“I’ll Be Home for Christmas”

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“I’ll Be Home for Christmas” is one of those Christmas standards that I don’t think everyone thinks about too much anymore.  To most of us, it’s just a sweet, kind of sad song about longing for home during the holidays.  And it is.  But let’s put it in context.

Released in 1943, “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” is written from the point of view of a soldier serving in WWII.  (If you don’t already know about that subject, then maybe you should start taking some History classes.  Quickly.)  The war was raging, and so many men (and women) were very far from everyone and everything they loved.  The ache in this song is so palpable that I can’t listen to it without crying, and it hits home for me even harder now that Daddy’s gone.

This is, of course, Bing Crosby’s song, and I thought it was best to use his version for the post.  It was the original, after all.  But I am personally partial to Leon Redbone’s version, so here’s the link in case you want to hear it, too.  It’s not really that different, but the sadness is softened a bit.  Have some Kleenex handy either way.

Freaky Christmas: “Peace on Earth/Little Drummer Boy”

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From the first moment I saw this video on MTV way back when, I was a little flummoxed.  I like the duet, but it’s probably the strangest musical pairing ever.

The combination of the two songs is really well done.  And David Bowie’s voice melds nicely with Bing Crosby’s.  But it’s just so weird!  It was filmed for a TV  Christmas special Crosby was making in 1977, just a month before his death.  Bowie has moved on from his serious gender-bending and Ziggy, but he was still pretty out there for the older, conservative crowd that was Crosby’s primary fan base.  I’m sure CBS just wanted to get as many eyes on their program as possible, appealing to the widest demographic they could; ratings make strange bedfellows, I guess.

Although strange bedfellows also often leads to unexpected success.  “Peace on Earth/Little Drummer Boy” circulated as a bootlegged cult classic for a few years after the special aired, and was finally released as a single in 1982.  It’s gone on to be one of the more popular Christmas duets.

It’s still weird, though.