government. In part due to Trump’s claims, and at the direction of his number two go-fer (gotta get in line behind Rudy), Attorney General William Barr, the FBI’s Inspector General Michael Horowitz opened a probe last year, that resulted in his team conducting over 100 interviews, and reviewing more than a million documents.

To quickly summarize, the investigation found clear fault, detailing 17 omissions and inaccuracies deemed to be significant in the Carter Page FISA applications. While he recommended rules changes, it is noteworthy, the report concluded the FBI followed existing rules. It also concluded there was sufficient evidence to prompt the investigation, that the FBI acted properly in doing so, and that Obama and the FBI did not spy on Trump’s campaign. Guess who’s “pizz’d?”

Count me at the front of the line of people neither shocked nor surprised by this. It’s just “Another One: Add It To The List.”

I’m done; holla back!

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Slowly, Surely, Inexorably: Lindsey Got Next

It’s time to Break It Down!

Lindsey Graham and Donald Trump have a relationship spiked with mercurial twists and turns. Graham defended John McCain after Trump dissed the then Arizona Senator, and went on to bash Trump, in turn Trump released Graham’s cell phone number on live TV. Lindsey called Trump a jackass; Trump labeled Graham a “lightweight, and an idiot, and for the ultimate insulting body blow and two-fer, opined he (Graham) “seems to me not as bright as Rick Perry.” But I digress.

The point of the preamble above is to affirm with full confidence, I expect the Palmetto Senator to be toting more water for Trump in the future. But for an instant anyway, he relocated an instinct to align himself with reason, research, and the weight of the entire U.S. intelligence community, instead of with the whims of a dude reported to have spoken and or tweeted over 13,000 false and misleading statements (otherwise known as lies) in less than three years (since ascending to the Office of President).

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a post entitled “Slowly, Surely, Inexorably: It Will Happen!”

Today I’m following that up with a sequel. No need to put a number on it, as there will be more to come. I won’t deign to write about all of them. There will be far too many for that. But rest assured, over time, individuals will be, at least on occasion, unable to resist the compulsion to act honorably, rationally, and common-sensically.

Yesterday, CNN reported that Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham said he is “1,000% confident” that Russia, not Ukraine, meddled in the 2016 US presidential election, breaking from President Donald Trump and others in his party who have pushed the discredited conspiracy theory.

He made those comments on Capitol Hill and reiterated them later in a CNN interview. Graham also said, “So as to the Ukraine, they had zero to do with the hacking of the DNC and the stealing of the emails. Whether or not people from the Ukraine met with DNC operatives, I don’t know. All I’ve seen is press reports that no one has validated.”

Despite their occasional tiffs, Senator Graham has been among Trump’s most reliably devoted toadies, carrying water like Niagara Falls in a summer rainstorm. That he, in the midst of Trump’s Ukraine ruse, not only acknowledged Russia as the culprit, but pegged his confidence level at 100% (times 10), is bound to attract Trump’s attention, and undoubtedly, even more, his irritation. Perhaps with Trump on another continent, Graham was able to get his head out a certain orifice long enough to catch his breath and secure some much-needed brain oxygenation.

Who knows? For that matter, other than Trump, who even cares? Rest assured, he is not the first, and he most certainly will not be the last person to get reacquainted with his or her scruples and senses, and communicate accordingly…on the record. At the moment, what we know and can attest is, Slowly, Surely, Inexorably: Lindsey Got Next!”

I’m done; holla back!

Read my blog anytime by clicking on the link: Find a new post each Wednesday.

To subscribe, click on the bottom right hand corner of my homepage at:; enter your email address in the designated space, and click on “Sign Me Up.” Subsequent editions of “Break It Down” will be mailed to your in-box.

Consult the links below for more information on a variety of aspects relating to this post.