Bing Crosby is something of the unofficial "classic voice of the Christmas season," but his most popular piece in recent years is the unlikely duet from 1977, the same year he passed away. The Washington Post provides the odd story of holiday harmony, how David Bowie joined Crosby at the piano for their duet, "Peace on Earth/Little Drummer Boy". If you like the classics, here's some Bing over the years: a fan-made abbreviation of Frank Sinatra's Christmas Show from 1957, Bing sings "White Christmas" in 1961, Bing & Kathryn Crosby take you on a trip to "Christmas Island" from his 1971 Crosby family special, and from his final Christmas special, Bing Crosby's Merrie Olde Christmas, Bing and Twiggy singing "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas." If you'd like a full period piece, here's an all-star 1958 USO Christmas show (program history and overview). If that's all a bit too sweet for you, let Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson, Waylon Jennings, June Carter-Cash, Jessi Colter, John Carter-Cash, and more regale you in the Christmas On The Road TV Special (1984).
"Smoke on the Water", as performed by Germany's military brass band and Berlins guard battalion, part of the farewell to German defense minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg. [more inside]
The Music of Jacques Brel is an article by music journalist Amy Hanson about the career of pop music legend Jacques Brel and his effect on popular music in the English language. A lot of songs and covers are mentioned in the article, below the cut are links to the songs that I could find videos of online. [more inside]
Ahmet Ertegun was profiled by George W. S. Trow in The New Yorker in a classic piece back in 1978. Ertegun was the son of the Turkish ambassador to the US and he remained behind in D.C. studying medieval philosophy at Georgetown. Instead of devoting himself to his studies he founded Atlantic Records with his friend Herb Abramson. Trow charted how Ertegun moved from tramping through muddy, Louisiana fields in search of hot new sounds to the whirl of Studio 54. Below the cut are links to the songs mentioned in the article, as best as I could find, in the order in which they appear. [more inside]
"The most brutal, ugly, degenerate, vicious form of expression it has been my displeasure to hear," Frank Sinatra wrote of rock 'n' roll during the time of Elvis Presley. But Frank wasn't stupid... he knew his relevance was fading and if you can't beat 'em, you have to join 'em. So in 1960, Elvis Presley was welcomed home from his two year military tour by the Frank Sinatra Timex Show "Welcome Home Elvis" special. Later Sinatra said, "I'm just a singer. Elvis was the embodiment of the whole American culture."
"Have yourself a merry little Christmas. It may be your last." "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" has had several rewrites since Hugh Martin wrote the original lyrics for 1944's Meet Me in St. Louis. Judy Garland thought the song was "awfully dark" and Martin rewrote the lyrics for her performance in the movie. The penultimate line was "Until then, we'll have to muddle through somehow." Frank Sinatra called Martin in 1957 and said, "The name of my album is A Jolly Christmas. Do you think you could jolly up that line for me?' Sinatra's version, with its peppier lyrics, became a holiday standard. [more inside]
The Chairman Of The Bad: "Brassiere! I dig a broad with no brassiere!"... Full of unreleased concert material and wonderful anecdotes, This American Life's programme about Frank Sinatra is still the most entertaining I've ever heard about The Voice, bringing out his worst as well as his very best. It almost makes you feel like catching the next corny My Way [Though it has a goodish list of his most lasting songs] or Rat Pack show. Bone up on the wonderful slang or take the Sinatra quiz. And, if you're still a bit of a stranger to Sinatra, perhaps the Frank-ylizer will lead you to a record appropriate to your tastes and lifestyle. No, there can't be many better ways to fight the Monday blues! ["Chairman of The Bad" is a 1994 Bono quote; Sinatra's "brassiere" adlib is sung to the tune of Ary Barroso's famous Aquarela do Brasil/Brazil. Real Audio req.]
Be careful how you sing "My Way" After being ridiculed for an off-key version of My Way, the irate singer kills one heckler and wounds another. Philippine karaoke bars have begun to remove the song from their playlists as this was the climax of several violent incidents when this song was played.