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The Ultimate Christmas Playlist

Today is the day after Thanksgiving here in the United States of America. You’re officially allowed to start listening to holiday music now. To get you started, I compiled a playlist of what I consider to be 100 of the best Christmas songs. Okay, 98 songs, a stand-up routine and a skit. It’s a mix of standards, versions of standards with which you may not be familiar, and obscure but delightful tunes.

Enjoy!

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Throwback Thursday – 1955

Blackboard Jungle hit US theaters on March 25, 1955. The plot concerned the arrival of a new teacher at a violent inner-city school. The producers wanted a theme song that was typical of what a 1955 teenager would listen to. Glenn Ford, who starred in the film alongside Anne Francis and Sidney Poitier, looked through his son’s record collection. In there, the theme song was found.

It was the b-side of a single entitled “Thirteen Women (And the Only Man in Town)” that had been released the prior year. When the song was used under Blackboard Jungle’s opening credits, that flip-side, “(We’re Gonna) Rock Around the Clock,” performed by Bill Haley and His Comets, went to #1 in the US, and is considered to be the first rock and roll song to do so. It became a smash elsewhere in the world, too, becoming the UK’s first million-selling single.

The classic guitar solo on the track was performed by Danny Cedrone, who was not one of Haley’s Comets but a session musician who had worked with the group previously. He got paid $21 for his contribution to the track. Cedrone took a tumble on a stairway and died shortly after the song was recorded, not living to see its success, let alone its iconic status.

Ringo + Bill Haley
Tunes du Jour’s Throwback Thursday playlist this week spotlights the year 1955, kicking off with Bill Haley and His Comets’ “(We’re Gonna) Rock Around the Clock.”


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Throwback Thursday – 1964

Between the British invasion, the growth of Motown, and the girl group sound, many arguments could be made as to why 1964 was the best year for pop music. Here are twenty:


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A Fourth Of July Playlist

On the fourth of July in 1776, the Declaration of Independence, in which the thirteen American colonies declared their independence from Great Britain, was adopted.

None of the songs in today’s playlist address the events of 1776 directly. However, the song selection is inspired by our 4th of July holiday.

Besides being great songs on their own, the collection represents one of the great things about the United States – its diversity. Long considered a melting pot where people of different backgrounds and beliefs could come to achieve their dreams and goals, the U.S. of A. is powerful and innovative as a result of this blend of people. Today’s playlist represents this diversity with a blend of genres – rock, funk, pop, Broadway, new wave, soul, and then some. Despite our differences, we are one nation, under a groove, with liberty and justice for all.

Whether or not you celebrate Independence Day, enjoy this Fourth of July-inspired playlist.


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Throwback Thursday – 1957

Nineteen fifty-seven was a banner year in the nascent days of rock and roll.

Buddy Holly and the Crickets had their first chart hit with “That’ll be the Day,” which hit #1 in September. “Peggy Sue” became their second top ten single before the year was out.

Sun Records, the label that brought us Elvis Presley (among others), released “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Going On,” performed by Jerry Lee Lewis. It became Lewis’ first hit single, peaking at #3.

Gospel singer Sam Cooke released his first secular recording on Keen Records. The song was “You Send Me,” and it spent three weeks at #1 in December. Cooke would go on to score 28 more top 40 pop hits.

The Everly Brothers cracked the pop chart for the first time with “Bye Bye Love,” which peaked at #2. Their follow-up single, “Wake Up Little Susie,” went to #1 and stayed there for four weeks.

Chuck Berry, who cracked the pop top ten in 1955 with “Maybellene,” had two more top ten hits in 1957 – “School Day” and “Rock & Roll Music.” He wouldn’t have a #1 single until 1972.

Elvis Presley was at #1 on the pop singles chart for exactly half the year with “All Shook Up,” “Jailhouse Rock,” “(Let Me Be Your) Teddy Bear,” and “Too Much.” So his increasing amount of fans wouldn’t be bothersome to his neighbors and to have more security, in 1957 Presley purchased the Graceland mansion in Memphis for $102,500.

