If you have listened to Nat King Cole sing the “Christmas Song” you know it brings back floods of holiday memories. From the first few bars you can already smell the chestnuts roasting, the warmth of a Yule log burns in the fire place and family members vying over the last turkey drumstick. I remember my dad who is 91-years-young and still quite a crooner singing the holiday songs while we dressed our Christmas tree. Even now he calls me on Christmas Eve and sings “There’s No Place like Home for the Holidays.” Here are some performers whose talent and music help to brighten the Christmas season.
Tony Bennett: Born Anthony Dominick Benedetto; (August 3, 1926) is an American singer of popular music, standards, show tunes, and jazz. His rendition of My Favorite Things not only brings back memories of the Sound of Music but the beautiful imagery of raindrops on roses, snowflakes that stay on my nose and eyelashes, such memorable lyrics. I also love him singing, “I’ll Be Home for Christmas – please bring snow and mistletoe and presents for the tree.”
Bing Crosby: Another one of our Christmas tradition is watching White Christmas featuring the outstanding cast of American’s favorite crooner, Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Vera-Ellen, Dean Jagger and the extraordinary voice of Rosemary Clooney. His version of Irving Berlin’s “White Christmas” has been featured on many Christmas albums as well as in films and television programs. Born Harry Lillis Crosby, Bing Crosby’s voice is the one we most associate with the holiday season. His duet with Rosemary Clooney,“Count Your Blessings” is another favorite from the film that sets the mood for cozy fire-side holiday memories.
Johnny Mathis: Johnny Royce Mathis had all the girls and women swooning with his mellow style and velvet voice. Mathis has recorded over 130 albums and sold more than 350 million records worldwide. Many of those albums sold were Christmas albums with songs like, “Silver Bells, Sleigh Ride and my personal favorite We Need a Little Christmas.” In our household we knew it was time to go to bed when our parents put on Johnny Mathis. It was their chance to enjoy a bit of quiet time before we woke them up at 3am to look at all the presents they had just finish wrapping.
Burl Ives: Burl Icle Ivanhoe Ives (June 14, 1909 – April 14, 1995) was an American actor, writer and folk music singer. Ives’ “A Holly Jolly Christmas” and “Silver and Gold” are now considered holiday standards some 45 years after they were first featured in the 1964 CBS-TV presentation of the Rankin & Bass stop-motion animated family special Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer. His rendition of the song brings back to many childhood memories. Once you begin singing A Holly Jolly Christmas you will have it in your head through the entire Christmas season.
George Strait: Country-Western George Harvey Strait or as his loyal fans refer to him King George may not be a crooner per say but when he sings “Away in a Manger” his crooning talent shines through. His Christmas album “Merry Christmas Strait to You” is still among the top selling country Christmas albums. From “White Christmas to When it’s Christmas Time in Texas” George’s authentic country style livens up the most traditional holiday season. My favorite George Strait Christmas single is “Christmas Cookie” – “I sure do like those Christmas Cookies sugar, I sure do like those Christmas Cookies babe, every time she sticks another batch in the oven there’s 15-minutes for some kissin’ and a huggin’, that’s why I eat Christmas cookies all year long.” It just doesn’t get any better than that!
Elvis Presley: Rock and Roll King Elvis Aaron Presley has performed many Christmas songs. This swivel hipped entertainer had girls swooning to the point of exhaustion. His voice is still considered a national treasure and so is his music. His Christmas songs are still played on the radios throughout the holiday season. “Blue Christmas” is probably the most recognized. The 1966 holiday single “If Every Day Was like Christmas,” along with the 1970 non-seasonal b-side “Mama Liked the Roses,” issued as the flip to Elvis’ top ten single “The Wonder of You.”
Leon Redbone: If you haven’t had the pleasure of listening to this über crooner then you are missing out on an incredible holiday experience. His signature dark sunglasses, moustache and white Panama hat conceal a very private and talented entertainer. His Christmas album “Christmas Island” features the title tune of Christmas Island, is a Hawaiian-style holiday song accompanied with ukulele and slide guitar. His rendition of “Frosty the Snowman with Dr. John, Let it Snow and Winter Wonderland” display more of a Bourbon street beat. But his tender version of “I’ll be Home for Christmas and Toyland” generate a more melancholy holiday memory. I am privileged to know Leon personally. His charm and wit is just as authentic in person as they are on stage. Leon’s “Christmas Island” is wonderful addition to any holiday music library.
Andrea Bocelli: And last but not least is Andrea Bocelli. Born with poor eyesight, he became totally blind at the age of twelve following a soccer accident. Although his eyesight was loss this angelic tenor’s voice lights up the holiday season for millions all around the world. His Christmas album, “Andrea Bocelli – My Christmas feature Angels We Have Heard on High, What Child is This, Silent Night” and many more. I love his stirring version of “Ave Maria”. “The Prayer” which he has performed with Celine Dion, Josh Groban and Sarah Brightman is another incredibly beautiful song suitable for the holiday season.