Thursday, December 24, 2009

My Unconventional Christmas Playlist

I distinctly remember when I was eleven years old a certain car trip with my father. We had visited the neighbors and left them some Christmas goodies. Standard fare for my parents: crocheted dish towels and hand-dipped chocolates.

Snow Car The time came, though, to take a twenty-minute drive to leave a present with my father's boss. I joined him for the visit because I'd appreciated his boss's sarcastic wit even as a child and in part because he wasn't your typical guy living in residential Utah. I also found him intriguing because he was an atheist.

The light irony of taking him a Christmas present was not lost on me, but I kept it to myself. My father and I have never been one for conversation. We're talkative in our own spheres, but disconnected in many senses of the word. That trip, on Christmas Eve several years ago, was spent listening to a countdown on the radio. NPR was presenting the 100 best Holiday songs ranging from vocal to instrumental, from fun to somber, and from secular to religious.

npr-rocks At that point, I fell in love with NPR. (I'll recount my love affair with Diane Rehm some other, more appropriate time). I gained a real appreciation for the range of music that comes with the holiday season.  Here are a few of the songs that perked my ears up in that afternoon and afterwards (click on the titles of lyrics): 

1. We Need A Little Christmas

Let’s face it.  This one is perhaps the gayest Christmas song of all time.  It captures the excitement of singing, cooking, and—of course—decorating.  From the Broadway musical Mame, it engrosses us in the anticipation of the holiday season unlike any other song.  You’d think my father would figure out my sexuality then and there.

2. El Tamborilero (The Little Drummer Boy) - Tito Puente

Tito Puente and Christmas.  The combination is as fun as it sounds.  Some great Latin rhythms

3. All I want for Christmas is a Hippopotamus

This one’s just preposterous, but that’s why it works.  It was a novelty song for a zoo back in the day. 

4. I Saw Daddy Kissing Santa Claus

Yes, I meant 'Daddy.'  And No, it isn't what you think….

Daddy Kissing Santa

Click the title for lyrics and an explanation. 

5. You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch

I’m not sure how to describe the appeal of this one.  I guess it has something to do with the Grinch (like Ebenezer Scrooge or Rudolph) being one of the most interesting Christmas characters ever. 

6. Blanca Navidad (White Christmas)

This is a really spicy (salsa) version of the song.  Luis Enrique’s voice is like chocolate.  If there were a Christmas number in The Emperor's New Groove, this is what it would sound like.  As far as translations go, I think I might like this one better than the original.  Here he is (not quite as hot as usual…):

7. Carol of the Bells

From the first time I saw Home Alone, John Williams’ orchestration of the song, I got chills. 

8. Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas

What gay Christmas list would be complete without an appearance from Judy Garland?  This number from Meet Me in St. Louis produces instant tears.  Her voice is so beautiful and this scene is ten times as tender as the song alone.

9. My Grown Up Christmas List

Perhaps the corniest song on my list, this number by Amy Grant seems to sum up the spirit of the holiday very well.  Selflessly, the song asks for:

No more lives torn apart
That wars would never start
And time would heal all hearts
And everyone would have a friend
And right would always win
And love would never end
This is my grown-up Christmas list.

This is what I wish for many people in my life:  peace, friendship, happiness, acceptance, justice, and unconditional love.  May others treat you with the respect you deserve and the same tenderness everyone should expect whether you’re poor or rich, out or closeted, religious or atheist.


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