10 Christmas Tunes From 10 Different Genres
Here’s a list of 10 Christmas tunes from 10 different genres, guaranteed to set you up for an eclectic and eccentric Yule:
• Hip-hop: When rap icon DMX visited a NYC radio station, the DJ asked him to spin “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.” DMX did better. He put his own spin on the classic holiday number, and the video went viral.
• Gypsy Jazz: Nashville’s Gypsy Hombres are one of the leading proponents of the American gypsy jazz subculture. In 2002 they released their brilliant reinterpretations of such Christmas classics as “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town,” “Whose Child Is This,” “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” and, best of all, their “Jingle Bells” variation “Django Bells” – also the title track of the album featuring these gems. Get a preview at their CD Baby page.
• Polka: The Chipmunks’ “Christmas Don’t Be Late” is awesome enough, but imagine it as a polka. Now stop imagining and play Eric Noltkamper's performance.
• Bluegrass: Gibson Les Paul legend Charlie Daniels is also a sentimental feller under that broad brimmed cowboy hat, who apparently thinks the deep roots of bluegrass go well with the deep emotions of Christmas. His performance of “Joy To The World” sounds more southern drawl than North Pole, and features a blazing performance on mandolin.
• Reggae: It never snows in Jamaica, but holiday sentiments abound — even when they’re unsentimental. Case in point: “Santa Claus Never Comes To The Ghetto” by the dancehall reggae great Yellowman. There are a lot of reggae versions of Christmas songs, including Bob Marley and the Wailer’s lovely doo-wop based version of “White Christmas,” but Yellowman pleads the case when he sings, “Santa Claus, you should understand/Why the children need a helping hand.”
• Metal: Plenty of metal bands have tackled Christmas classics, but foundational New Wave of Euro Metal pack leader King Diamond gets cred for his original and in-yer-face scalder “No Presents for Christmas.” It’s an exercise in holiday brutality that makes Lemmy’s “Run Rudolph Run” seems like the work of a Vienna girls’ choir.
• Psychedelia: Since Christmas is a time when traditions are celebrated, why not go with the king of psychdelic guitar? Jimi Hendrix’s troika of “Silent Night,” “Little Drummer Boy” and “Auld Lang Syne” is timeless, from the first wobble of the whammy to the last sting of feedback.
• Gospel: Yes, there’s plenty of gospel music that fits right into the Christmas spirit, but the Staple Singers’ own “Who Took the Merry Out of Christmas” gives a shout-out to J.C.’s mom and thrives on a full-on church-ified arrangement. It’s more traditional than their Stax hits, but way wilder than Mahalia Jackson.
• Funk: Get the holiday off on the good foot with James Brown’s “Soulful Christmas,” a primal funk classic from 1968 that brings Santa Claus home on the one.
• Jazz: Plenty of jazz artists have cut Christmas albums, but none have equaled the blithe spirits packed into the three minutes of Louis Armstrong’s “Zat You, Santa Claus.” The big band plays sweet, Armstrong sings piquant and the lyrics abound with the playful anticipation of the holiday morning. Consider this a jazz “Twas the Night Before Christmas.”