12 Days of Blues-Mas 2017 | Episode #7
Written by Jered Morin
Here are the Top 12 Blues songs about Christmas, from vintage classics to modern renditions.
There were hundreds of songs to comb through. So the criteria to make this list was it had to:
- be about Christmas (obviously), but also
- make creative use of the holiday elements — think genre busters, twisted lyrics, and exceptional musicality
Also, with so many tunes to choose from, I had to cut ones that were maybe a touch too Swing-y, or too Soul-y, way too Hip and/or Hop , and even a few that were beyond description. It was a difficult choice.
But here they are, the 12 bestest Blues songs about Christmas to add to your holiday rotation:
#1. Santa – Lightnin’ Hopkins
Texas Blues. Janky but cool. Sharp but limited. Lightnin’ tells a story better than the best of them, using the notes he needs and not a single one more.
#2. Blues for Christmas – John Lee Hooker
Hooker never simply “sings a song” — he makes a song regret it ever met him. He forgets rhymes, he drops whole verses, he changes the phrasing, he just don’t give a f—-. Take a listen to the master:
#3. Christmas Blues – Canned Heat
Don’t know Canned Heat? They were part of the Rock era that realized they owe so much to Blues (even their name is from a Delta blues song). Here, the famous Dr. John sits on piano to start a lazy, rolling, heart-aching Blues tune. But it might be the harmonica that steals this turkey’s wish-bone:
#4. Please Come Home for Christmas – Charles Brown
Many years back, I sat down alongside Dan Nash to teach a Blues History class — something we’ve luckily had the chance to repeat several times. As we tend to do, we got excited riffing about which musicians deserve more respect. Charles Brown, we both agreed, was far, far under-recognized in the Blues community. So, dear aspiring or expert DJ, here’s one of his to slide on in Decembers, if you like it as much as I do:
#5. Back Door Santa – Clarence Carter
Never one to shy away from a filthy, dirty song, here’s Clarence Carter (ye of ‘Strokin’ fame, a big hit in late 1990’s dance scene. Times were different, okay?). Also, honorable mention to B.B. King’s version.
#6. Everyday Will Be Like a Holiday – William Bell
He doesn’t say Christmas, but the sleigh bells are a dead giveaway. And those harmonies — man, they are killing me. In the best way. GAH!
#6. Merry Christmas Baby – Ray Charles
Easy one. Could have gone with Charles Brown again, but this one is a touch more varied. Similarly, could have chosen B.B. King’s take , but I’m picking Ray as his arrangement is more unique.
Dude is, in a word, class.
Class and skill.
Two words: he’s class and skill. Plus, he’s amazing.
Three words to describe him…
#7. White Christmas – Otis Redding
You knew I’d put Otis on this list. Let’s be real. And this one turns the classic Blues tale into a happy song! But then why does his voice still make me want to cry? Damn you, Otis!
#8. Louisiana Christmas Day – Aaron Neville
A Zydeco jam is the perfect way to beat those blues with a hand-clappin’, jumping groove! If you aren’t tapping your foot while wearing your terrible Xmas sweater, then my friend, you might want to see a doctor. ‘Cause you dead.
Joke only I will find funny: Things Aaron did not do in this song
#9. ‘Zat You, Santa Clause? – Louis Armstrong
A playful Jazz-Blues tune from 1953 featuring The Commanders (a studio and touring band) behind the great Satchmo, a man who knew no labels that could contain him.
#10. Cryin’ Christmas Tears – Eric Clapton
Jesus f—- Christ does Eric Clapton hate Christmas… I mean, he is seriously depressed!
“I’m smiling on the outside,
but on the inside I’m crying”
Any time of year, that’s relatable. Freddie King does a killer version of this as well, and right behind that one he also does “I Hear Jingle Bell” which uses the titular refrain as a break in the song. Smooooth.
#11. Christmas Day Blues – Cephas & Wiggins
Flip the script and turn a typically sad Blues moment into a life-positive thing? M. Night Shyamalan, eat your heart out! Demonstrating that Blues is more than just “my (wo)man left me and my dog died,” this one requires listening to the lyrics to catch the twist:
“I ain’t sure where she went to,
must be with another man
If she think I’m gonna sit here and worry,
I don’t really give a damn”
You good, buddy, you do you!
#12. Christmas Celebration – B.B. King
After all that, let’s wrap this up with a bit of “Christmas cheer!” Plus, I can finally stop snubbing B.B. by almost sharing his version of songs; so here’s a tasty Blues dish full of good feelings:
“All the presents my love, under the Christmas tree
Remind me of your love that means so much to me”
I told you there were a lot of choices to be made! But in case you listened this far (you beautiful Blues addict, you) I got a couple extra tunes in the hope that you buy me a Christmas drink next time I see you at a dance event. I mean, I offer these in the spirit of giving. Yeah.
Jingle Bell Jamboree – Keb’ Mo’
A finger-pickin’ hoppy Blues track, this is some classic mountain Blues updated with references to modern technology and the true spirit of the season:
Santa Claus Wants Some Lovin’ – by pretty much Everyone. Ever.
Santa, it seems, is just a normal person after all.
Loads of artists sing this one. Some let it be known that jolly Saint Nick is “wanting” it. Others stress that he “needs” it. Either way, it seems the iconic butterball has got an itch that’s gotta be scratched…
How extensive are the covers of this song? Even Bill Murray — yes, the Ghostbuster himself — gets in on it, alongside the creepiest-of-creepy George Clooney. Oh, and Miley Cyrus. I swear, you can’t make this stuff up. …Unless your name is William F. Murray.
There ya go — 12 days of Christmas Blues songs (and then some) for your next holiday playlist that won’t make your home sound like a generic shopping mall. Now spike the eggnog and hit me with some of those Blues!
Many thanks to the author Jered Morin. Dance Teacher. Event Emcee. Competition DJ. World vagabond. He also has his own Dance Blog on Facebook or his website which might have some interesting Blues & Swing stuff just for you.