Monday, December 17, 2012

Merry Xmas from Miles Davis and Bob Dorough

If my favorite Christmas song is Darlene Love's Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)and it is – then my second favorite is probably Blue Xmas (To Whom It May Concern), by Miles Davis and Bob Dorough. It's been described elsewhere as "a Christmas song for those who hate Christmas," but I can't agree with that description. I think it merely captures the holiday from another and no less legitimate perspective. Lord knows it voices some very real concerns:

Merry Christmas
I hope you have a white one, but for me it's blue,
Blue Christmas, that's the way you see it when you're feeling blue
Blue Xmas, when you're blue at Christmastime
you see right through,
All the waste, all the sham, all the haste
and plain old bad taste

Sidewalk Santy Clauses are much, much, much too thin
They're wearing fancy rented costumes, false beards and big fat phony grins
And nearly everybody's standing round holding out their empty hand or tin cup
Gimme gimme gimme gimme, gimme gimme gimme
Fill my stocking up
All the way up
It's a time when the greedy give a dime to the needy
Blue Christmas, all the paper, tinsel and the fal-de-ral
Blue Xmas, people trading gifts that matter not at all
What I call
Bitter gall.......Fal-de-ral

Lots of hungry, homeless children in your own backyards
While you're very, very busy addressing
Twenty zillion Christmas cards
Now, Yuletide is the season to receive and oh, to give and ahh, to share
But all you December do-gooders rush around and rant and rave and loudly blare
Merry Christmas

I hope yours is a bright one, but for me it bleeds.
Dorough wrote the song in 1962 at Davis' request. It seems Davis was under some pressure from his record label to contribute a Christmas tune to a compilation album it was putting together called Jingle Bell Jazz. Davis, unsure of what to contribute, is said to have remarked to Dorough, "What the f*** am I supposed to play for them? White Christmas?" Dorough solved the problem by writing this downbeat number, which, while rarely played on mainstream radio today, is quintissential Miles Davis. Mitchell Kezin's upcoming film Jingle Bell Rocks features an interview with Dorough, who's still very active today at the age of 89. Younger folks will probably recognize Dorough's voice from the old Schoolhouse Rock series, as he contributed a sizeable number of songs during his tenure with the the show from 1973-85.

Tomorrow:  Three more tracks from Here Comes Santa Claus, including one from the great Johnny "Bowtie" Barstow.

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