With December well underway, I’m finally inured to the barrage of seasonal music that assails us whenever we set foot outdoors.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not a total Grinch on the subject. In fact, there is a great canon of Christmas-related music that I actually enjoy. Most of it falls under the rubric of sacred, but some is schlocky and some is downright silly.
Novelty songs have been part of the holiday season for as long as I can remember.
I was five when I first heard “All I Want for Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth.” Hilarious.
When I was nine, the radio waves were filled with “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus.” Creepy.
By the time Alvin and the Chipmunks stumbled out of their hollow tree and into every loudspeaker in town, I was old and wise enough to cover my ears whenever those irritating rodents started urging Christmas not to be late each year.
It is probably a deep flaw of character that permits me to take pleasure from such twisted seasonal offerings as Rolf Harris’s down-under ditty, “Six White Boomers,” or Elmo ‘n’ Patsy’s 1979 classic, “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer.” So be it.
The sentimental stuff has also been around for ages. For me and millions of others, Irving Berlin’s “White Christmas” remains the granddaddy of secular Christmas tunes, and the Bing Crosby rendition is the granddaddy of them all.
Mind you, I am biased. Bing Crosby was an old pal of mine. Well, more of a pen-pal.
When I was whatever age, I responded to Crosby’s invitation for children everywhere to write and tell him what we thought was the real meaning of Christmas. I wrote a little piece dripping with the earnestness only a preacher’s kid could muster.
There was no doubt in my mind that it would be one of the letters Der Bingle selected to read on his Christmas Eve radio special. Alas, it was not.
But lo and behold, about four months later, the mail included an envelope postmarked Hollywood, California. I tore it open to see a single, typewritten paragraph thanking me for my thoughtful and touching letter.
It was hand-signed in blue ink by the Old Groaner himself (or, more likely, by an anonymous member of his staff).
I treasured that correspondence for years, until it somehow disappeared during one of many moves.
Still, nothing whets my appetite for seasonal sentimentality quite like that silky baritone meandering through those timeless lyrics penned by the Jewish king of Tin Pan Alley three years before I was born.