What makes a holiday song an enduring classic? One indicator is the number and diversity of artists who perform it. A prime example, “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” premiered in 1934 and has been covered by over 200 artists, including everyone from Frank Sinatra and The Beach Boys to The Jackson Five and Rod Stewart.
Perhaps the most famous rock version is Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band’s live performance from 1975, a seasonal favorite.
Some holiday songs gained their popularity through religious ritual; some, like “O Holy Night” and “I Saw Three Ships” were passed down from European tradition; and others, such as “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” came to us via that most American art, the Hollywood musical. The memory of watching holiday movies year after year fills those songs with meaning.
A dash of superstardom can make even an eclectic song a holiday standard, such as John Lennon’s “Happy Xmas.” Released on December 1, 1971, the first Christmas song from a former Beatle also had one of the other keys to success — a choir of small children.
The main ingredient in any holiday classic is emotion — whether it’s wistful longing or outright joy. Often a powerful message of peace and love gives a holiday song that timeless feeling. Of course, a great melody helps!
Don’t miss this year’s holiday classics at Holiday on the Cape! Some performances are close to selling out, so get tickets for this weekend as soon as possible. Visit capesymphony.org or call 508.362.1111.