Jackie Wilson, formerly a member of Billy Ward and His Dominoes, released his first solo single, “Reet Petite (The Finest Girl You Ever Want to Meet),” co-written by an up-and-coming songwriter named Berry Gordy, Jr. Though the song only reached #62 on the US pop chart, it went top ten in the UK, earning Gordy enough money to fund the launch of Motown Records. Ultimately, Wilson would have 24 top 40 hits on the US pop chart.

Little Richard, who first cracked the pop chart in 1956 with “Tutti-Frutti,” had three more top 40 hits in 1957 – “Keep a Knockin’,” “Jenny, Jenny” and “Lucille.” The latter hit #1 on the r&b chart, while the other two titles peaked at #2 r&b.

The Coasters teamed up with the production/songwriting team of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller and in doing so, scored with the double-sided hit single “Searchin’” (#3 pop / #1 r&b) and “Young Blood” (#8 pop / #1 r&b). With Lieber and Stoller The Coasters would score several more top ten hits over the next few years.

Also, in 1957, the television program American Bandstand was syndicated nationally. It would air for the next 32 years.

Tunes du Jour’s Throwback Thursday playlist this week focuses on the great music of 1957.


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Throwback Thursday – 1966

me - 1966001The blogger in 1966

“My mother used to tell me about vibrations. I didn’t really understand too much of what she meant when I was a boy. It scared me, the word ‘vibrations’ – to think that invisible feelings existed. She also told me about dogs that would bark at some people, but wouldn’t bark at others, and so it came to pass that we talked about good vibrations.”
– The Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson, Rolling Stone magazine

“The concept of spreading goodwill, good thoughts and happiness is nothing new, but it is our hope. The ideas are there in ‘Good Vibrations,’ ‘God Only Knows,’ ‘Heroes and Villains,’ and it is why the new LP is called Smile.”
– The Beach Boys’ Carl Wilson

According to Brian Wilson, Capitol Records didn’t want to release “Good Vibrations” as a single because of its duration: three and a half minutes. Reportedly, executives at the label were also concerned about the psychedelic overtones of the lyrics. Wilson pleaded with Capitol to release the 45.

The song went to #1 and earned the Beach Boys a Grammy nomination in the category of Best Contemporary Group Performance, in which they were pitted against three fine recordings plus “Guantanamera” by the Sandpipers. The Beach Boys lost, thankfully not to the Sandpipers but to the Mamas & the Papas for “Monday, Monday.” Mojo magazine placed “Good Vibrations” at #1 on their Top 100 Records of All Time list, and Rolling Stone magazine had it at #6 on their 500 Greatest Songs of All Time survey.

The crowning achievement of “Good Vibrations” by the Beach Boys was followed by an abrupt reversal of fortune for the group. While “Vibrations” was their 14th top ten single in just over four years, they would have to wait another ten years before cracking the top ten again, with their not-that-great remake of Chuck Berry’s “Rock and Roll Music” in 1976. It would be twenty-two years after “Good Vibrations” that the group hit #1 again, with the classic bad song “Kokomo.” The Smile album Carl Wilson referred to in the quote above went unfinished. Instead, the group released an album entitled Smiley Smile in 1967. Between 1963 and 1966 the group scored nine top ten albums; Smiley Smile peaked at #41. The following year’s Friends album only got as high as #126.

On this Throwback Thursday, Tunes du Jour listens to twenty of the finest singles from 1966, kicking off with the classic “Good Vibrations.”


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Grammy Nominations!

It seems that last week I was busy doing something close to nothing, so I didn’t get a chance to tell you who was nominated for Grammys this year. Here is the list, with my random thoughts thrown in:

Record of the Year
“Really Love” — D’Angelo and the Vanguard
“Uptown Funk” — Mark Ronson featuring Bruno Mars
“Thinking Out Loud” — Ed Sheeran
“Blank Space” — Taylor Swift
“Can’t Feel My Face” — The Weeknd

I’d give it to The Weeknd, but I wouldn’t mind if Mark Ronson or D’Angelo won. I’ve never heard this Taylor Swift fella so I can’t vote for him. I have heard Ed Sheeran so I can’t vote for him.

