If we all blended as well as Bing and Bowie

If we all blended as well as Bing and Bowie

Turn on any news program, and the pundits will lead you to believe our nation is being torn apart via our continual political divide: Right versus Left, Conservative versus Liberal, Elephant versus Donkey.

As one who tries to remain more socially educated than politically aware, this depiction may very well be true. I tend to listen more to the informed, as opposed to the ones who scream loudest, but if we are really being honest with each other, the real divide in our country has nothing to do with FOX News versus MSNBC or Tucker Carlson versus Rachel Maddow.

No, what the divide really boils down to is this: Those who think Mariah Carey’s Christmas album is the Mt. Everest of Christmas albums and those who, like me, do not.

Now I know, after having written the previous sentence, I have likely angered half of this column’s readership, and I am OK with that. I have no problem admitting I would rather have the Alvin and the Chipmunks “The Christmas Song (Christmas Don’t Be Late)” playing on an endless loop than Ms. Carey telling me “All I Want for Christmas Is You.”

And, honestly, it is OK if we disagree because I would bet many of our Christmas song favorites have filtered into our lives because of our youth and the songs we listened to along the way.

That is not to say we cannot pick up some new favorites as we age, but for me, the soft dulcet sounds of John Denver and his “Rocky Mountain Christmas” album trumps most of what came before or has come after — not to mention "John Denver and the Muppets: A Christmas Together."

I am unable to let the season pass without Rowlf the Dog telling me to “have yourself a merry little Christmas.” If you have not done so, do yourself a favor and YouTube that two-minute song clip. You cannot help but smile in the presence of some Christmas musical magic.

Of course, over the years there also are seminal favorites that trickle in as singles. As a reminder of an Ethiopia that still struggles, even 38 years after raising awareness, is the giving spirit of Band Aid’s “Do They Know It’s Christmas.” For a good laugh there is the satirical take of Bob & Doug McKenzie’s “12 Days of Christmas.” And for a bit more modern feel on the healing power of the Christmas season is Coldplay’s “Christmas Lights.”

And does any older Northeast Ohio sports fan not remember the “12 Days of a Cleveland Browns Christmas,” where they sang of “Don Cockroft kickin’, Brian Sipe a-passin’, on a Rutigliano Super Bowl team”?

I think my father thought the more he played that 45-RPM in the winter of 1980 the more likely the Browns would actually make it to the Super Bowl. Ah, Christmas in Northeast Ohio — a time for belief and wonder and the eventual winter season crushing of dreams via “Red Right 88.”

While all personal favorites, the Billboard Sales Charts would definitely tell me I am wrong when it comes to my opinion of Christmas albums and/or songs. As of 2020, sales for Mariah’s album have exceeded 15 million copies sold, compared to the 3 million for John Denver’s two Christmas albums combined.

To solidify the point, around Labor Day, my wife sets all the preset radio stations in our cars to Christmas music. As I flip through the channels on a drive to work or a trip to an away basketball game to watch the kiddos, it is not at all uncommon to hear Mariah over, and over, and over on every station, with nary an appearance by John Denver, let alone a muppet. Radio station managers must enjoy the torment, or they are just really lazy when it comes to programming variety.

Thankfully, however, an all-time favorite does seem to resonate with the masses and make the occasional airwave appearance.

For me, the Christmas gem that best captures the spirit of the holiday season is Bing Crosby and David Bowie’s “Peace on Earth/Little Drummer Boy.”

I know nothing about how Bowie and Crosby ended up performing on that duet together, but I do know, musically, they came from two different planets — one a glam rock icon in the relative early stages of his career and the other a traditional pop/jazz pioneer who would suffer a heart attack and pass away a month after recording the Christmas classic.

Aside from the beauty of the message, the harmonious blending of their voices and the unity of pop culture generations, the song displays what the spirit of the season is really capable of: how two seemingly different men living in two seemingly different worlds can come together through the connection of the season and through blessed music.

And the enduring message of the song is a pretty good lesson for life: “I pray my wish will come true/for my child and your child too/(he’ll) see the day when men of good will, live in peace, live in peace again.”

Too idealistic? Maybe. But that is the beauty of a great Christmas song — filling one with belief and hope, for however long the spirit remains.

And so whatever songs fill your holiday households this season, even if it is Mariah, I hope they bring you and your families all the joys you assuredly deserve. No doubt these seasonal tunes provide the backdrop to a good number of our familial traditions and memories. So let me join in with Rowlf the Dog in wishing and hoping you all have yourselves a merry little Christmas.