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. (http://www.msnbc.com/am-joy/watch/-merry-christmas-never-left-the-white-house-824078915806). 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.
- 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. https://youtu.be/Mk_GmhD053E
- 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. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hInJstw1cGE
- 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. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UKmvk0NJnzE
- 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! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dh8JZp_gnU4
- 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.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TmAQzS5Zk7o
- 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. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-nFWiF_E_VQ
- 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?” https://youtu.be/coO2E2v5RwE
- 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.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KHze40h13mc
- 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.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RIJROwP4BnM
- 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.”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tnEbRaFaqfg
- 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. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BYPpyTyPf6I
- 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.” https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=xMz5oGc8s1Q
- 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. https://youtu.be/4VFZGRoZwB0
- 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. https://youtu.be/pj1mVUEHeUE
- 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.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fc4g1wsIA9g
- 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. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vFc7STuQF0U
- 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.” https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=cFyRwlR5YXk
- 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.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D_xB6VD7fS8
- 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. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fOQWKBIuk-I
- 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. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5vbpsVILCvU
- 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. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v0dR1Dk7Bu0
- 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. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H6TRlV6MOOU
- 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.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fbJ95aWUc_A
- 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.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T_8rVJ_ENaY
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!
Bonus: It 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!
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