Five-star holiday songs

Ok! So, Your Older Brother must be too cool for Christmas music, right? That’s just kid stuff. Right?

Wrong! I have a long list of favorite Christmas/holiday/winter songs that’s much longer than this, but this is pretty close to my essential list. Most of the links point to the iTunes Music Store for easy purchasing.

I present to you Your Older Brother’s Five-Star Christmas music list:

Do They Know It’s Christmas? – Band AidSure it’s a full-on 80’s nostalgia tune, but it still gets to me.
It Came Upon A Midnight ClearBeauSoleil A wonderful Cajun swing that gives this song a fresh feel.
Happy Holiday (Beef Wellington Remix) – Bing CrosbyI love these remixes.
White Christmas – Bing CrosbyIt’s not Christmas without Der Bingle.
Santa Claus Is Coming to Town – Bing Crosby
Jingle Bells – Bing CrosbyLittle Drummer Boy / Peace On Earth – Bing Crosby & David Bowie Bing & Bowie. Come on.

Santa Claus Is Coming To TownCajun Gold – The accordion really makes these Cajun songs for me.
Ave Maria – Chris Cornell & Eleven – I don’t remember ever hearing this song before hearing this version, and it’s the standard by which I measure all other versions. There are actually two different music variants, but this is the one I prefer. Chris’ soaring vocals & the bombast are amazing together.
White Christmas – Corporal BlossomAnother fun remix, using many different versions of “White Christmas,” but probably my favorite part of the song is the sample of the bass & snare from Paul Simon’s “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover”. Follow the link to hear the track for free!
Same Old Lang Syne – Dan FogelbergA gorgeous tune with sad, wistful lyrics. Makes me cry just about every time.
Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow – Dean Martin – Dean’s boozy versions of winter songs are the reason for the season.
I’ve Got My Love to Keep Me Warm – Dean Martin
Blue Christmas – Elvis Presley – My parents are from Memphis, so Elvis is naturally in my blood. This album played over and over and over when I was a kid.
White Christmas – Elvis PresleyI just watched the movie “White Christmas” for the first time this year, and I’d imagine that this song was heresy when it came out.
If Every Day Was Like Christmas – Elvis Presley
Santa Bring My Baby Back (To Me) – Elvis Presley
She Won’t Be Home – Erasure – Like the Prince song on this list, this song is kind of parenthetically related to Christmas, and isn’t all that happy, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a good song.
Winter Wonderland – EurythmicsThe first Very Special Christmas record was a collection of popular 80’s artists. Some tracks were better than others, and this is one of the better ones.
Feliz Navidad – José Feliciano – I remember this from the 70’s. Just a happy song.
Iration – Fishbone – Fishbone was one of my favorite bands of the 80’s, and when the It’s A Wonderful Life EP came out, I bought it immediately and it’s been a Christmas staple for me ever since. This is the serious song on the record, and one of their best.
Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas – Frank SinatraFrank sang a few good Christmas songs, too.
When Santa Claus Gets Your Letter – Gene Autry – One of my favorite Christmas records when I was a kid was “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and other Christmas Classics” by Gene Autry. His simple delivery and emotive singing really connects me to the songs. They make me feel like a kid. That’s why so many are included here. It doesn’t hurt that he also was the owner of the California Angels.
I Wish My Mom Would Marry Santa Claus – Gene Autry
He’s a Chubby Little Fellow – Gene Autry
Here Comes Santa Claus (Right Down Santa Claus Lane) – Gene Autry
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer – Gene Autry
If It Doesn’t Snow On Christmas Day – Gene Autry
The Night Before Christmas Song – Gene Autry
Frosty the Snowman – Gene Autry
Santa, Santa, Santa – Gene Autry
Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town – Gene Autry
Everyone’s a Child At Christmas – Gene Autry
A Snowflake Fell (And It Felt Like a Kiss) – GlasvegasGreat new Scottish band with a tale that turns hopeful.
Winter Wonderland – Harry Connick Jr.Not on a Christmas record, but a terrific no-vocals version.
