Inspired by the season and the December 1 birthdays of Bette Midler, Janelle Monae, Basement Jaxx’s Simon Ratcliff, Lou Rawls, Richard Pryor, Billy Paul, Gilbert O’Sullivan, Mary Martin, Woody Allen, Treat Williams, Sarah Silverman, Julee Cruise, Jonathan Coulton and Matt Monro.
Inspired by the September 19 birthdays of Chic’s Nile Rodgers, Pulp’s Jarvis Cocker, Tegan and Sara, Mama Cass Elliot, The Righteous Brothers’ Bill Medley, Teddybears’ Patrik Arve, Skepta, Rex Smith, The Springfields’ Mike Hurst, Brook Benton, Lol Crème, Austin Roberts, Eamon, Marshall Jefferson, Adam West and Frances Farmer.
Foo Fighters – “Learn to Fly”
Today is Foo Fighter Dave Grohl’s birthday. This is easily my favorite song from the group’s album There Is Nothing Left to Lose. Grohl said it’s one of his least favorites on the album. What does he know?
Kings of Leon – “Sex on Fire”
Today is the birthday of Kings of Leon’s lead singer Caleb Followill. About this song, Caleb’s brother and fellow bandmate Nathan said in an interview “Sex On Fire was just kind of a little lyric just to fill in to kill some time until we could actually write something that wasn’t about sex and fire.”
Kings of Leon – “Use Somebody”
Grammy Award winner for Record of the Year.
Foo Fighters – “Everlong”
David Letterman introduced a performance of this song on his talk show as “my favorite band playing my favorite song.”
Bobby “Blue” Bland – “I’ll Take Care of You”
Written by Brook Benton and originally recorded by Bobby “Blue Bland,” this song was covered by Gil Scott-Heron, whose version was remixed by Jamie xx. That remix was sampled in the Drake/Rihanna hit “Take Care.”
James Brown – “King Heroin”
This song is a poem written by New York City Stage Delicatessen worker Manny Rosen set to music.
Barbara Lewis – “Baby I’m Yours”
This song was written by Van McCoy, who hit #1 with his classic disco recording “The Hustle.”
Mary Wells – “Two Lovers”
This song was written by Smokey Robinson, who was inspired by a movie he was watching on television in which a woman had two lovers. Imagine the song we would have gotten had Smokey been watching The Thing With Two Heads.
Oasis – “Slide Away”
Oasis member Noel Gallagher, who write this song, says it contains his brother Liam’s best vocals ever.
Foo Fighters – “I’ll Stick Around”
This song’s music video was directed by Jerry Casale of Devo, who is coming up later on this playlist.
Dionne Warwick – “Promises, Promises”
Like most of Dionne Warwick’s sixties hits, this one was written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David.
LL Cool J – “I’m That Type of Guy”
Today James Todd Smith turns 52 years old. He’s cool and the ladies love him, hence his rap moniker LL Cool J.
Run-D.M.C. – “Run’s House”
Run-D.M.C. sampled this in their final top 40 pop hit, “Down with the King.”
Clarence Carter – “Strokin”
Today is the 84th birthday of Clarence Carter Clarence Carter Clarence Carter Clarence Carter Ooh Shit Clarence Carter.
The Smashing Pumpkins – “Landslide”
In 1994, Smashing Pumpkins’ version of this Fleetwood Mac song hit #3 on the US Modern Rock chart, becoming the first version of this song to chart.
Arcade Fire – “The Suburbs”
The title track from the 2011 Album of the Year Grammy winner.
Jack Jones – “Wives and Lovers”
Another Grammy Award winner, this one for Best Vocal Performance, Male. As with the Dionne Warwick song earlier in this playlist, this was written by the team of Burt Bacharach and Hal David. The lyrics, which may have already seemed backwards when they wrote it in 1963, come across as downright anachronistic today, telling women they need to stay attractive and attend to their husbands if they want them to remain faithful. Today is Jack Jones’ birthday.
Clarence Carter – “Making Love (At the Dark End of the Street)”
Another classic performance from Carter, referenced in “Strokin.”
Devo – “Working in the Coal Mine”
A cover of the Lee Dorsey classic, written by the late Alan Toussaint, whose birthday is today.
The Pointer Sisters – “Yes We Can Can”
Alan Toussaint write this song also. He wrote a lot of great songs. He also co-produced the Labelle classic “Lady Marmalade.” Respect.
TRIVIA QUESTION: Who was the first woman to hit the top ten on the Billboard Hot 100 with a song she wrote herself?
ANSWER: Carla Thomas. She was 16 years old when she wrote “Gee Whiz (Look at His Eyes),” which hit #10 in 1961. Today she turns 72.
In 1963, Thomas incorporated the title of her first hit into a seasonal offering, “Gee Whiz, It’s Christmas.”
“Gee Whiz, It’s Christmas” inspires today’s playlist – fifty great soul and r&b Christmas jams, with some fun extra treats thrown in.
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You may have heard that last week on Fox Megyn Kelly said the real title of the song “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town” is “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town and He’s White and Just Because It Makes You Feel Uncomfortable Doesn’t Mean It Has To Change.” She also said “Here Comes Santa Claus” is actually “Here Comes Santa Claus and He’s White and Just Because It Makes You Feel Uncomfortable Doesn’t Mean It Has To Change.” She was fine with “White Christmas.”
