Sunday, December 6, 2015

Classic TV Christmas Songs: My 10 Favorites

Music is an integral part of Christmas. And for many of us the classic TV specials from an earlier era are part of that celebration as well. The best of them introduced even more wonderful music to enrich the season.

These are my ten favorite songs from these shows. I would love to hear more about yours.

“The Most Wonderful Day of the Year”
Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer
Every song in this landmark Christmas special is wonderful, but it’s “The Most Wonderful Day of the Year,” performed by the misfit toys, that best conveys the hope and joy of the season. Because the lyrics are so specific to the TV special it hasn’t remained as prominent as “Holly Jolly Christmas” and “Silver and Gold,” but that didn’t stop Glee (a show about another group of misfits) from covering it in their first Christmas show. 

“Keep Christmas With You”
Merry Christmas From Sesame Street
Anyone who watches Sesame Street into adulthood would not be surprised that it would introduce a memorable Christmas song. “Keep Christmas With You (All Through the Year)” was featured on several of the series’ holiday shows, beginning in 1975 and continuing (sadly) through 2006’s “Elmo Saves Christmas.” Stick with the early versions. 

“Snow Miser/Heat Miser”
The Year Without a Santa Claus
Ba Dump-Bump-Bump….Baaaaaaaaa-Dump… this may be the most powerful earworm unleashed by any Christmas show ever. I’m slightly partial to the slower tempo of Heat Miser’s version, but whether you prefer it hot or cold, it’s...too much. 

“Linus and Lucy”
A Charlie Brown Christmas
Next to Linus’s recitation of Luke 2: 8-14, this now iconic jazzy instrumental by the Vince Guaraldi Trio was the highlight of A Charlie Brown Christmas. It’s more associated now with Peanuts than Christmas, but you can’t help but smile when you hear it. 

“You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch”
How the Grinch Stole Christmas
It’s not exactly hummable, but the wordplay of Dr. Seuss and the deep-toned vocals of Thurl Ravenscroft came together to create something that is certainly unique among holiday tunes. “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch” also has a second classic TV connection as the music was composed by Albert Hague, Mr. Shorofsky on Fame

“Put One Foot in Front of the Other”
Santa Claus is Coming to Town
Is this a Christmas song? The lyrics make no reference to Christmas, Santa, snow, the Nativity or anything related to the holiday. But as it’s performed by Kris Kringle and the Winter Warlock in Santa Claus is Coming to Town, the connotation endures. I know a couple of people who felt inspired by the song’s message to make a positive change in their life, and any song that does that should be celebrated. 

“A Baby Just Like You”
John Denver & The Muppets: A Christmas Together
John Denver hosted five Christmas specials in the 1970s and ‘80s. Perhaps not in the same longevity class with Perry Como or Bing Crosby, but fans have fond memories of these shows, particularly the two featuring The Muppets. Denver debuted several original Christmas songs in these shows, all of which are worth hearing. He wrote “A Baby Just Like You,” with frequent collaborator Joe Henry.

“Yes Virginia, There is a Santa Claus”
Yes Virginia, There is a Santa Claus
This buoyant song played over the closing credits of the 1974 animated special of the same name, and is performed by Jimmy Osmond in a sprightly English dance hall style. It’s a bit on the cheesy side but the enthusiasm is infectious. 

“Even a Miracle Needs a Hand”
‘Twas the Night Before Christmas
It’s possible that more people now know this song, introduced by Joel Grey in a 1974 animated special, from an unlikely homage on South Park.  I’ll take the original. 

“I Believe in Santa Claus”
The Year Without a Santa Claus
I couldn’t decide between this one and the Heat Miser/Snow Miser songs from The Year Without a Santa Claus, and then I remembered it’s my blog and I can include them both. If you’re not careful, this tender ballad will bring on a tear or two. Maybe even one of those big water drop tears that you see on the Rankin-Bass stop-motion classics. 


  1. What a great list! I would add "Welcome Christmas"from 1966's How the Grinch Stole Christmas. I like to sing along to it--even if I don't know all the words and just imitate the sounds. "Fahoo foray, dahoo doray, welcome Christmas come this way..." When I sing it, I feel like one of the Whos embracing the holiday spirit.

  2. I've remembered the "Yes, Virginia" theme song since I first saw that special some 40 years ago. Jimmy Osmond sang it well. I was surprised to see Chuck McCann as a film editor, if this is the same person as the actor/writer. He played a film editor & secondary murder victim on Columbo once, but I didn't know he did that for real. I read from a Time magazine published back in the 60s that Virginia O'Hanlon, who was still living then, ended up earning a PhD and working in Upstate NY.