Yes, it’s that time of year again, and although I may be slack in posting songs here the rest of the year, far be it from me to miss out on posting at least one Christmas song! The extent to which my music sensibilities warp and shift every December is a thing of wonder, really. The performers and styles of songs that I will willingly listen to — frequently even going out of my way to do so — are remarkably far removed from my usual fare. But do I beat myself up over this apparent hypocrisy? Never! It’s Christmas, for cryin’ out loud!
My love of Christmas music primarily has to do with all the childhood nostalgia that so many of the songs and albums have for me, naturally, immediately evoking memories of family, lights and decorations, a sea of presents on Christmas morning when we’d have our big extended-family Christmas gatherings, and nights going to sleep with strings of Christmas lights strung up on my wall and my little blue box record player (or later, an upgraded turntable) spinning a favorite Christmas album as snow fell outside my window. More often than not, particularly in my elementary school years, that record would have been Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Other Children’s Christmas Favorites by the singing cowboy, Gene Autry (whenever it wasn’t the equally well-loved Christmas with Conniff). Just looking at that Rudolph album cover now makes me wistful. Autry’s somewhat rinky-dink instrumentation and homey voice always felt like they were speaking right to me, promising me that, fear not, Santa was just around the corner.
Autry was one of the most successful of the early movie cowboys in the vein of Roy Rogers, although I’ve never seen a single one of his movies (and from what I understand, I’m not missing much). However, it was Christmas that made him the household name that he became and still is for so many people to this day. Not only did he record the original 1949 version of the Johnny Marks classic composition, “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” the song that introduced that future animated star to the world (and which went to #1 on the pop charts), but Autry wrote a classic of his own two years prior to that, in 1947: “Here Comes Santa Claus.” He also wrote the similarly themed, if less universally recognized, “Santa, Santa, Santa,” in 1949, an extremely cute little ditty featuring the tinniest trumpets you may ever hear in a recording; I can’t help but find my current state of holiday enthusiasm bumped up a notch or two when it plays.
This song, along with “Here Comes Santa Claus” and “Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town,” figured prominently for me every Christmas Eve as I drifted off to sleep — it always helped to maximize my anticipation of Santa’s arrival and the presents that awaited us the next morning. It still does, I suppose, now that I’m a parent, even if it’s all a bit less of a surprise than it was then. The thrill of the holiday is still just as visceral for me whenever I hear Gene Autry reassure me that Santa is indeed coming tonight (“hooray, hooray, hooray”), in case I still entertained any doubts!