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Monday, December 17, 2012

Day 17 - "The Christmas Song" by She & Him - 25 Days of Christmas Angst

I don't know anyone who roasts chestnuts. 
We never did.  There is something about
thinking back on past Christmas gatherings
that makes a person nostalgic. Are we correctly
remembering those times?
Today isn't about just any Christmas song.  Today is all about THE Christmas song.  "The Christmas Song" was written in 1944 by Mel Tormé, and Bob Wells.

This song has a lot of accolades attached to it including "most-performed" and "most-loved." 

The first recording of this song was by Nat King Cole.  You can see and hear his performance here:

Both Tormé and Cole recorded several versions of the song.  And dozens of artists have since recorded their own version.

Today I am recommending the version by She & Him.  Zooey Deschanel (vocals) and M. Ward (guitar) make up this duo.  You can hear their version here:  http://youtu.be/Rz4oG4eh5J0.

The musical backing is stark, Deschanel's vocals are haunting, and the tempo is considerably slower than Cole's version.  All of this makes for a less than reassuring expression of a hope for Christmas cheer.

Preview the remaining days of angst or review the previous days here:   

Tormé and Wells did not write this song at the height of some seasonal fervor.  The song started as a list of things to help Wells take his mind of of a heat wave.  When Tormé saw the list he instantly recognized its potential as a song.  In less than an hour the men had created one of the most revisited holiday songs.

She & Him are able to get away with their significant modification to the song because the lyrics are quite open to interpretation.  At best it is a collection of thematically related things.

Stanza one is a list of cold things; stanza two summarizes holiday dinner, decorations, and dreams; stanza three is a quick version of the Santa myth mixed with childhood doubt, and stanza four is a wish for the listener to have a merry Christmas.

All of it is thematically related but given its summary nature this song is easy to interpret in many ways.

If we are honest about it, that is true of all of hour holiday celebrations.  We mix and match religious doctrine, pop culture, and family tradition in order to accomplish the opposite of what Tormé and Wells were up to.

We need to be reminded not just that the world will eventually warm up again but that we as humans can be warm, kind, and giving to each other.

The Christmas Song
as performed by She & Him

Chestnuts roasting on an open fire
Jack Frost nipping at your nose
Yuletide carols being sung by a choir
And folks dressed up like Eskimos

Everybody knows
A turkey and some mistletoe
Help to make the season bright
Tiny tots with their eyes all a-glow
Will find it hard to sleep tonight

They know that Santa's on his way
He's loaded lots of toys
And goodies on his sleigh
And every mother's child is gonna spy
To see if reindeer really know
How to fly

And so I'm offering this simple phrase
To kids from one to ninety two
Although it's been said
Many times many ways
Merry Christmas to you


"The Christmas Song"


"She & Him"

25 Days Of Christmas Angst
Day Song Download/Purchase Info
17 "The Christmas Song" by She & Him Buy the full album:

Buy the song:
Read my blog post for more about this song.
What is ther to not like about Zooey Deschanel on lead vocals of this slightly depressing holiday classic?
16 "Blue Christmas" by Vince Gill Buy the CD:
Read my blog post for more about this song.
Elvis or Vince Gill?
I recommend buying Vince Gill's Christmas album titled, Breath of Heaven: A Christmas Collection. I have only been able to find it available as a physical CD, however.

Click this link to preview the remaining days of angst or review the previous days:  http://www.carneylentz.com/p/25-days-of-christmas- angst.html

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