If you like popular Christmas music, you probably like Bing Crosby. It’s hard to think of a performer who is more identified with the holiday than Der Bingle.
Everyone knows about the Crosby version of White Christmas. According to the Guinness Book of World Records, his 1942 recording of the song remains the biggest selling record of all time, having sold more than 50 million copies worldwide. And if you grew up during the ’50s and ’60s, you remember the family getting together to watch Crosby’s annual Christmas show, in which the Old Groaner — whose actual first name was Harry — and his family and friends sang traditional carols and encouraged those at home to sing along. But Crosby had a series of big hits with Christmas songs, including a classic swing version of Jingle Bells recorded with the Andrews Sisters, above, and the irresistible Mele Kalikimaka (The Hawaiian Christmas Song), below. And that’s not even including the definitive Crosby treatment of I’ll Be Home For Christmas, either.
During this baking weekend, I’ve got my holiday music playlist on the iPod to keep me going as I mix, cut, and bake. It just wouldn’t be the same without the offerings of the crooner from Tacoma, Washington.
Even though my candidate of choice didn’t prevail yesterday, voting always makes me feel good — about myself, but especially about my country. There is something deeply moving and profound, quiet but enormous, reaffirming and empowering, about going to the polls on Election Day and casting your ballot in this huge and diverse nation where we manage to settle disagreements by elections, not roadside bombs or terrorist attacks.
When I woke up this morning, I still felt good about our election. On my walk through our quiet neighborhood, I wanted to listen to music that expresses, to my mind at least, a little bit of that uplifting mixture of emotions that I feel when I vote. I donned my iPod and thumbed to my Americana playlist, which is a compilation of songs of every different category and classification, linked together only because they all — through message, or genre, or context, or something else — seem quintessentially American to me. I listened as the dogs and I strolled along this morning, savoring an eclectic mix of music that reflects the broad, sweeping nature of this land and its people, and counted myself lucky that I was born an American.
The first 20 songs on my Americana playlist are:
Ashokan Farewell (The Civil War soundtrack) Sweet Georgia Brown (Django Reinhardt & Stéphane Grappelli) Air Mail Special (Benny Goodman And His Orchestra) Over The Rainbow (Judy Garland, The Wizard Of Oz Soundtrack) Polly Wolly Doodle (Leon Redbone) Dipper Mouth Blues (Arturo Sandoval) My Girl (The Temptations ) Someone To Watch Over Me (Frank Sinatra) No More (The Blind Boys Of Alabama) Dig My Grave Both Long And Narrow (Amasong) Summertime (Ella Fitzgerald & Louis Armstrong) Blowin’ In The Wind (Bob Dylan) Goodnight Louise (Boz Scaggs) When The Saints Go Marching In (Dr. John) 50,000 Names (George Jones) Anything Goes (Helen Merrill) Calling My Children Home (Emmylou Harris) Que Sera, Sera (Whatever Will Be, Will Be) (Natalie Cole, Live) They’re Red Hot (Robert Johnson) The Cascades (Scott Joplin)
When I was in law school, I got into the habit of listening to Call Me The Breeze by Lynyrd Skynyrd the morning before every exam. The high-octane music, mixed in with some clumsy air guitar, got the blood pumping and charged me up for the challenge looming immediately ahead.
Thirty years later, music still sets my mood. I’ll thumb the iPod menu down to the Shuffle Songs setting for my morning walk, and the randomly selected songs I hear will stick in my head for hours, playing in a continuous loop during mental down time moments until a new song pushes them aside. And I can help that process by selecting songs to match my appointments for the day. If I’m going to be doing some careful analytical thinking, nothing can prime that high-end mental pump like the intricate melodies of J.S. Bach and his baroque music buddies. If I’ve got a deposition that might be contentious, I’ll try to soothe things in advance with some Coltrane. If I will be writing, I’ll look for something upbeat and flowing. And if I ever needed to storm the barricades, I’d play Rage Against The Machine’s The Battle Of Los Angeles.
Lately I’ve been playing waltzes and similar music from my Vienna Evening iPod playlist in the morning. As Stanley Kubrick recognized in 2001, waltz music goes well with motion and sunrises. The swirling sounds mesh perfectly with a whirl around the Yantis Loop and then some crack-of-dawn watering of the flower beds, as I move the fine spray of water back and forth to the rhythm.