When My Heart Finds Christmas – Harry Connick Jr.I love Harry. Harry has three Christmas albums out. For some reason, the first one is the only one worth a damn.
(It Must’ve Been Ol’) Santa Claus – Harry Connick Jr.
Ave Maria – Harry Connick Jr.The other definitive version of this song for me.
I Pray On Christmas – Harry Connick Jr.
What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve? – Harry Connick Jr.Again, I think this is the first version of this song that I recall hearing, and it’s fabulous.
The Christmas Song – Hootie & the BlowfishHootie’s not a popular band to like amongst the musical tastemakers. This is a pretty good version off the third Very Special Christmas album. I like hearing it.
Last Christmas – Jimmy Eat WorldI never heard the Wham! version until after I heard this. I love this version most.
Twelve Days of Christmas – John Denver & the MuppetsI was a huge Muppets fan as a child as well. And still am. This record got a lot of play as soon as I got it, sometime soon after it was released in 1979.
Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas – John Denver & the Muppets – Just a simple version, John & Rowlf on piano.
Christmas Is Coming – John Denver & the Muppets
Little Saint Nick – John Denver & the MuppetsJanice starts with California cool on this Beach Boys tune.
Happy Xmas (War Is Over) – John Lennon & Yoko OnoGlad we have this song.
It’s Christmas In LouisianaJohnnie Allan More Cajun Christmas. Just happy music.
Frosty the Snowman – Leon Redbone & Dr. John
There’s No Place Like Home for the Holidays – Leon RedboneLeon is always so laid back. This is one of my favorite versions of this song, but this whole record is a classic.
Christmas Island – Leon Redbone
Christmas Ball Blues – Leon Redbone – One of the great Christmas song lyrics: “Christmas comes but once a year/And to me it brings good cheer/And to everyone who likes wine and beer.”Christmas Ball Blues - Christmas Island
Christmas MorningLoudon Wainwright III – LWIII breaks it down like only he can do. Christmas Morning - Social Studies
Just Like Christmas – LowAnother almost anti-Christmas song, couched in all the trappings of a Christmas song. It’s tough for me to figure out, but it’s a pleasure to listen.
The Christmas Song – Mel Tormé – Gotta dig the Velvet Fog’s version, yeah?
O Tannenbaum – Nat “King” ColeI love hearing Nat rock the German.
The Christmas Song (Merry Christmas To You) – Nat “King” ColeFor as great as Torme is, Nat owns this song.
Merry Christmas, Baby – Otis ReddingOtis. ‘Nuff said.
Wonderful Christmastime – Paul McCartneyA lot of people write this song off as schlock. And it probably is. But it’s happy synthy almost-80’s tune, so it gets a pass from me.
Another Lonely Christmas – Prince – “Baby, U promised me U’d never leave/Then U died on the 25th day of December” Way to bring the party down, Prince. Down and funky.
Christmas In Hollis – Run-D.M.C.I remember a commercial that used to use this for background music. Maybe it was an MTV bumper. But it’s a classic rap Christmas tune. Which begs the question – how many rap Christmas songs are there?
Christmastime – Smashing PumpkinsI’ve fallen out of love with the Pumpkins the past few years, but this song always delivers.
Gabriel’s Message – A StingKind of a spooky version, but typical iconoclast choice for Stingy.
I Saw Three Ships – StingAs spooky as his previous song was, this one is bouncy and joyful.
Up On The HousetopThe Jambalaya Cajun Band Fiddle, accordion & Creole. Can’t go wrong.
2000 Miles – The PretendersThis just sounds like a Pretenders song. Which is fine with me.
Sleigh Ride – The RonettesYou can hear Phil Spector’s hands all over this. Ring-a ling-a ling-a ding dong ding, indeed.
Sleigh Ride – The VenturesReverb drips from almost every note. Fantastic guitar playing.
Christmas Wrapping – The WaitressesSuch a great story delivered with such great music. And that bassline? Fugeddaboudit.
I’ll Be Home for Christmas – Tony BennettIn the same league as Bing, Frank, Mel & Nat. But you knew that.
Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) – U2This is the first version of this song I heard, and it remains the definitive version for me. I’m sure I’ll catch heat from Darlene Love fans.

Christmastime Is Here – Vince GuaraldiNo words needed.
Skating – Vince GuaraldiI hear this song and think of winter.
Thanks For Christmas – XTC – Another simple Christmas song by a more contemporary band.

