Classic Holiday Music

As Thanksgiving has come and gone and the Christmas holiday season is upon us, music to celebrate the holiday season is a particularly personal subject for many, with memories of church, family, presents and other childhood experiences. Although some Christmas songs are derived from hymns and sacred music in celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ, an entire body of secular holiday music has also grown over the past century, and includes many perennial favorites that are covered every year by artists of all music genres. For the sake of brevity, we shall take a look at (3) religious and (3) secular classic Christmas songs:


Religious:
 
 1) Silent Night — composed in Austria, 1818, by organist Franz Gruber to the lyrics of “Stille Nacht” by Joseph Mohr. John Young, an Episcopal priest serving at Trinity Church in New York City translated it into the well known English version in 1859. The Bing Crosby recording has sold 30 million copies, and the song has also been covered in over 130 languages and by many other artists, including Stevie Nicks, Simon and Garfunkel, Al Green, and Demi Lovato.
 
 2) Hark! The Herald Angels Sing — originally was written with a somber melody by George Wesley in 1739 under the title, “Hymn for Christmas Day.” Over a hundred years later, William Cummings adapted the words to the upbeat Felix Mendelssohn melody “Festgesang” and it quickly became a holiday staple of the Anglican church. Recorded versions of this carol include releases from Carrie Underwood, Pentatonix, and even Blackmore’s Night (Ritchie Blackmore was the lead guitarist for heavy metal icon Deep Purple). 
 
 3) Joy To The World was written and first published in 1719 by Isaac Watts. The origin of the music is often credited to George Handel, but this has never been verified in writing, and the association is from a partial similarity to a chorus in Handel’s “Messiah”. The tune is usually referenced under the name, “Antioch.” Popular recordings of this carol were released by Johnny Cash, The Supremes, Ella Fitzgerald and Mariah Carey.
 
Secular:
 
 1) All I Want For Christmas Is You — Mariah Carey composed and sang this song as a single in 1994. It was an immediate commercial and critical success, reaching #1 on Billboard’s charts in the US, UK, Spain, Sweden, Norway, Japan, and other countries. With its retro 60’s Motown feel, “All I Want For Christmas Is You” was critically hailed across the board as an “instant classic” by The New Yorker, Rolling Stone, Chicago Sun-Times, and others. The song has generated an estimated $50 million and has been featured in numerous TV shows and films, including the popular holiday movie, “Love Actually.”
 
 2) Jingle Bell Rock — best known rendition recorded by Bobby Helms in 1957, Jingle Bell Rock was written by James Booth and Joseph Beal, who hailed from the advertising and PR industries, respectively. As Rock and Roll was still a relatively new music genre ascribed mostly to teenagers at the time, Jingle Bell Rock was a hit on the Billboard pop and C&W charts. The rockabilly guitar intro and solo was played by the legendary Hank Garland, who also played on records by Elvis Presley, Patsy Cline, and others. The song appeared in the movies, “Lethal Weapon” and “Mean Girls”, and has been covered extensively by artists as diverse as Billy Idol, Chet Atkins, Michael Buble and Brian Setzer. 
 
 3) Jingle Bells — is a perennial favorite and one of the best known American songs on the planet. Written in 1857 by James Lord Pierpont, it was originally published under the title, “One Horse Open Sleigh.” The melody is a derivative of German and French barroom songs, and Jingle Bells was originally intended for Thanksgiving, although it has since become synonymous with Christmas. The song has been extensively recorded by Bing Crosby, Glenn Miller, The Beatles, Barbra Streisand, Frank Sinatra, Gwen Stefani, Michael Jackson, and countless others.

Joshua Gruss is the Chairman, CEO and founder of Round Hill Music.