Did you know? (Holiday-style)

“In fact, not since Mariah Carey’s 1994 composition All I Want for Christmas Is You (written with Walter Afanasieff) has a new holiday hit entered the Christmas canon.”

The Washingon Post‘s J. Freedom du Lac discusses the state of the holiday music catalog. My personal opinion? It’s not so hot. This Mariah factoid means there’s only been one hit holiday record (hers) since I entered high school. Turn on Christmas radio formats and you’ll hear song after song from previous generations. So much for creating memories of our own, you know? (And The Christmas Shoes doesn’t count.)

Did the previous generations have things the same way? When Gene Autry’s Rudolph arrived in 1949, was everyone stuck listening to Merry Christmas, Everyone (Except for the Kaiser)? The song would’ve only been 30 years old then. Had the song existed.

But consider if it had. Thirty years old. This month, the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers put out a list of the 25 most-performed holiday songs from the 21st century. Let’s add some writing years (by publication date) to the list.

1. The Christmas Song. 1946.
2. Santa Claus Is Coming To Town. 1934.
3. Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas. 1943.
4. Winter Wonderland. 1934.
5. White Christmas. 1942.
6. Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow! 1945.
7. Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer. 1939.
8. Jingle Bell Rock. 1957.
9. I’ll Be Home For Christmas. 1943.
10. Little Drummer Boy. 1941.
11. Sleigh Ride. 1948.
12. It’s The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year. 1963.
13. Silver Bells. 1950.
14. Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree. 1958.
15. Feliz Navidad. 1970.
16. Blue Christmas.1948.
17. Frosty The Snowman. 1950.
18. A Holly Jolly Christmas. 1962.
19. I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus. 1952
20. Here Comes Santa Claus (Right Down Santa Claus Lane). 1946.
21. It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas. 1951.
22. (There’s No Place Like) Home For The Holidays. 1954.
23. Carol Of The Bells. 1936.
24. Santa Baby. 1953.
25. Wonderful Christmastime. 1979.

That’s four from the ’30s, nine from the ’40s, eight from the ’50s, two from the ’60s, and two from the ’70s. Obviously this survey of the list does beyond radio and deep into holiday performances, commercials and mall music, so you expect the boomers to have their consumer influence. And — big disclaimer — I love just about all of these songs. I’m not anti-classic-carol by any means. Every year after the extend family goes Christmas tree hunting, we end the day singing carols.

But the writing! Not one song since 1979? An essay at the “Hymns and Carols of Christmas” site argues for the influence of Bing Crosby’s Holiday Inn carolfest and a historically cyclical pattern of carol creation. As much may be true, but it’s surprising that decades of speedy musical evolution haven’t done much. Insert an essay on modernism and the holiday celebration here, maybe. Or blame boomer power, maybe. I just wonder what we’re gonna be hearing when we’re the age the boomers are now. If it’s The Christmas Shoes, I retract this whole thing. Bring on the Kaiser.

Bonus content
Compare the new ASCAP list of 21st century performances to the 1998 ASCAP list on the “Hymns and Carols” site. The ’98 list counts 85 years back, to when ASCAP was founded and apparently began collecting data.

Highlights include White Christmas dropping from No. 1 on the earlier list to No. 5 now, The Christmas Song jumping from No. 3 to No. 1, and a variety of additions and departures.

It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year, Santa Baby, Wonderful Christmastime join the list. The Andy Williams’ song rockets to No. 7, and I bet the Staples back-to-school commercial had some influence. We Need a Little Christmas, The Christmas Waltz, and The Chipmunk Song depart.

Even more bonus content
If you still believe in The Chipmunk Song and aren’t one of the masses who’ve apparently moved onto Kanye for their creatively sped musical effects, I’d again recommend the Shalitas’ Christmas Single. That merch page lists the second track as The Christmas Song, the one with the chestnuts, and it’s not. It’s the Shalitas the Chipmunks and Marah’s Dave Bielanko as … Dave. The single’s other track, Merry Christmas (I Don’t Want to Fight Tonight), is my favorite, but the Chipmunk homage also brings me action and satisfaction.

Also worth buying, of course, is Marah’s Christmas Kind of Town. Turn it on in the car and turn off The Christmas Shoes. Please.

Darlene Love’s All Alone at Christmas.

Related past posts
-Dec. 10, 2004: Music plays all night in Little Italy
-Dec. 25, 2004: Christmas with Hemingway
-Nov. 25, 2004: Springsteen Christmas story
-Dec. 29, 2002: Figure eights in the parking lot
-Dec. 24, 2002: Christmas Eve in Atlanta
-March 4, 2002: My coat

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