BTAR Anita Levels Shares Her Favorite Holiday Songs
Can you believe it?! It’s December! That means a lot of things.
It means a new year is drawing near and that winter will officially begin. However, what is most important (insert drum roll) is now we can begin listening to the music we’ve been wanting to listen to all year long, CHRISTMAS/HOLIDAY MUSIC! As you can see, I become very nostalgic and youthful with this topic so please bear with me.
Celebrating American Christmas Music with Anita’s Favorite Christmas Song List
Favorite “Heart Warming” Christmas Song:
- Go Straight to the Ghetto by James Brown
- Released by James Brown in 1968,
“Go Straight to the Ghetto” expressed a more tender, melodic and might I say a great vocal side of Mr. Brown. A side that reflected his very humble and impoverished Georgian beginnings. In this song he serenades Santa to go to the children that may not get what they want nonetheless what they need any other time of the year. The song sings the children’s names “Mary” and “Gary.” Names of my aunt and uncle that were raised with my mother in the largest housing project in America, the Desire Projects in New Orleans, LA. This song is a yearly classic in our home.
Favorite “Grown Woman” Christmas Song:
- Santa Baby by Eartha Kitt
- “Santa Baby” released by Eartha Kitt in 1953, gives me all the feels! I love that in 1953 a Black woman gave Santa a wealth building wish list. The audacity!? America was stuck in yet another inhumane cycle of mistreating its citizens.
This time it was called the “Jim Crow” era. In the meantime, Eartha Kitt’s singing, “Santa baby, I want a yacht and really that’s not a lot…” Or my other favorite line, “Santa honey, one little thing I really need, the deed…” Thank you, Eartha Kitt, for singing a song about nice things. From Santa, from ourselves, from whomever, Black women can have and deserve nice things.
Favorite “Humorous” Christmas Song:
- Back Door Santa by Clarence Carter
- If you’ve never heard this song, you’re welcome!
“Back Door Santa” was released by Soul/Blues artist Clarence Carter in 1969.
Here’s a lyric snippet of the song
“They call me the back door Santa
I make my runs about the break of day
I make all the little girls happy,
while the boys are out to play”
My Christmases have never been the same since discovering this song. I have realized this song has nothing to do with Santa or Christmas… Nothing at all. I’m now going to check the lock on my back door.
Favorite “Traditional” Christmas Song:
- O Holy Night
- Verse 3. (starts 3:33) Enough said.
A French, non-religious wine seller, named
Placide Cappeau, wrote the following in 1847:
“Truly He taught us to love one another
His law is love and His gospel is peace
Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother
And in His name all oppression shall cease
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
Let all within us praise His holy name”
Favorite “Message!” Christmas Song:
- Who Took the Merry out of Christmas by The Staple Singers
- This song has it all! The 1970 released “Who Took the Merry out of Christmas” has overseeing ancestral moans and a rhythmic 1970s Fender Rhodes organ. Lyrics like,
Who took the merry out of Christmas?
(People all over the world forgot about merry)
Too busy fighting wars, trying to make it to Mars”
When I first heard it, I thought it was talking about Mary not “Merry.” I mean, I guess we can look at it that way too.
This song is so great. So soulful with grounding message.
Favorite “Hammond B-3 Organ” Christmas Song:
- Winter Wonderland by Booker T & The M.G.s
- The group’s Christmas album, In the Christmas Spirit, was released in 1966. Winter Wonderland is a great representation of the project and culminates my own personal love for the Hammond B-3 Organ. It feels and sounds like home.
Favorite “Never Heard Of Before 2021” Christmas Song:
- Joy to the World by Professor Charles Taylor
- Though “Joy to the World” is a well-known traditional song, this version is earthy with a sound you will not only hear but feel. It also has a second line drum fill accompanied by a B-3 organ and piano with a creative Griot-like story telling by Professor Charles Taylor. This “Joy to the World” version is lovely.
Favorite “Classic Gospel” Christmas Song:
- Handel’s Messiah: “Hallelujah” Produced by Quincy Jones with Various Artists
- This interpretation is alive! The alto section carries the song for the first minute and the vibe that is set for the rest of the production. Handel’s Messiah is such an iconic piece of work, to redo it is risky, but to redo it and redo it well is superb!
Well done Quincy Jones!
Favorite “Melodious: Christmas Song:
- What Child is This/Greensleeves
- Honorable Mention:
Hallelujah (Written by, Leonard Cohen)
I hope you enjoyed my list and were introduced to new songs. Have a great holiday season!