Get Connected
  • facebook
  • twitter

My Turn: Listen to the radio for a Christmas miracle

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - If you'd like proof that Christmas is the time of miracles, look no further than your nearest radio.

Come tomorrow, there should be at least one station playing a steady stream of holiday tunes. And if you give a listen, you're going to be hearing a playlist that sounds nothing short of miraculous.

Artists who haven't had a sniff of airplay in 50 years have their back catalogue brought back to life and are in vogue again for about 24 hours.

In wonderful monaural sound, Gene Autry, Perry Como and Judy Garland settle in for a broadcast visit with seasonal favorites about red-nosed reindeer, being home for the holidays and merry little Christmases.

(If you're not familiar with these singers, shame on you and get up your YouTube.)

Part of the miracle is the amazing democracy of the day. Musical legends like Ella Fitzgerald share space with one-hit novelty acts like Elmo & Patsy (of "Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer" fame).

Arguments get settled: Elvis vs. The Beatles? There's a reason "Blue Christmas" still gets played and Beatles Fan Club seasonal releases like "Christmas Time is Here Again" remain safely in obscure collections. The King wins this round hands-down.

Speaking of Beatles, even the John vs. Paul debate finds some closure. McCartney's silly "Wonderful Christmastime" collaboration with his missus, Linda, can't hold a candle to "Happy Xmas (War is Over)" by the late Mr. Lennon.

And as the lion lies down with the lamb, so too, does the secular coexist with the spiritual, jazz with country, and classical with Singing Dogs.

(Given that most Christmas songs don't last more than 3 minutes, you need a lot of them to fill a day of airtime with limited commercial interruption. There's probably not a lot of room for being discriminating.)

Of course, that also means the bad mixes with the good, which mixes with the weird.

Some tunes are bulletproof and just can't be messed up. "The Christmas Song" would be one.  Whether it's the sublime jazz trio setting of Nat King Cole, the rich country baritone of Blake Shelton, or, if you can believe it, a restrained Celine Dion, you can pretty much listen and not cringe.

Others are either so odd - Bing Crosby and David Bowie (!) singing a special arrangement of "Little Drummer Boy" - or of a time - 1980s supergroup Band Aid's "Do They Know It's Christmas" - that they should never be remade.

(Here I will weigh in on what's most likely the strangest lyric in the canon. In Andy Williams' "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year," there are parties for hosting, marshmallows for toasting and caroling out in the snow. Check. Where do "scary ghost stories" come in? I mean, outside of "A Christmas Carol." I've always found the line fairly disturbing.)

Not too long ago, I probably would have argued that all that good popular holiday music had been written by the 1960s and that people should stop trying to write new ones.

It's nice to be proven wrong. I've heard a thoughtful allegory in Faith Hill's "A Baby Changes Everything" and wonderful pop in the old Phil Spector vein of Mariah Carey's "All I Want for Christmas Is You."

And maybe that's what makes this seasonal miracle so enduring: No matter how full it may seem, good tunes keep making their way onto the playlist.

Contact writer Philip Maramba at or 304-348-1248.


User Comments