2021 is almost over and yet I am not substantially closer to following my writing dream. The year has been difficult on many levels – the pandemic, personal health challenges, work changes. You know the drill.
Earlier this week I realized I had not listened to any Christmas music. If you have been following me since I started this blog, you may remember from this post, it’s hard to be sad when you’re singing. Sure enough, as soon as I started singing “Jingle Bells” in my car, my mood changed. Later today I will drive to my hometown for the holiday weekend. I plan to sing the entire 2 hour drive using this Christmas Road Trip playlist, which you can get to by clicking the link below.
As a teenager, I loved the pop group Wham! Their posters served as wallpaper in my bedroom. Their songs were the soundtrack to my life. I had to buy another copy of the Make it Big cassette, even though I had the record, because the first tape broke. And when CDs came on the market, I bought it on CD too. My best friend Stephanie had the VCR tape of Wham! in China. We watched it so often I can still quote sections of it verbatim. We knew all the dances from the music videos, and performed them in our living rooms when the songs came on the radio. I performed George Michael’s parts and sang while Stephanie took over Andrew Ridgeley’s moves.
When Wham! broke up, Stephanie and I cried. We were 13 and brokenhearted. It was the end of the world as we knew it. George and Andy were moving on to other ventures. We were devastated. Our moms shook their heads. My dad muttered something like, “Boy crazy girls,” while making a face showing his lack of understanding. Clearly this was the worst thing that could happen in a young girl’s life!
Thirty years later, Stephanie and I were devastated once again when we learned of George Michael’s death on Christmas 2016. We sat on the phone that night in stunned disbelief while listening to “Last Christmas” on repeat and reminiscing about our teenage antics.
This past Christmas, Stephanie and I went to the movies together for the first time in more than twenty years. It took George to get us back there. We went to see Last Christmas, the film inspired by George’s song of the same name. That’s right – the woman who mostly shuns romantic comedies willingly sat through an hour and a half of saccharine schmaltz with her best friend because of George Micheal and Wham! It’s far from the most illogical thing I’ve ever done because of a boy. And the popcorn was AMAZING!
Since watching the movie, I’ve been listening to George’s music while driving. I’ve rediscovered songs I always loved but haven’t heard recently. This morning the song “Praying for Time” came on as I took the exit for my job. I sat listening, really listening, to the lyrics and realized this song is just as timely now as it was when it was first released on Listen Without Prejudice in 1990. If you haven’t listened to it recently, and even if you have, give it another listen. I was particularly struck by the bridge, which seems appropriate in today’s political climate.
And it’s hard to love, there’s so much to hate Hanging on to hope When there is no hope to speak of And the wounded skies above say it’s much, much too late Well, maybe we should all be praying for time
Praying for Time
Lyrics and Music by George Michael
These are the days of the open hand
They will not be the last
Look around now
These are the days of the beggars and the choosers
This is the year of the hungry man
Whose place is in the past
Hand in hand with ignorance
And legitimate excuses
The rich declare themselves poor
And most of us are not sure
If we have too much
But we’ll take our chances
‘Cause God’s stopped keeping score
I guess somewhere along the way
He must have let us all out to play
Turned his back and all God’s children
Crept out the back door
And it’s hard to love, there’s so much to hate
Hanging on to hope
When there is no hope to speak of
And the wounded skies above say it’s much, much too late
Well, maybe we should all be praying for time
These are the days of the empty hand
Oh, you hold on to what you can
And charity is a coat you wear twice a year
This is the year of the guilty man
Your television takes a stand
And you find that what was over there is over here
So you scream from behind your door
Say, “What’s mine is mine and not yours”
I may have too much but I’ll take my chances
‘Cause God’s stopped keeping score
And you cling to the things they sold you
Did you cover your eyes when they told you
That he can’t come back
‘Cause he has no children to come back for
It’s hard to love, there’s so much to hate
Hanging on to hope when there is no hope to speak of
And the wounded skies above say it’s much too late
So maybe we should all be praying for time
A live version, recorded at the Royal Albert Hall, London on the Symphonica Tour, is also worth watching in my opinion.
I started this post last year a few days before my father died. It was originally scheduled to post the day after his death. That obviously didn’t happen! I forgot I had it hidden in my drafts until I started searching for something else. Since it was already mostly done, I decided to check the links and share it with all of you. In case you missed volumes 1 and 2 of My Go-To-Tunes Christmas edition, you can find them by clicking on the following links:
Once again, I share these tunes in no particular order. For “classic” songs not performed by the songwriter, I have indicated the artist.
Carol of the Bells – George Winston
This Ukrainian carol, composed by Mykola Leontovych with lyrics by Peter J. Wilhousky, is based on a Ukrainian folk chant. It has been recorded by artists in every genre – jazz, rock, a capella. I have always loved George Winston’s album December and this version makes me think of trying to play my own version on the piano. I sounded NOTHING like this!
Wonderful Christmastime – Paul McCartney
This is another one of those songs which is on my annual list because of the video. When I was a teenager, watching music videos with my best friend Stephanie, this song would get regular play in the month of December. I am sure our parents did not appreciate our singing the chorus at 1 AM in the living room, but it was such a singable tune!
Angels We Have Heard On High – the Gardiner Sisters
There are so many versions of this melodic song. I chose this one because one of my favorite Christmas traditions as a child was singing carols with my sisters. We would harmonize at church, in the car on the drive to Noni’s house, or at home around the piano.
