12 days of Lists

Season of Lists: 10 Christmas Songs that Do Not Involve Josh Groban

Celeste Fremon
Written by Celeste Fremon

No, not all holiday musical offerings
found at the top of Amazon’s sales list at this time of year are treacly and irritating. But many are, so antidotes are sorely needed.

Here are ten of mine. What’re yours?

(NOTE: The video, which is unrelated to the list, is from a Bing Crosby special that was made during Bing’s last months. He died before it was actually shown. The lead-in skit’s a bit stiff, but the music’s hard to beat.)

1. Christmas In Prison – Amos Lee
(A very nice cover of the John Prine sing.) (Hey, I’m a criminal justice person, so this has to be on my list.)

2. Fairytale of New York – The Pogues and Kirsty MacColl
(If for some reason you’ve never heard this, at least play it on YouTube. It’s quite fabulous. Though, due to its lyric content, best not to play it in front of your next-door neighbor’s six and seven-year-olds—at least not if you want to continue to be invited to the yearly neighborhood pancake breakfast.)

3. Randolph the Rouge Nosed Reindeer – Justin Wilson
(Justin Wilson is a Cajun dude. And this is a very silly song. I guar-ron-tee’ it.)

4. Go Tell It on the Mountain – Tom Waits & the Blind Boys of Alabama
(Tom Waits…. Blind Boys of Alabama…Go Tell It on the Mountain. Nuff said.) (Canadian folk star Bruce Cockburn’s version of this is also a must-have.)

5. Stop the Cavalry – Jona Lewie
(A British radio fav during the holidays.)

6 . Jingle Bells – Crash Test Dummies
(This one’s guaranteed to frighten small children. However the Crash Test Dummies version of Oh, Little Town of Bethlehem is actually quite lovely.)

7. It Came Upon A Midnight Clear – Michael Doucet and Beausoleil
(An all instrumental by some Cajun masters.)

8. The Rebel Jesus– Jackson Brown & the Chieftains
(Politics and celebration both. Jackson’s a tad over-serious, but it works anyway. The Chieftains help.)

9. Please, Daddy (Don’t Get Drunk This Christmas) – John Denver
(Denver wrote it and loads of country stars have recorded it. I still like the John Denver version best, so sue me.)

10. Santa Baby – Carter’s Chord (Three extremely cute, talented sisters. Their album ain’t out until next year, but iTunes has the download)

Okay….now over to you.


  • I nearly fell off my chair laughing, when I heard the song “Please, Daddy (Don’t Get Drunk This Christmas)”. My father always drank too much, especially on Christmas, one of my sisters gave him a tee-shirt which read “I don’t have a drinking problem, I drink I fall, I get up – NO PROBLEM”. The old man loved to wear that tee-shirt on Christmas, as he blended the margaritas.

    Celeste – I was going to put versions of traditional Christmas songs by Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Carlos Santana and other Blues and Rock artists, but they actually suck. I like more “traditional” versions of Christmas songs. In case you did not know, White Christmas and Silent Night have been sung in just about every language. The funniest version of Silent Night; is by David Hasselhof (Knight Rider and Baywatch fame) singing Silent Night in German.

    A list of a few of my memorable Christmas songs.

    Nat King Cole – The Christmas Song

    Elvis Presley – Blue Christmas

    Jose Feliciano – Feliz Navidad

    Christina Aguilera – Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas

    Alvin and the Chipmunks – Christmas is near

    A few versions of White Christmas

    Otis Redding – White Christmas

    Luis Miguel – Blanca Navidad (White Christmas)

    Alejandro Fernandez – Blanca Navidad (White Christmas)

  • First, to maintain the pattern….

    Some list, Celeste. Most of those songs must bring tears to your eyes as you hold hands around your aluminium “holiday” tree, getting drunk, passing out gifts of chia pets and nose hair clippers, and ignoring the reason that we celebrate Christmas.

    There are at least two Christmas songs that contain phrases that bother me but that weren’t meant to bother people. The first you featured at the top.