Song of the Year
“Alright” — Kendrick Lamar (written by Kendrick Duckworth, Mark Anthony Spears and Pharrell Williams)
“Blank Space” — Taylor Swift (written by Max Martin, Shellback and Taylor Swift)
“Girl Crush” — Little Big Town (written by Hillary Lindsey, Lori McKenna and Liz Rose)
“See You Again” — Wiz Khalifa featuring Charlie Puth (written by Andrew Cedar, Justin Franks, Charles Puth and Cameron Thomaz)
“Thinking Out Loud” — Ed Sheeran (written by Ed Sheeran and Amy Wadge)

Kendrick’s “Alright” is more than alright and I have a boy crush on Little Big Town’s “Girl Crush.” As for “See You Again,” I hope I never hear it again. I’m not going to say what I think of Ed Sheeran out loud. This Taylor Swift fella’s songs are not on Spotify, which is why nobody knows who he is.

Album of the Year
Sound & Color — Alabama Shakes
To Pimp a Butterfly — Kendrick Lamar
Traveller — Chris Stapleton
1989 — Taylor Swift
Beauty Behind the Madness — The Weeknd

To Pimp a Butterfly is the best album of 2015, but the category is called Album of the Year, not Best Album of the Year. The Weeknd’s album had its moments, and I have no beef with Alabama Shakes. I wouldn’t know a Chris Stapleton song if it hit me in the ears, but I loved Jean Stapleton on All in the Family. And there’s that Taylor Swift fella again, who will probably win Album of the Year as he named his album after a year, the sneaky devil. Maybe then he’ll finally start getting some press.

Best New Artist
Courtney Barnett
James Bay
Sam Hunt
Tori Kelly
Meghan Trainor

Last year Meghan Trainor was nominated for Record of the Year for “All About That Bass.” However, per the Recording Academy, to be eligible for a Best New Artist nomination “a person or band must have or have not released an album, song, or spoken a single word any time during their life, after their life, or never.” I’m voting for Courtney Barnett, who has been putting out music since 2012, for Best New Artist of 2015. Regarding the others up for this award, I’ve heard of Sam Hunt but haven’t heard any of his or her music, and James Bay and Tori Kelly are names the Academy made up so there would be five nominees.

Best Pop Duo/Group Performance
“Ship to Wreck” — Florence + The Machine
“Sugar” — Maroon 5
“Uptown Funk” — Mark Ronson featuring Bruno Mars
“Bad Blood” — Taylor Swift featuring Kendrick Lamar
“See You Again” — Wiz Khalifa featuring Charlie Puth

Are they going to have this Taylor Swift fella perform on the Grammy Awards telecast so the world can see what he looks like? I’d give this award to Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars. If Maroon 5 or Wiz Khalifa/Charlie Puth win, somebody’s going to get hurt.

Best Pop Solo Performance
“Heartbeat Song” — Kelly Clarkson
“Love Me Like You Do” — Ellie Goulding
“Thinking Out Loud” — Ed Sheeran
“Blank Space”— Taylor Swift
“Can’t Feel My Face” — The Weeknd

Is Taylor Swift that guy from the Twilight movies?

Best Pop Vocal Album
Piece By Piece — Kelly Clarkson
How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful — Florence + The Machine
Uptown Special — Mark Ronson
1989 — Taylor Swift
Before This World — James Taylor

James Taylor? What just happened? Is Taylor Swift the guy who wrote Gulliver’s Travels back in the 1700s?

Best Rap Collaboration
“One Man Can Change The World” — Big Sean featuring Kanye West and John Legend
“Glory” — Common and John Legend
“Classic Man” — Jidenna featuring Roman GianArthur
“These Walls” — Kendrick Lamar featuring Bilal, Anna Wise and Thundercat
“Only” — Nicki Minaj featuring Drake, Lil Wayne and Chris Brown

Where’s Taylor Swift’s nomination?

