The Friday, Dec. 22, Column

The Godfather of Soul

Holiday song list – Songs you  might actually like

Many years ago in a galaxy far, far away, well, I guess it was only two years ago, we came up with a list of oddball holiday songs that no one may have heard of yet. This season, we’re going to throw down a list of songs that we would actually want to hear. Truth be told, the list of performers that have not done a holiday album or song would be shorter than the list of those who have. And, before anyone says “What??” that’s right, the Boss didn’t make the list. Just have never been a big fan of Bruce Springsteen other than the third album, “Born to Run” from back in ’75. No hating now, ‘tis the season. Some of the winners are entire albums, as the choices were just too many, others just landed a song.

So, On Dancer, on.. never mind, here’s the list, in no particular order.

Frank Sinatra
Actually, you could substitute Judy Garland, Bing Crosby or Nat King Cole to this slot and be just as satisfied, but if you want to check out all the holiday classics, as traditional as that old 33 rpm record mom and dad had, then these are a must. “Jingle Bells,” “I’ll be Home for Christmas,” “Silent Night” and on and on.

Vince Guaraldi
Just reading his name will make you start humming one of the songs from “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” “Christmas Time is Here,” “Greensleeves” but the song you are thinking of is called “Linus and Lucy.” I don’t care how old you are, this album will bring more than one emotion out of you.

Tom Petty
Yep, even the late-great Tom Petty jumped into the holiday song pool, back in ’95 with a tune called “Christmas All Over Again.” Released on a six-disc box set with 91 other tracks called “Playback” which contained mainly B-Sides, unreleased tracks, some of the hits to date and even some Mudcrutch, Petty’s prior act. The package was rolled up tight with an all-star band, that included Petty and all of the Heartbreakers, Jeff Lynne, Robbie Blunt, Kevin Dukes, Jimmy Rip, Tim Pierce, Scott Humphrey, Mitchell Froom and inspiration for the song is said to have come from George Harrison after teaching Petty some chords on the ukulele. Not a bad line-up.

Vince Gil
A bit more contemporary than the Sinatra or Crosby holiday albums, but with many of the same songs and Gil’s hauntingly smooth crooner-like vocals giving you the idea that the title of the disc, “Let There be Peace on Earth,” could actually happen. Gil corrals a herd of Nashville pickers for this effort and the entire disc lays down a good vibe in the background of any holiday party.

 

Chuck Berry
“Run Run Rudolph, Santa’s gotta make it to town” maybe he’ll take the freeway. Released initially in ‘58, the song was actually the B-Side of “Merry Christmas Baby” and surprisingly to us, the song never got higher than number 69 on the US Billboard Hot 100, but got to number 36 on the UK singles chart. If you are still mastering playing Johnny B. Goode on guitar and the holidays roll around, you start to learn this one. I believe it’s now a law. All the cool kids did, and released versions of it, kids like L.A. Guns, Mojo Nixon, Emily Osment, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Sister Hazel, Billy Ray Cyrus, Dave Edmunds, Hanson, Sheryl Crow, Bryan Adams, Lulu, the Grateful Dead, Keith Richards and on and on.

James Brown
Are you kidding? It’s James Brown. Pick a song, any song, but pick the right one or James will fine you five dollars. Brown could sing a lullaby and get you up dancing. From ’66 to ’70, Brown released three holiday albums, and a compilation called “Funky Christmas” released in ’95 was a collection of the best of the three. Although there are some traditional songs on the disc, the late ‘60s were a turbulent time for our nation, and Brown had some social statements mixed in with his holiday jingles as well, with songs like “Santa Claus go Straight to the Ghetto.” “Let’s Make Christmas Mean Something This Year and “Hey America.” Play this for your kids and show them there was soul music long before they only made hits with laptops. Take me to the bridge.

Gary Hoey
What would the holidays be without some sweeping arpeggios? Hoey does his best to cover and shred all over many holiday classics on what is called “Ho Ho Hoey.” Who is this guy anyway? Hoey hung around the outside of the Berklee School of Music offering the actual students money to teach him how to play, which eventually led to an audition for Ozzy Osbourne’s band for the slot awarded to Zakk Wylde, but in the early ‘90s, a cover of “Hocus Pocus” by Focus, the Dutch act from the ‘70s with a one hit wonder, you know, the song with the guy yodeling, is the one that got Hoey the attention he had been seeking. Hoey has made numerous albums since then and become a cult hero among rock guitarists.

Elmo and Patsy
I get it, you hate this song, but if you didn’t hear “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer” at least once during the holiday season, you’d feel like all you got was a lump of coal. Originally written by Randy Brooks, it was Elmo and Patsy Trigg Shropshire who made it famous, after hearing Brooks play it at the Hyatt Lake Tahoe in ’78. After several years of re-recording, and for a local angle, at Oink Records in Windsor, CA, and re-releasing the song, it finally broke in ’84 and well, the rest is history.

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Set List – The Rundown

B&V Whiskey Bar and Grille, 400 First St. E. Sonoma, 938-7110
Tonight, Dec. 22: DJ Cal. 9:30 p.m.
Saturday, Dec. 23: DJ TEI. 9:30 p.m.

Friday Farmers Market, Depot Park, 270 First St W. Sonoma
Today, Dec. 22: Stewart Degner. 9:30 a.m.

HopMonk Tavern, 691 Broadway Sonoma, 935-9100
Tonight, Dec. 22: Solid Air. 8 p.m.
Saturday, Dec. 23: Low Flying Birds. 8 p.m.

The Laugh Cellar, 5755 Mountain Hawk Dr., Santa Rosa, 843-3824
Sunday, Dec. 23: Karaoke Christmas. 7 p.m.

Olde Sonoma Public House, 18615 Sonoma Hwy. Boyes Hot Springs, 938-7587
Tonight, Dec. 22: Ryan Tatarian and Matt Silva. 6:30 p.m. 

Sonoma Speakeasy and American Music Hall, 452 First St. E. ste. G. Sonoma, 996-1364
Tonight, Dec. 22: Bruce Gordon, Jenni Purcell and Jodi Stevens. 6:30 p.m. Scarlett Letters. 8 p.m.
Saturday, Dec. 23: The Marks Brothers. 5 p.m. Sonoma Sound Syndicate. 8 p.m. 

If your gig isn’t in my column, you didn’t tell me about it. jmberry@sonomamusic.com

Have a great holiday!