Christmas Carols

Do you have a favorite Christmas carol or Christmas song? Nowadays options are endless since every singer has his or her own version of Christmas songs. There is something timeless and comforting about Christmas songs; they sing of home, memories, nostalgia, love, tradition, snow, hope — all good things in life. When do you begin listening to Christmas music? Growing up, my mom wouldn’t let us listen until December 1. I say as soon as Thanksgiving has passed, Christmas is fair game.

Here is a list of my favorite Christmas songs. Wishing everyone a peaceful weekend, filled with good thoughts, good memories and hope for a wonderful season and new year.  What would be on your list?

(1) White Christmas (Bing Crosby)

(2) Have Yourself a Merry Christmas (Judy Garland)

(3) Santa Claus is Coming to Town (Bruce Springsteen)

(4) Little Wood Guitar (Sugarland)

(5) Christmas Song (Blues Traveler)

(6) We Need a Little Christmas (Angela Lansbury)

(7) Have a Holly Jolly Christmas (Burl Ives)

(8) Gold & Green (Sugarland)

(9) Step into Christmas (Elton John)

(10) I’ll be Home for Christmas (The Carpenters)

Enjoy!

Memories & Songs

Are significant songs classics? Are only classic songs significant? What makes a piece of music important and worthy of archiving?  After all, the world is full of beautiful cultures, all with unique traditions, rituals, folklore, stories and songs. Music and songs can be defining characteristics of a cultural group, perhaps even of your heritage, your ancestors.

Well, here I am to admit that I have absolutely zero ounces of musical ability or talent in my blood. I played the flute in fifth grade, and that was it for instruments. Instead, I took chorus throughout middle school and early high school. I knew I wasn’t a good singer; but, my goodness, I worked hard in chorus class. In high school I received the “Most Improved” recognition award at the end of the year. You probably didn’t need or care to know that about me, but my point is that I am not an expert on music and will not pretend to be.

However, I love a good song and I think it is important to talk about music and preservation. Have you ever considered the songs that would play in the background of a movie about your life? Ten or 20 or 50 years from now, will you remember your favorite songs and what you listened to in the car or while hanging around the house or hosting dinner parties?  Sure, you’ll remember your prom song (maybe) or your wedding song and those few favorites, but what about the others?

The soundtrack of our lives would all be different, but just like old photographs, doesn’t a familiar favorite make you smile and recall a time in your life?  I may not know songs dear to my ancestors from Ireland or Scotland, sadly, but the songs I know keep me grounded to my own story, one that I’d like to remember.

Songs trigger sweet memories, whether specific to a particular moment or day or era. They can make us say, I haven’t heard this song in ages or I used to love this song or I’d listen to this song when…” 

Music can serve as a time capsule and a time warp, nostalgia included. Maybe that song that you loved in high school or the one from the day you moved into your first apartment means nothing to anyone but you. It is still significant and it should be a part of your self-made life soundtrack. They can be popular, unknown, brilliant, terrible, happy, sad; there are no rules for why songs are meaningful to us.

The most important songs that would appear in my list take me back to dancing in the living with my sisters, Dad blasting music from the garage as the entire family worked in the yard, celebrating holidays and the first mixed CD from Vinny. A few remind me of high school homecoming, others recall college track meets and late summer night writing marathons. The summer I lived in Omaha, Nebraska and had my first car (Derby) has many songs to its memory. My list goes on and on, as yours does, I’m sure.

And if music can be such a powerful trigger for memories, wouldn’t it be a good idea to keep a record of them? Calendars, photographs and journal entries probably skip over the music playing in the background as you write and work. Just as we talk about the sounds and smells of historic sites, the background sounds to your life are also worth noting and remembering.

So, write down the names of these songs and start your own playlist. Share it with your children and your grandchildren. I would love to know what my grandparents listened to as they studied, got ready for a date, traveled across the country, took care of their children, cleaned the house or as they simply relaxed. Of course, I could guess based on the decades, but that’s too impersonal and potentially inaccurate. I’d rather know specific songs and their memories.

What do you think? How important is music in your life?

What am I listening to as I write Preservation in Pink? Tonight it’s country music. (I love it.)

Genius.

Billy Joel is a genius. [Don’t believe me?  Study some of his lyrics and get back to me.]  Moving on, it wasn’t until recently that I started to understand the political analysis and social commentary of his music [aside from We Didn’t Start the Fire, but that’s plain obvious.]  No Man’s Land, a song from River of Dreams album, didn’t top the single charts and it’s not played at parties or on the radio, but it definitely one of Joel’s great commentaries.  [Vinny can elaborate on such topics at a much greater length.]

 

Preservationists, do yourselves a favor and listen to No Man’s Land or at least read the lyrics.  To hear the song, click “launch player” in top right of the page.  From here, choose River of Dreams from the Albums tab.  No Man’s Land is the first song. You can listen to the entire song. [Beware that music plays right away.] Without posting the entire song, here are portions: 

 

I’ve seen those big machines come
rolling through the quiet pines
Blue suits and bankers with their
Volvos and their valentines
Give us this day our daily discount outlet merchandise
Raise up a multiplex and we will make a sacrifice
Now we’re gonna get the big business
Now we’re gonna get the real thing
Everybody’s all excited about it
Who remembers when it all began
Out here in no man’s land
We’ve just begun to understand
Out here in no man’s land
Low supply and high demand
Here in no man’s land
I see these children with their
boredom and their vacant stares
God help us all if we’re to blame for
their unanswered prayers
They roll the sidewalks up at night,
this place goes underground
Thanks to the condo kings there’s cable now in Zombietown
Now we’re gonna get the closed circuit
Now we’re gonna get the Top 40
Now we’re gonna get the sports franchise
Now we’re gonna get the major attractions…

 

Now isn’t that a cry against suburbia, if there ever were such a thing? Maybe it’s not as entertaining as some of his other songs.  Maybe this song rings true for too many people that it just never became a favorite. Of course, there are many people in this country who like strip malls, subdivisions, shopping malls, fast food chains… or do they do?  Do they just not know otherwise?  Is society brainwashed?  Well, another issue for another time.  After all, some might say preservationists are brainwashed. 

 

Speaking of brainwashing, here a few reasons as to why I love listening to No Man’s Land:

 

1. Hearing a famous musician who happens to be from Long Island speaking out against the new Long Island and what suburbia has become, offers a refreshing glimpse of hope.  Billy Joel likely has everything thing he could ever need or want, but, at least in this song, he is still concerned with the trends of society.  [Please, this is not time to bash Billy Joel. Substitute any appropriate celebrity name here.] 

  

2. It undeniably sings to preservationists.  Any form of inspiration is appreciated, and if it’s a great song, then it’s even better.  It reminds of the effect that Big Yellow Taxi has on us preservationists, even if slightly different.  The lyrics don’t offer instantaneous understanding, but upon closer examination it is so obvious what they are actually saying.

 

3. The descriptions of suburbia, while to one extreme, are just accurate enough to further my own personal case against suburbia.

 

4. And simply, I have always loved Billy Joel, as previously implied. 

 

Thank you, Billy Joel, for helping our quality of life and sense of place case.