Best Rap Song
“All Day” — Kanye West featuring Theophilus London, Allan Kingdom and Paul McCartney (written by Kanye West, Paul McCartney, Tyler Bryant, Kendrick Duckworth, Karim Kharbouch, Ernest Brown, Cydel Young, Victor Mensah, Allan Kyariga, Mike Dean, Che Pope, Noah Goldstein, Allen Ritter, Mario Winans, Charles Njapa, Malik Yusef Jones, Patrick Reynolds, Rennard East and Noel Ellis)
“Alright — Kendrick Lamar (written by Kendrick Duckworth, Mark Anthony Spears and Pharrell Williams)
“Energy” — Drake (written by Richard Dorfmeister, A. Graham, Markus Kienzl, M. O’Brien, M. Samuels and Phillip Thomas)
“Glory” — Common and John Legend (written by Lonnie Lynn, Che Smith and John Stephens)
“Trap Queen” — Fetty Wap (written by Tony Fadd & Willie J. Maxwell)

It’s about time Grandmaster Paul McCartney was nominated for Best Rap Song, though the fact that it took 19 people to write it diminishes what is otherwise a perfectly so-so track. MC Paul McC is up against some heavyweights, so he’ll need to keep trying for the rap trophy because this won’t be his year.

Best Rap Album
2014 Forest Hills Drive — J. Cole
Compton — Dr. Dre
If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late — Drake
To Pimp a Butterfly — Kendrick Lamar
The Pinkprint — Nicki Minaj

Kendrick. Anna Kendrick.

Best Rap Performance
“Apparently” — J. Cole
“Back to Back” — Drake
“Trap Queen” — Fetty Wap
“Alright” — Kendrick Lamar
“Truffle Butter” — Nicki Minaj featuring Drake and Lil Wayne
“All Day” – Kanye West featuring Theophilus London, Allan Kingdom and Paul McCartney

Eddie Kendricks.

Best Country Album
Montevallo — Sam Hunt
Pain Killer — Little Big Town
The Blade — Ashley Monroe
Pageant Material — Kacey Musgraves
Traveller — Chris Stapleton

Kendrick Lamar or Taylor Swift.

Best Country Solo Performance
“Burning House” — Cam
“Traveller” — Chris Stapleton
“Little Toy Guns” — Carrie Underwood
“John Cougar, John Deere, John 3:16″ — Keith Urban
“Chances Are” — Lee Ann Womack

Hedy Lamarr or Elizabeth Taylor.

Best Country Duo/Group Performance
“Stay a Little Longer” — Brothers Osborne
“If I Needed You” — Joey + Rory
“The Driver” — Charles Kelley, Dierks Bentley, Eric Paslay
“Girl Crush” — Little Big Town
“Lonely Tonight” — Blake Shelton featuring Ashley Monroe

Hedley Lamarr or Motel the Tailor.

Best Country Song
“Chances Are” — Lee Ann Womack (written by Hayes Carll)
“Diamond Rings and Old Barstools” — Tim McGraw (written by Barry Dean, Luke Laird and Jonathan Singleton)
“Girl Crush” — Little Big Town (written by Hillary Lindsey, Lori McKenna and Liz Rose)
“Hold My Hand” — Brandy Clark (written by Brandy Clark and Mark Stephen Jones)
“Traveller” — Chris Stapleton (written by Chris Stapleton)

Swifty Lazar or Lord and Taylor.

Best Rock Album
Chaos and the Calm — James Bay
Kintsugi — Death Cab for Cutie
Mister Asylum — Highly Suspect
Drones — Muse
.5: The Gray Chapter — Slipknot

Laser Hair Removal or Tailor On Premises.

Best Dance Recording
“We’re All We Need” — Above and Beyond featuring Zoë Johnston
“Go” — The Chemical Brothers
“Never Catch Me” — Flying Lotus featuring Kendrick Lamar
“Runaway (U & I)” — Galantis
“Where Are Ü Now” — Skrillex and Diplo with Justin Bieber

Laser Beams – oh, wait. Kendrick Lamar really is nominated in this category.

Best Rock Performance
“Don’t Wanna Fight” — Alabama Shakes
“What Kind of Man” — Florence + The Machine
“Something From Nothing” — Foo Fighters
“Ex’s & Oh’s” — Elle King
“Moaning Lisa Smile” — Wolf Alice

What happened to that Taylor Swift fella? He hasn’t been nominated in the last few categories. The Academy built him up and then knocked him right back down.