This carol is based on a French tune and is inspired by the Gospel of Luke, when angels come to announce the birth of Jesus to the shepherds. This carol is also the reason many high school choir singers learn to pronounce “in Excelsis Deo.”
Sleigh Ride – Boston Pops
If you’re going to listen to this song, you have to listen to it played by the Boston Pops! After all, it was written just for them by Leroy Anderson. Granted, it was written in the middle of a heatwave in August, 1946. However, the orchestration perfectly creates the illusion of a carriage being pulled through snow. And it has some really fun percussion parts, plus that trumpet glissando whinny at the end! I couldn’t find a video of Arthur Fiedler conducting the Pops, but John Williams isn’t a bad substitute.
Believe – Josh Groban
I was so excited when Josh released his Christmas album, Noel, because I have always said he has a voice made for holiday songs. This Grammy-winning song (Best Song Written for a Motion Picture, Television or Other Visual Media, 2006) was written by Glen Ballard and Alan Silvestri and appeared in the film The Polar Express. I love the message of finding lost magic on Christmas day. How would Christmas be different if we all believed in magic, even just for one day?
Santa Clause is Coming to Town – Fred Astaire
I loved this movie as a child. It had everything in it – Santa Clause, a love story, an evil villain (the Burgermeister), good music and a penguin! Remember Topper the penguin?
Who am I kidding? I still love this movie. I watch it every year. If you haven’t watched it yet, I encourage you to do so. After you finish reading this post.
The best part of the movie is this last bit at the end. When the postman, Special Delivery or S.D. Kluger, voiced by Fred Astaire, explains Santa’s true meaning, it makes me feel hopeful. Santa takes some of our unhappiness away, and “if we all learned to give of ourselves, our talents, our hearts, maybe there really would be peace on earth.”
I’ll be Home for Christmas – Bing Crosby
Bing recorded this song, which was written by Kim Gannon and Walter Kent, in 1943. The song is written from the perspective of a soldier stationed overseas during World War II. Until I was away from home as an exchange student in Australia for the Christmas of 1990, I never appreciated the melancholy of the song. That year my father sent me a Christmas card – one of only two cards he would ever mail me in his life. His message, though brief, has stayed with me for many years.
“Although we may not be together for this holiday, we will always be in each others hearts and dreams.”
George and Andrew – The Boy Least Likely
I found this song last year. If you have read my prior Christmas music posts, you know I loved Wham! My teenage bedroom was plastered with posters of George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley. So, when I found this video from 2010 I laughed and laughed. If you have never seen a Wham! music video, you may not appreciate how clever this is. Go to YouTube and watch “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” or “Last Christmas” to get the full effect.
Just a few weeks after my discovery of this pop gem, George Michael died on Christmas day. George’s music is a huge part of the soundtrack of my life, especially every Christmas when Wham! makes a return to the radio. I like having a fun reason to smile about George this Christmas.
I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas – Gayle Peevey
Gayle Peevey recorded this song in 1953 when she was 10. I don’t know if there are any recordings of me when I was 10, but I guarantee if there are, nobody will be singing along to them 70 years later! Each year when I hear this song for the first time, I laugh remembering the time my niece and I acted it out using Strawberry Shortcake figurines. She probably doesn’t even remember it, but I clearly remember her using my stuffed puppy dog as the hippo. It’s just one of those songs that makes me happy. And some years, I need all the happy I can get.
The 12 Days of Christmas – Straight No Chaser
I know, you’ve read this entire list and you’ve been wondering when I’ll get around to including Straight No Chaser. Wait no more – here you go. We’ve already established I love a cappella groups. If the group includes many handsome men who also happen to be great singers? Bonus!
I’ve been a fan of SNC since this video clip originally went viral back in 2008. I’m one of those fans who goes to their concerts and waits in line for photos and autographs. There are at least 15 SNC videos on my phone, but for this post I selected the original video from 1998 – the one that started it all.
Merry Christmas one and all. May your holiday be filled with joy and peace.
I haven’t been driving much for the past year. There are many reasons why I do not yet own a new van with high tech hand controls for driving, and I will attempt to write about that in a later post.
However, today I am grateful that I DID spend two hours driving by myself in my car. Two blissful hours alone, listening to music and singing at the top of my lungs. Yup, that was me.
I love all types of music, but I get bored listening to the radio. There are too my commercials. They play the same songs over and over and over. IPod playlists help, but as I said, I get bored easily.
Last year I discovered Spotify. I love Spotify because you can listen to, and save entire albums if you wish. Sure, there are arguments for and against this type of streaming service. But today Spotify made my trip a very enjoyable sing-along.
With any luck, when I insert the next bit of text, the playlist of the songs that randomly popped up for my drive will appear. If you’re heading out on the road, give these tunes a try.
I looked at my mail after work yesterday and noticed a flyer from the local casino. I was about to throw it out when I noticed the photo on the back cover.
The signature concert advertisement featured an image of a Zac Brown tribute band, ZBTB. I held the flyer up to my face to get a good look and then sent my friend Tara a quick text.
Dude, is your husband playing at the casino in Schenectady tomorrow night?!
Yes, Dan’s band was playing. What’s more, Tara decided to come out with Dan for an impromptu visit.
That’s how I found myself at the casino tonight with Tara. We laughed, we sang, we danced. In other words, we acted like we did when we first met twenty-five years ago. Only this time, Tara actually gets to go home with the drummer.
Thank you Tara and Dan for a very fun night! I am grateful for your friendship and love in my life. I had fun, even if it was 2 hours of country music! 🙂