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Thread: 1940s/early 1950s Christmas songs: what makes them so popular even to this day?

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    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    1940s/early 1950s Christmas songs: what makes them so popular even to this day?

    I'm wondering just what is it about Christmas songs from the 1940s and 1950s that make them so popular 50 to 60 years after they were first written and performed. The only Christmas songs I seem to hear in most public places that date after the mid-1950s are novelty songs; otherwise, it's just the crooners singing the classics. Is is nostalgia for innocent 1950s Christmases with shopping for gifts downtown, the perception of heavier snowfalls, natural trees and pre-suburban Bedford Falls-like towns? Is there something about the crooning style that makes it more naturally suited to Christmas songs than rock, rap modern adult contemporary, acoustic singer-songwriter and other modern styles? Have we forgotten how to write and perform good Christmas songs?

    FWIW, I've been listening to the Hanukkah station on Sirius on and off the past few days, and there's a much greater variety of performance styles for Hanukkah songs than what I'm hearing for Christmas tunes. None in the Christmas crooner style, though.
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    Cyburbian mgk920's avatar
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    I think that a lot of it has to do with the simplicity of the songs and times of simpler choices in entertainment, decor, family presence, gifts and so forth.

    That and the fact that a lot of that stuff that came from the B/W movie and livingroom console radio days was just so darn GOOD - and it all had to stand on its own without any help from any fancy touches like wild visual effects and audio mixing - it HAD to be GOOD.

    Mike

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    Cyburbian Veloise's avatar
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    Check the copyright regs. Many of the ancients are in public domain, so radio stations and malls don't have to content with ASCAP and the like. And the traditional carols can have a copyrighted arrangement, but not the tune.

    I can't think of anything written since I was a kid that would be a "good" Christmas song. Peanuts and the Chipmunks were around back then (dirt had yet to be invented).

    Brave Combo's edition of "Must Be Santa" is a classic. Just googled up its copyright date: 1959.

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    Cyburbian Emeritus Bear Up North's avatar
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    Of course, being a kid from the late 1940s and early 1950s, those classics stick well with this Bear. However, there is something kinda cool about the following video, too.....

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=szLmAPW39uE

    Bear
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    Cyburbian WSU MUP Student's avatar
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    Slightly related...

    I like in the Nick Hornby book that the main character doesn't really have a job... he just lives off of the residuals from a Christmas song that his dad wrote back in the 1960's.
    "Where free unions and collective bargaining are forbidden, freedom is lost." - 1980 Republican presidential candidate Ronald Reagan

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    Cyburbian illinoisplanner's avatar
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    I think it's because Christmas is a time of tradition, so thus the older and more authentic, the better. Only a few things seem to latch on these days.

    There seemed to be a lot of stuff that came out in the 80s/early 90s that I still hear a lot of. And a few artists, such as Amy Grant, Kenny G, and Harry Connick Jr., cashed in big. It even became a tradition that if you were a pop artist, you had to make a Christmas album (or at least a single), but that has fallen out of favor since the mid 90s. Granted, not all of the modern stuff is good. But some of it's OK. I consider Mariah Carey's "All I Want for Chrismas is You" a modern classic.

    But still, nothing compares to Bing Crosby's "White Christmas", the Peanuts' "Christmas Time is Here", Brenda Lee's "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree" and the oft-covered "Baby It's Cold Outside". They've been played so often every year, that it simply becomes something we can't do without during the holiday season. They also become part of movies and TV and engrossed in our pop culture. And the songs are just short, simple, catchy, and really really good and evoke many thoughts of what the Christmas season is all about for many of us.
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    Cyburbian H's avatar
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    my answer to your questions is: yes
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    Cyburbian WSU MUP Student's avatar
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    I think that because many of the Christmas songs from that era are so easy to sing along with really helps them stand the test of time. Look at "Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer.' Sure, it's cheesy and it's definitely not from the 1940s or 1950s but it's fun and easy to sing along with and it seems to have endured a bit better than other songs from the 1980s and forward.

    Also, hearing certain songs repeated so often over such a condensed period of time probably helps them remain popular as well.

    I want to cast a vote now for a recent Christmas song that I think should stick around for a while (at least, I think it's a newer one - I haven't heard it before):

    "Where free unions and collective bargaining are forbidden, freedom is lost." - 1980 Republican presidential candidate Ronald Reagan

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    Cyburbian Veloise's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by WSU MUP Student View post
    ...I want to cast a vote now for a recent Christmas song that I think should stick around for a while (at least, I think it's a newer one - I haven't heard it before):
    It's almost as old as moi!
    http://www.cyburbia.org/forums/showp...74&postcount=3



    V WSU, great minds. It's a good song, and when sung in a group, everyone chimes in on "beard that's white!"
    Last edited by Veloise; 23 Dec 2009 at 9:39 AM.

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    Cyburbian WSU MUP Student's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Veloise View post
    I guess I should have read your ENTIRE post above.
    "Where free unions and collective bargaining are forbidden, freedom is lost." - 1980 Republican presidential candidate Ronald Reagan

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    Chairman of the bored Maister's avatar
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    I suspect the popularity of 1940s era Christmas music is largely owing to the fact that Christmas is a holiday strongly associated with nostalgia. We're at the stage now where there is diminishing actual memory of 1940's music when it was popular and are now nostalgiac about nostalgia (i.e. we're operating on the plane of building on the myth of how wonderful and idyllic the past was), if you know what I mean.