Kelly, who is white and just because that makes you feel uncomfortable doesn’t mean it has to change, will enjoy today’s playlist. It’s part 3 of An Atheist Jew’s Guide to Christmas Music. (Click to listen to parts 1 and 2.) She may take issue with an atheist Jew selecting Christmas songs, but she’ll be happy I’m white, just like Santa and Jesus and Frosty and Rudolph. Artists on today’s playlist include such great white folks as Pet Shop Boys, Erasure, James Brown, The Jackson 5, The Beach Boys, Stevie Wonder, Rufus Wainwright, The Supremes, Eagles, Whitney Houston, The Temptations, Paul Simon, Pearl Jam, Boy George, Elvis Presley and Joan Jett, among others. There are classic songs and some you may not have heard before. I doubt Kelly is familiar with Pansy Division’s “Homo Christmas” and she may not like what the band suggests one does with a candy cane, but just because that makes her feel uncomfortable doesn’t mean it has to change. Besides, Pansy Division is white, just like everyone is at Christmas time.
Enjoy! May your days be merry and bright and may all your Christmases be white with a capital W.
Raised Jewish, I celebrated Hanukkah. For several years, my family also celebrated Christmas. We didn’t go to midnight mass, we didn’t drink egg nog, we didn’t throw a special type of log in the fireplace. (By the way, I have no idea what makes a Yule log yuley). We put tinsel and candy canes on a large potted plant my mother had in the den and bought each other small but practical gifts. For example, when I was 11 for Christmas my parents got me a salt shaker. The Christmas celebrations stopped after I innocently told Grandpa Mordechai about them. My parents were so angry with me they took away my salt shaker.
Though I no longer celebrate Christmas, I still have a major jones for Christmas music. I own many more Christmas records than any atheist Jew probably should. We’re talking in the hundreds.
I eschew Christmas classics performed by well-known middle-of-the-road acts such as Celine Dion, Michael Bublé, Kenny G (sell-out Jew), Neil Diamond (sell-out Jew) or Barbra Streisand (sell-out Jew). Frank Sinatra shows up only in a duet with Cyndi Lauper and Bing Crosby shows up only in his duet with David Bowie.
Including the Crosby/Bowie version, I have 15 renditions of “The Little Drummer Boy” in my iPod, by a diverse list of artists including Johnny Cash, The Temptations, Joan Jett, Bob Dylan, Iggy Pop and RuPaul.
I have ten versions of “Winter Wonderland,” and that’s not counting the cross-dressing parody “Walkin’ Round in Women’s Underwear,” not performed by RuPaul.
I have “Christmas in Hollis,” “Christmas in Harlem,” “Christmas in Washington,” “Christmastime in the LBC,” “Christmas in the City,” “Christmas in Heaven,” “Christmastime in Hell” and “Christmas at the Zoo.”
I have Christmas songs by most of my favorite artists of all-time, including The Beatles, Prince, Michael Jackson, Madonna, Stevie Wonder, R.E.M., Elvis Presley, The White Stripes, Kanye West, Ike and Tina Turner, Chuck Berry, and Radiohead.
Some Christmas songs aren’t Christmas songs at all. “Frosty the Snowman,” “Let It Snow Let it Snow Let It Snow” and “Winter Wonderland” don’t mention the baby Jesus or Santa Claus or presents or a bullied reindeer with a skin ailment.
Some of the Christmas songs I have are a bit odd. “I Found the Brains of Santa Claus,” a smooth jazz version of “Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer,” C3PO and R2D2 singing “Sleigh Ride.” I have Liberace reciting “Twas the Night Before Christmas,” though his version doesn’t hold a candle to Aretha Franklin’s version, in which the Queen of Soul took a few liberties with the words: “A bundle of gifts he had and what did I get? / As I squealed, opening the package, the same old shit!” Her lyrics are downright Disneyesque compared to Snoop Dogg’s reading of the famous poem. If you’re interested, Google the lyrics because I’m not going to print them here.
I have John Denver singing “Please Daddy (Don’t Get Drunk This Christmas).” Verse one opens with a couplet for the arithmetically-challenged: “Just last year when I was only seven / Now I’m almost eight you can see.” Santa needs to bring John some flashcards. The next two lines create a holiday image that is less Norman Rockwell and more John Waters: “You came home at quarter past eleven / And fell down underneath the Christmas tree.” Someone needs to get him to a 12-step group. He can attend a meeting with the title character of Fishbone’s “Slick Nick, You Devil You,” who came down the chimney with a keg of brew and spilled Jack Daniels all over the drapes.
I have Sarah Silverman singing “Give the Jew Girl Toys,” in which she taunts Santa by singing “You have a list / Well, Schindler did to / Liam Neeson played him / Tim Allen played you.”
Then there’s the classic “Fairtytale of New York” by the Pogues and Kirsty MacColl, which evokes the holiday spirit with the line “You scumbag, you maggot / You cheap lousy faggot,” something yelled at me every year by those Salvation Army Santas.
Better still is “Macarena Christmas.” I LOVE “Macarena” and I’m betting you do to though you probably won’t admit it. “Macarena Christmas” celebrates the birth of our lord and savior Baby Macarena by taking the chorus from the hit single and uncleverly inserting it repeatedly into a medley of Christmas songs, so it goes “Joy to the world, the Lord has come / Da le a tu cuerpo alegria Macarena, Que tu cuerpo es pa darle alegria y cosa Buena / Da le a tu cuerpo alegria Macarena / Eeeeeh, Macarena – ay / Jingle bells jingle bells jingle all the way.” Sound effects of what sounds like an infant with the hiccups are thrown in. It makes no sense, y me gusta mucho.
My favorite holiday album and one of the greatest all-time albums period is Phil Spector’s A Christmas Gift for You, featuring tracks he produced for The Ronettes, The Crystals, Darlene Love and Bob B. Soxx and The Blue Jeans. Every cut on it is classic and can be enjoyed by the whole family, except Grandpa Mordechai.