Big Rawk Christmas:
I Won’t Be Home for Christmas – Blink-182
It’s a Wonderful Life (Gonna Have a Good Time) – Fishbone Listen to the words – he goes over the whole movie. One of my favorite lyrics: “Then I went blind in-a one ear” – talking about George Bailey losing his hearing after saving his brother.
Oi to the World – No Doubt
Father Christmas – the Kinks

Deck the Stills – Barenaked LadiesThis is the kind of funny stuff that made me love BNL to start with.
The Twelve Days of Christmas – Bob & Doug McKenzieMore Canadian Christmas humor.
Slick Nick, You Devil You (Vinyl Only) – Fishbone“You put Mad Dog in my sock/I wanted candy. I wanted candy! I WANTED CANDY!!”
Santa Looked A Lot Like DaddyGarth Brooks Pretty faithful cover of the Buck Owens tune.

New Classics:
Christmas – Blues Traveler – Heartfelt lyrics that aren’t necessarily religious.
Merry Christmas EveBetter Than EzraI usually cry when I hear this song around Christmas time. Seriously.
Christmas Just Does This to Me – Matt WertzMatt is one of my favorite discoveries from the past few years. Good songs, great voice, and he sets a wonderful scene here.

Just For Me:
Straight to Hell – The ClashI got Combat Rock for Christmas one year, and while the whole record kind of reminds me of Christmas, this song does most of all. I mean, nothing says Christmas like tales of suffering.
(Just Like) Starting Over – John LennonI vividly remember hearing the news, live on the radio on December 8th, 1980, that John Lennon had been shot and killed. I had colored lights up in my room and I heard the news and even at 10 years old, knew the world had lost a very important person. The DJ broke the news and then played this song off John’s new record, released not even a month prior. It starts with chimes – it sounds Christmas-like, but they also remind me of his death.

Beatles Christmas singlesMy friend Adam is a huge Beatles fan and first introduced me to these Christmas messages from the Fab Four. They start out just sort of goofing around, and then they get weird. This YouTube video has them all strung together for maximum effect, 1963-1969.

And last but not least – one last remix, mixing LMFAO with Brenda Lee – “Party Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree“. I listened to LMFAO’s “Party Rock Anthem” so much this year with my kids that this is a natural must-have. 🙂 The other songs on the Santastic Six mashup are of varying quality, but this one stands out.

So that’s my list. I hope you enjoy Christmas music as much as I do. Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, May your holiday be blessed, Happy Kwanzaa, festive Festivus, Cool Yule, Spectacular Saturnalia, Joyous Solstice, Happy Bodhi Day…and so forth.


Join the discussion and tell us your opinion.

Headless Momreply
December 25, 2011 at 12:23 am

You were almost disowned, but you snuck the Waitresses in toward the end.

You forgot Adam Sandler's Haunnakah Song. It's just not Christmas without it!

-Your Older Brother, Samreply
December 25, 2011 at 12:24 am

I could never leave off the best Christmas song my older sister turned me on to! 🙂

And yes, I think I did forget the Hannukah song. My bad. I must not have it marked as "Holiday" in iTunes, because I know I have it. Maybe next year. 🙂

December 25, 2011 at 2:57 am

It doesn't feel like Christmas unless I hear Fairytale of New York at least once… and O Holy Night a million times.

December 25, 2011 at 10:28 am

Nice list Sammy! I'm so with Tammy on fony a billion times as well as "merry Xmas everybody" by slade. You've gotten me to add a couple songs to my queue!

-Your Older Brother, Samreply
December 27, 2011 at 5:42 pm

@Thatgirl – I dig "Fairytale", but it doesn't feel like Christmas to me. Maybe haven't heard it enough during the season.

@Rob – I'll have to check that Slade song as well. Always liked them. Thanks! I also see a song called "I Believe in Father Christmas" done by lots of UK artists, but I've not heard that one, either. Something to look for next year. 🙂

December 27, 2011 at 9:07 pm

Sammy – our absolute favorite song for the holidays is "Must Be Santa" by Brave Combo – who says Polka and Christmas don't go together??

-Your Older Brother, Samreply
December 27, 2011 at 9:08 pm

Who says? Not me! Polka and Christmas sound wonderful. 🙂 I'll check it out for next year!

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