    EDIT: it also can't be merely coincidence that that time frame coincides with many baby-boomers childhoods
    Last edited by Maister; 27 Nov 2012 at 11:04 AM.
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    Super Moderator luckless pedestrian's avatar
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    Actually they can be incredibly sad - I can't listen to "I'll be Home for Christmas" because it was written by/about a soldier in WWII that didn't come home...

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    Cyburbian TerraSapient's avatar
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    I was just talking about this over the weekend with MW.

    We were amazed at how many Christmas songs were recorded in the 40s/50s compared to any other decade. We mutually decided we aren't particularly fond of them.

    Charlie Brown Christmas is superior in every way. Take that Dean Martin and Bing Crosby. Take that.
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    OH....IO Hink's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Maister View post
    I suspect the popularity of 1940s era Christmas music is largely owing to the fact that Christmas is a holiday strongly associated with nostalgia. We're at the stage now where there is diminishing actual memory of 1940's music when it was popular and are now nostalgiac about nostalgia (i.e. we're operating on the plane of building on the myth of how wonderful and idyllic the past was), if you know what I mean.


    EDIT: it also can't be merely coincidence that that time frame coincides with many baby-boomers childhoods
    I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that we don't have crooners anymore. Michael Buble has made a fortune off of singing Christmas songs... same with Josh Groban. We just happen to not have as many talented singers anymore. We have "bands" that redo the songs, or "singers" that use tricks to make the songs sound good.

    Frank Sinatra just sang. He didn't need tricks or background junk. He just sang and he was damn good at it. Bing Crosby was the same way. Other than Buble and Groban, I can't think of a more contemporary singer that holds that kind of weight.
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    Cyburbian otterpop's avatar
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    The oldies harken back to the innocent times of Christmas. More sentimental. More magical.

    "The Christmas Song" by Nat King Cole. It just doesn't get better than that, IMO.

    "Holly, Jolly Christmas," by Burl Ives is another good one. Gene Autry's "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer" is a good one.

    Bing sang some good ones, but when I hear him sing, I can't get out of my mind that his kids said he was abusive.

    A Christmas tradtion for me of more recent vintage is Bon Dylan's "Must Be Santa". The video is great. Oddly, on his Christmas album, Dylan's only decent song is "Must Be Santa." The rest are mediocre, as best. Once again, IMO.
    "I am very good at reading women, but I get into trouble for using the Braille method."

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    Chairman of the bored Maister's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Hink View post
    I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that we don't have crooners anymore.
    True, we have far fewer musicians who make their living with a 'crooning' style these days, but that's more of matter of consumer choice than talent levels. The lack of crooners is about musical fashions: we've been there, done that, and pretty much got our fill of it 60 years ago. The late 'trololo guy' may have been amusing to see/hear on youtube for a laugh but most wouldn't want to actually listen to an entire album of that kinda thing. About the only time we go there these days is when we're in the mood for a bit of treacle...which is conveniently only around Christmas.
    People will miss that it once meant something to be Southern or Midwestern. It doesn't mean much now, except for the climate. The question, “Where are you from?” doesn't lead to anything odd or interesting. They live somewhere near a Gap store, and what else do you need to know? - Garrison Keillor

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    OH....IO Hink's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Maister View post
    True, we have far fewer musicians who make their living with a 'crooning' style these days, but that's more of matter of consumer choice than talent levels. The lack of crooners is about musical fashions: we've been there, done that, and pretty much got our fill of it 60 years ago. The late 'trololo guy' may have been amusing to see/hear on youtube for a laugh but most wouldn't want to actually listen to an entire album of that kinda thing. About the only time we go there these days is when we're in the mood for a bit of treacle...which is conveniently only around Christmas.
    And yet very few Christmas songs have been written in 50 years. I would say Mariah Carey's Christmas song is the most popular in the last 30 years...
    A common mistake people make when trying to design something completely foolproof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools. -Douglas Adams

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    Chairman of the bored Maister's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Dan View post
    FWIW, I've been listening to the Hanukkah station on Sirius on and off the past few days, and there's a much greater variety of performance styles for Hanukkah songs than what I'm hearing for Christmas tunes. None in the Christmas crooner style, though.
    Not only do these folks agree with you, but they take it a step further and rub our gentile noses in it!

    http://oytotheworld.com/
    People will miss that it once meant something to be Southern or Midwestern. It doesn't mean much now, except for the climate. The question, “Where are you from?” doesn't lead to anything odd or interesting. They live somewhere near a Gap store, and what else do you need to know? - Garrison Keillor

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    Cyburbian Linda_D's avatar
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    Popular music in the 1940s and 1950s was pretty much a single genre: crooners backed by orchestras with bland, unoffensive lyrics. It was an era of conformity and of a glorification of an idealized "America" that didn't exist, a response to WW II, the Korean War, and the Cold War.

    The conformity and supposed unity in America was shattered by the Civil Rights movement, by the rise of the youth culture, and the Vietnam War in the late 1950s and 1960s. Over the last half century, the music scene has splintered into a multitude of genres as people have followed their own tastes. Many followers of one genre frequently have no idea about the music in other genres. I'm a big fan of country music and bluegrass. I am largely clueless about rock or hip hop. I can name several Christmas "standards" from country/bluegrass that fans of other genres have probably never heard of. I'm sure it's the same way with fans of other kinds of music.

    Those Christmas songs of the 1940s and 1950s are still popular because we hear them over and over again year after year. They're covered by current artists in different genres, too. The same with Christmas carols, The Nutcracker and Handel's Messiah. About the only Christmas songs that "cross over" genres nowadays are the novelty songs.
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