Best Rock Song
“Don’t Wanna Fight” — Alabama Shakes (written by Alabama Shakes)
“Ex’s & Oh’s” — Elle King (written by Dave Bassett and Elle King)
“Hold Back the River” — James Bay (written by Iain Archer and James Bay)
“Lydia” — Highly Suspect (written by Richard Meyer, Ryan Meyer and Johnny Stevens)
“What Kind of Man” — Florence + The Machine (written John Hill, Tom Hull and Florence Welch)

I find these nominees highly suspect. Who is Highly Suspect? Isn’t James Bay the guy who directed Avatar and Transformers? I like the Elle King song, but she’s Rob Schneider’s daughter (seriously!), so give the award to Alabama Shakes or Florence.

Best Dance/Electronic Album
Our Love — Caribou
Born in the Echoes — The Chemical Brothers
Caracal — Disclosure
In Colour — Jamie XX
Skrillex and Diplo Present Jack Ü — Skrillex And Diplo

I’m rooting for – hold on, the phone is ringing.

Best R&B Song
“Coffee” — Miguel (written by Brook Davis and Miguel Pimente)
“Earned It (Fifty Shades of Grey)” — The Weeknd (written by Ahmad Balshe, Stephan Moccio, Jason Quenneville and Abel Tesfaye)
“Let It Burn” — Jazmine Sullivan (written by Kenny B. Edmonds, Jazmine Sullivan and Dwane M. Weir II)
“Really Love” — D’Angelo and the Vanguard (written by D’Angelo and Kendra Foster)
“Shame” — Tyrese (written by Warryn Campbell, Tyrese Gibson and DJ Rogers Jr,)

Jazmine Sullivan put out a record this year? I don’t think so. Tyrese put out a record this year? Yeah, sure he did! I’m okay with any of the folks who actually released a record this year winning.

Best R&B Performance
“If I Don’t Have You” — Tamar Braxton
“Rise Up” — Andra Day
“Breathing Underwater” — Hiatus Kaiyote
“Planes” — Jeremih featuring J. Cole
“Earned It (Fifty Shades Of Grey)” — The Weeknd

This is The Weeknd’s to lose. I don’t know the other nominated songs, but I imagine they’re boring and Hiatus Kaiyote is not a real thing.

Best R&B Album
Coming Home — Leon Bridges
Black Messiah — D’Angelo and the Vanguard
Cheers to the Fall — Andra Day
Reality Show — Jazmine Sullivan
Forever Charlie — Charlie Wilson

If D’Angelo doesn’t win then the terrorists have won.

Best Alternative Music Album
Sound & Color — Alabama Shakes
Vulnicura — Björk
The Waterfall — My Morning Jacket
Currents — Tame Impala
Star Wars — Wilco

[Insert play on names Kendrick Lamar and Taylor Swift here.]

Best Urban Contemporary Album
Ego Death — The Internet
You Should Be Here — Kehlani
Blood — Lianne La Havas
Wildheart — Miguel
Beauty Behind the Madness — The Weeknd

You can Google Kehlani and found out who or what that is. You can Google Lianne La Havas and find out who or what that is. You can Google The Internet and NOT LEARN A GODDAMN THING ABOUT WHO OR WHAT THAT IS. When you’re done Googling, face the fact that this category is a two-person contest between Miguel and The Weeknd.

Best Spoken Word Album
Blood On Snow (Jo Nesbø) – Patti Smith
Brief Encounters: Conversations, Magic Moments, And Assorted Hijinks – Dick Cavett
A Full Life: Reflections at Ninety – Jimmy Carter
Patience And Sarah (Isabel Miller) – Janis Ian and Jean Smart
Yes Please – Amy Poehler

This is Patti Smith’s first Grammy nomination. The woman who co-wrote “Because the Night” with Bruce Springsteen and made it a top fifteen pop hit and classic rock staple has never been nominated previously for a Grammy. The woman whose 1975 release Horses consistently appears on All Time Best Albums lists receives her first Grammy nomination in 2015 for reading a book out loud, a book somebody else wrote at that! This is a real category??? Too bad Smith is going to lose this award to former president Jimmy Carter who, great man that he is, does not have a “Piss Factory” in him.

Today’s playlists is made up of twenty selections that were not nominated for Grammy Awards. Not for Song of the Year, not for Record of the year, not for vocal performance in any genre, nor were the albums on which these tracks initially appeared nominated under any genre. Listen to these losers!