    “Peace On Earth – Little Drummer Boy”
    Every child must be made aware
    Every child must be made to care

    No free will there. Every child MUST BE MADE to care–even if we have to waterboard him to do it. Anyway, I never did like David Bowie.


    “Here Comes Santa Claus”
    So let’s give thanks to the Lord above
    That Santa Claus comes tonight!

    Whaaaaattt? Think about that.

    Now, to a Christmas song that I really like from “Handel’s Messiah.”

    “For unto Us a Child is born” (Chorus)
    For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given, and the government shall be upon His shoulder; and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6)

    There are two versions here. The first is how I would hope you would see it presented, but don’t miss checking the second version.

    LINK: “For Unto Us a Child is Born” – Burbank Chorale and the Burbank Chorale Orchestra. First United Methodist Church

    LINK: “For Unto Us a Child is Born” – Sugarland Prison, Texas
    (Where’s the ACLU to stop this?) It’s great that these prisoners know that their sins are forgiven because of Christ, whose birth we celebrate at this time.

  • The originals: Mel Torme “Christmas Song”
    Eartha Kitt “Santa Baby”

    And an album of songs for Christmaas by Joan Baez. I play it every year. Simply beautiful.

    Woody, you don’t have to listen to Steisand but I’ve got to tell you that there are plenty of artists whose politics I deplore and yet derive great satisfaction from their work. Guess you’re too small for that. Pity.

  • rlc, why pity me when there are so many artists whose works are more pleasing, and I could never get to the end of that list before getting to Streisand. Anyway, why assume that I don’t like her Christmas album because of her politics? Don’t forget that she is also Jewish–and ugly. Now, that’ll give you something to think about. (The truth is, though, that I don’t want a dime of mine going to support her politics–just like the Dixie Chicks.)

  • These are great suggestions!!! I’m a total sucker for Christmas albums. And, yeah, I love the originals too.

    But y’all have listed a number that I’d not found and will download immediately if not sooner.

    Otis singing White Christmas (Steve Cropper rules.) Both those versions of Blanca Navidad (Luis Miguel!!!)

    Reg darlene Love blows the doors off the holiday!!

    Joan and Steve Earle. RG, I think it’s great. Yeah, Joan’s over the top, but she still has that voice. (RLC, I’m going to go and find that full album you mentioned.)

    Woody, that Sugarland prison video is stunning. Made me cry. (Okay, I probably need more sleep, but still…) Can’t beat Handel.

    BTW, in addition to the always amazing Elvis and Blue Christmas, Johnny Cash has a really good version.

    Speaking of whole albums, Emmy Lou’s (Harris) Christmas album is good. And, reg, I think it was you that listed Bruce Cockburn’s Christmas CD on Marc Cooper’s blog last year. I’ve been playing it ever since.

    Eartha Kitt and her legs, OMG!

  • That Mahalia Jackson clip alone justifies the existence of YouTube. (Ditto the Sugarland prison video)

    Yeah, reg, Aaron Neville’s great at Christmas standards. He’s also on the Blind Boys of Alabama’s CD doing Joy to the World, a definite keeper.

  • Randy you’re right about Irving Berlin and did you notice that he took the two holiest days in the Christian calander and made one of them about a fashion show and the other about snow!

    Let’s get Bill O’Reilly on the case! Talk about the war on Xmas!!!

  • ric, what’s funny about Hasselhoff singing Silent Night in German? Is he awful, or –? Never heard him. I did grow up singing it in German, and “Heilige Nacht” is beautiful. Ever heard it sung in Germany or Austria, especially by candlelight at Christmas mass or a concert at the Vienna Christmas fair? Places like that you feel Christmas, here in So Cal it’s just commercial.

    Kudos to any Jew who has an Xmas album — most won’t let the word out of their lips, as if saying it is sacrilege, but it sounds like Berlin turned it into “Winter Wonderland” stuff like our kids’ school plays out here. Does Barbra actually have a “Christmas album” or is it “holiday” stuff?” I love the Elvis and Ramones selections. Am more into contemp rock I’ve gotta dig into this more, see if anyone under 30 is doing Christmas these days.

