Tuesday, December 18, 2012

25 Days of Holiday Music: Day 18

Are you ready for a mistletoe-y Christmas? Mistletoe has long been part of our winter holiday traditions. Well, for decorative or charm purposes, mistletoe has deep historical roots, but the kissing thing is probably a little more recent. Speaking of its decorative aspect, I'll wager that most folks have seen more plastic mistletoe than the real variety. Anyway, if you want some historical and mythological background on the parasite known as mistletoe (yes, it's a parasite), you could do worse than the Smithsonian Magazine particle, Mistletoe: The Evolution of a Christmas Tradition. And if you really want to get into the biology of this plant, I suggest you scroll down to the Biology of Mistletoe section in the APSnet feature, What Does Mistletoe Have To Do With Christmas? But if you want to hear some mistletunes, (but not that musical mistletoe) stay right here because you're in the right place.

Probably the best-known mistletoe song is also just about the most popular. "A Holly Jolly Christmas" was written by Johnny Marks (1909-1985), an American songwriter who specialized in Christmas music. "A Holly Jolly Christmas" was first recorded by the Quinto Sisters, but it was the Burl Ives recording on his 1965 album, Have a Holly Jolly Christmas, that is the best known version. Of course, its inclusion in the 1964 NBC/Rankin-Bass TV special, Rudolph, The Red-Nosed Reindeer, probably helped its popularity.

Frank Sinatra recorded one of my favorite mistletunes, "Mistletoe & Holly," on A Jolly Christmas from Frank Sinatra (1957), his first full-length Christmas album. The album was released in September 1957. Later that same year, on December 20, 1957, Sinatra sang the tune live on television for a special holiday episode of "The Frank Sinatra Show" (sponsored by Bulova Watches and Chesterfield Cigarettes). The episode was filmed in color but aired in black & white. The video I originally embedded is no longer available because it "contains content from UMG, who has blocked it in your country on copyright grounds." So, as an alternative, I found a video of Sinatra singing the same song from Happy Holidays With Bing & Frank.

It may seem sacrilege to Sinatra fans, but I feel inclined to mention a modern yet sombre version of "Mistletoe & Holly" by Sixpence None the Richer's Leigh Nash. You can find it on Sounds of the Season: The NBC Holiday Collection (2003).

In 2007, singer-songwriter Colbie Caillat released a wonderfully downbeat tune called "Mistletoe" that she wrote with her friend Stacy Blue. Released as a digital download on iTunes, "Mistletoe" was, apparently, the most downloaded holiday song of 2007.

Finally, I'll wrap up Day 18 with a fun song and dance number, "Turkey Lurkey Time." Why is it included in this set of mistletunes? Because it mentions a “snowy, blowy Christmas, a mistletoe-y Christmas.” The song is from an office Christmas party scene in Act 1 of Promises, Promises, a musical by Burt Bacharach and Hal David. Michael Bennett choreographed the song for the 1968 Broadway production. I think this video is a 1969 performance of the original choreography (but I'm not certain). I am certain that I've never seen an office holiday party quite like this one!

If you like my music posts, and feel so inclined, please +K my influence in Music on @klout. And, please, do check out the other entries in my 25 Days of Holiday Music series!

Updates 12/18/2020: New videos embedded for "Mistletoe & Holly" and "Turkey Lurkey Time" as the previous ones were removed from YouTube.  

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