Saturday, December 22, 2007

Count my blessings? I'll have to take off my shoes and socks

Recently my wife asked me to name my favorite non-traditional Christmas song. I said "Christmas in Hollis", by Run-DMC, then mumbled about until I finally had to concede that one of my favorite modern holiday tunes is "Do They Know It's Christmas" -- the 1986 benefit song by British artists performing as Band-Aid.

Sure, the song's synthesizer-driven pop sound and concern for starving Ethiopian children is sooo 1980s. (Though it's a far superior piece of music than its American counterpart, "We are the World".) And there's a patronizing, white-man's-burden quality to the song's charitable tone. (What! No snow in Africa! How can you have a bleedin' proper Christmas without any snow!)

Yet for all its cheesiness, the song gets to me. When Bono belts out "Well tonight thank God it's them instead of you," I belt it out, too. (Assuming I'm alone.) There's something about that lyric that's like a kick in the gut. How many times have we heard people say "There but for the grace of God go I", either as a figure of speech or as a sincere belief that they have been blessed by the Almighty. What many of us should be saying is "There but for being born to educated, middle-class parents in one of the most prosperous nations on Earth go I."

Trite as it sounds, the holidays offer the starkest reminder of this good fortune. There's nothing like pushing yourself away, stuffed, from the Christmas table, or loading up the car with your bounty of gifts, to make you realize that most of the problems in your life -- to borrow a phrase -- don't add up to a hill of beans. That's what that song says to me.

The more I think about it, though, the more I realize that my favorite modern holiday song is probably "The Christians and the Pagans" by Dar Williams, followed closely by "Fairy Tale of New York" as performed by the Pogues. In their own way, they each speak to loss and reconciliation, perfect themes for the holidays and the new year to come.

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Blogger Vince said...

Oh, sure, "Do They Know It's Christmas" has more insightful commentary, but it just doesn't have that Bo Diddley beat of my favorite non-traditional Christmas song: "Sock It To Me Santa" by Bob Seger

4:21 PM

Blogger EdHeath said...

Maybe my favorite Christmas song is "Same Old Lang Syne" by Dan Fogelberg. I like the tone it sets, although I don't know anyone who has married a architect, nor am I touring mid-level rock star. But I also do like Do They Know its Christmas and the Christians and The Pagans. I'm not familiar with Fairy tale of New York, guess I will have to check it out on YouTube. Ditto on Sock It To Me Santa.

10:07 AM

Blogger Jonathan Potts said...

"I Saw My Baby Wearing Santa's Beard" by They Might Be Giants is a good one, and of course "Happy Christmas (War is Over)" by John and Yoko is practically a standard at this point.

10:23 AM


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