    By the way, my husband is Jewish and his family thinks it’s caving to the mainstream religious culture to celebrate both Xmas and Hanukkah, so for me as a nice German girl who loves Heilige Nacht and (real) nutcrackers, Xmas in SoCal is hard!

  • Mavis, all that comes up from your link is a couple of other links with one person each saying Groban “looks jewish,” one saying “I hope he’s not though.” Jewish “Christmas” is really winter/ holiday stuff, though, not a whole lot about Little Star of Bethlehem. Find a Jew singing “Heilige Nacht”/ Holy Night in German no less, and you’ll really have something.

    (Giving equal time, my kid learned the Jewish “Dreidl” song at her Presbyterian preschool! Not something I recommend grownups of any religion listening to without duress.)

  • To show you how important to my life Josh Groban has been, I had never heard of him.

    Lucinda, Barbra Streisand has at least two Christmas albums, which contain a mixture of secular and religious songs. If you play them backwards, you can make out secret messages saying that God is dead.

  • The link of Josh Groban (Jewish or otherwise) has him singing “What are You Doin’ New Year’s Eve” by Rufus Wainright, like he has a nasal infection, with Steve Wonder body rotations. Give me “Heilige Nacht” any day. He’s still “a stubby little fella who can’t sing” but has contacts or laser surgery now. I’ll try to check out some indie rock Christmas stuff, though.

  • Well, Woody, that’s definitely a Christmas Song “that does not involve Josh Groben” so I guess you’re on topic. (We still haven’t determined that there are any actual Christmas songs that involve Josh Groben, though. He and James Blunt seem to me like nice nerdy boys who someone’s mother or maybe a tween would mistake as cute — I’m still lookin’ and will report.)

    Nice playing, reg and ric, didn’t know you could keep a tune.

  • I finally looked up Josh Groban and listened to some of his Christmas music. LINK: Josh Groban Christmas

    Look, Groban sings decently, but there are people in my church choir who sing just as well as he. Simon Cowell would likely bounce him from American Idol competition. What’s the big deal?

  • For the record, I don’t really dislike Josh Groban (whose name I have now managed to spell correctly). Obviously the man has a lovely voice. It’s just that his phrasing is a bit homogenized, and bloodless for my taste.

  • Depeche Mode’s Hawaiian Christmas Album is sung and performed by a band of 4 Hawaiians, put out by Tiki Man Records under their name though, lovely Hawaiian versions of Silent Night and O Little Town of Bethlehem. (Still prefer Heilige Nacht.)

    Found a good one by the younger gen: “Candy Cane Children,” by the White Stripes from 5 years ago.

    A nice classic: “Some Day at Christmas,” Stevie Wonder.

    Here’s a couple for Celeste: James Brown’s “Santa Claus Go Straight to the Ghetto” and from that group known for its sweetness and charm, Run-DMC, “Christmas in Hollis.”

    For L A Res, besides the great John Denver classic, there’s the Ramones “Merry Christmas (I Don’t Want to Fight Tonight)”

    A few funny-awful ones: Madonna’s “Santa Baby” from ’87 and softee Billy Corgan of Smashing Pumpkin singing “Christmastime” to all the kiddies. My favorite worst: No Doubt’s “Oi to the World.” (I’ll get that for my in-laws.)

  • Good ones, Lucinda!

    I ran across Christmas in Hollis also, and nearly put it up as one of my 10. It’s actually pretty cool. (And I did discover Santa Claus Go Straight to the Ghetto in the last few hours after reg reminded us to look to James Brown for good Christmas items.)

    But I’m going to go find the Hawaiian stuff, the White Stripes piece, Stevie Wonder, and the rest. Thanks!

  • Is this the year everyone is admitting how awful Christmases can be? Sufjan Stevens’ “That Was the Worst Christmas Ever” album is actually very mellow acoustic guitar with cleverly uncliched angst-filled lyrics.

  • BTW: Stevens’ worst Christmas was when his father burned everybody’s presents in a drunken rage, angered over some remark. Guess he takes the prize for very worst Christmas ever.

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