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Throwback Thursday – The Hits of 1958

On March 28, 1958, 19-year-old Eddie Cochran recorded a song he co-wrote with his manager, Jerry Capeheart, called “Summertime Blues.” It was intended to be the b-side of a single whose a-side, “Love Again,” was written by 17-year-old Sharon Steely, who soon became Cochran’s girlfriend. Liberty Records released the 45 with “Summertime Blues” as the a-side. Five months after he recorded it, Cochran had his first U.S. top ten single. In the fall of 1958, the record became a hit in England.

Besides singing and co-writing the song, Cochran produced it. His talents didn’t stop there. He could play piano, drums, bass and guitar, the latter of which he played on records by two dozen other acts.

Cochran’s popularity overseas led to a hugely successful tour of England in the spring of 1960, culminating on April 16 with a performance at the Hippodrome Theater in Bristol. On his way to the airport after the show, Cochran got into a cab with Steely, who was now his fiancée, his tour manager, Patrick Thompkins, and fellow performer Gene Vincent. The taxi driver was speeding on a dark and winding street. The car blew a tire and the driver lost control of the vehicle, crashing it into a lamppost. Cochran put himself over his fiancée to protect her and ended up being thrown from the car. Suffering a severe head injury, he was brought to the hospital. The following afternoon he was pronounced dead. He was just 21 years old.

Eddie Cochran’s time with us was far too short, but his legacy lives on. “Summertime Blues” is an undeniable rock and roll classic, covered by many artists of different genres, including The Who, Alan Jackson, Blue Cheer, The Beach Boys, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, and Olivia Newton-John. Cochran’s “C’mon Everybody” was later recorded by Sex Pistols, and his “Twenty Flight Rock” was played by a teenage Paul McCartney at his audition for a teenage John Lennon to let McCartney join Lennon’s band, The Quarreymen.

Today is Throwback Thursday, and Tunes du Jour revisits some of the hits of 1958, kicking off with Eddie Cochran’s “Summertime Blues.”


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Throwback Thursday – 1956

Our playlist on this Throwback Thursday focuses on 1956. Rock and roll was in its infancy and many architects of the new style of music were making their marks. Enjoy this collection of classics.


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Old Time Rock & Roll Xmas, With Jews!

In 1958, 13-year-old Brenda Mae Tarpley went into a recording studio with famed producer Owen Bradley and cut “Rockin’ around the Christmas Tree,” written by Johnny Marks (Jew!). Released as a single for that year’s holiday season, it bombed. That really isn’t surprising. Tarpley, better known by her stage name, Brenda Lee, was virtually unknown at the time.

In 1959, her record label reissued the single. It bombed. That really isn’t surprising. Lee hadn’t dented Billboard’s Hot 100 all year.

In 1960, her record company released it yet again. Third time lucky. Coming off two #1 singles, “I’m Sorry” and “I Want to Be Wanted,” plus two other top ten hits, “Sweet Nothin’s” and “That’s All You Gotta Do,” Lee’s Christmas record peaked at #14.

Winston + Brenda Lee
For years the hits kept coming for Lee. She placed 55 songs on Billboard’s Hot 100, including twelve top tens. These days she is perhaps best-remembered for “Rockin’ around the Christmas Tree,” a holiday staple.

Johnny Marks, the Jew who wrote the song, also wrote “Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” “Holly Jolly Christmas,” and “Run Rudolph Run.”

He’s not the only Jew to have written Christmas standards. Also written by chosen people? “White Christmas,” “Silver Bells,” “Winter Wonderland,” “Santa Baby,” “Sleigh Ride,” “I’ll Be Home for Christmas,” Let It Snow Let It Snow Let It Snow,” “The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire),” “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch,” “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” and “Give the Jew Girl Toys.” Oy gevalt!

Today Brenda Lee turns 70 years old. Our playlist today includes her classic version of “Rockin’ around the Christmas Tree” as well as nineteen other holiday tunes from the early days of rock and roll, before The Beatles took over the United States in 1964. Some were written by Jews, some were not. Some get a lot of radio airplay this time of year, some deserve more (specifically “Christmas in Jail” and “Trim Your Tree.”). All put me in the mood to rock around my menorah.

More holiday music can be found here, here, here, here, and here.

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