December is here and seasonal music fills the air with almost disconcerting ubiquity. So, with songwriters happily napping with visions of royalty checks dancing in their heads, last week performing rights organization ASCAP (The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers) announced its Top 25 most-performed Holiday songs for the first five years of the 21st Century. Recorded over and over, decade by decade, these Christmas/winter holiday favorites continue to appeal to young and old alike and pay the bills for many a songwriter.
The great songwriter Johnny Marks leads this list with three tunes — "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer," "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree," and "A Holly Jolly Christmas." They all sound pretty great to me.
Working the songwriting crowd, Marilyn Bergman, ASCAP President and Chairman of the Board said, "More than anything else, music sets the mood for the Holidays, evoking the magic of the season and memories of Holidays past. These timeless classics have been recorded by artists in every genre, yet each song retains the original stamp of its creators."
Here's the list with some random commentary from me (song title, songwriters):
1. "The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire)" - Mel Tormé,
The most performed ASCAP Holiday Song of the 21st Century is "The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire)" written by Robert Wells and the singing great, Mel Tormé. The song, written when Tormé was 19 and Wells was 22, became a seasonal classic with the release of Nat "King" Cole's 1946 recording. Cole's version remains the most popular on radio today. Other popular recordings include versions by Celine Dion, Luther Vandross and Natalie Cole.
2. "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town" - Fred Coots, Haven Gillespie
Bruce Springsteen's version — based upon Spector's '63 arrangement for the Crystals — was recorded in 1975 when Springsteen was still young and hungry and just coming into his own as a real rock star. I love the playful banter with the band and the audience, the ebulience of the performance, and the jazzed satisfaction in Springsteen's voice that he finally had the attention of the world. That and Clarence's jolly "ho ho ho's."