Merry Christmas from the Family

The Stafford Christmas gathering in Fort Smith, Ark., December 2021

We’ve spent hours (and hours) listening to Christmas music since October, mainly because my wife keeps the radio on her car tuned to a local station that plays nothing but holiday tunes for two full months.

So, that means I’ve had the opportunity to hear plenty of Christmas songs that I love, as well as many that are total clunkers. But they still get airtime.

Here are a few of what I would call secular Christmas songs that are in heavy rotation, as they say in the biz, and what I love or hate about them.:

Happy Xmas (War is Over)

This is a total non-religious ode from John and Yoko to the hope that Christmas and the New Year bring the world. It’s become a favorite of mine over the years. I love the youthful voices in the choir. It’s played over and over throughout the season.


So this is Christmas and what have you done?
Another year over, a new one just begun.

And so this is Christmas,
I hope you have fun,
The near and the dear one
The old and the young

A very merry Christmas
And a happy new year,
Let’s hope it’s a good one
Without any fear

Little Saint Nick

Might as well tackle one that makes me cringe whenever I hear it. I don’t object to the first line as does my friend, Dan, but it’s like the Beach Boys brought surfer music to Christmas with this cringeworthy song. Yuck.


Christmas comes this time each year
Ooh, ooh

Well way up North where the air gets cold
There’s a tale about Christmas
That you’ve all been told
And a real famous cat all dressed up in red
And he spends the whole year workin’ out on his sled

It’s the little Saint Nick (little Saint Nick)
It’s the little Saint Nick (little Saint Nick)…

Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer

Yes, this is a total novelty song, but it cracks me up every time I hear it. Was it really Santa and his reindeer that whacked Grandma? Or perhaps Grandpa had a hand in the “accident?”


Grandma got run over by a reindeer
Walking home from our house Christmas eve
You can say there’s no such thing as Santa
But as for me and grandpa we believe…

Now we’re all so proud of grandpa
He’s been taking this so well
See him in there watching football
Drinking beer and playing cards with cousin Mel…

Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow! (Dean Martin version)

This song brings images of Christmas cold and snow and being close to the one you love. Dean Martin brings a sort of smugness to the delivery of Let It Snow that appeals to me for some reason. Also, are there some comparisons to this song with “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” another (slightly more controversial) song that Dean Martin sang as well?


Oh, the weather outside is frightful
But the fire is so delightful
Since we’ve no place to go
Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow

It doesn’t show signs of stopping
And I brought some corn for popping
The lights are turned down low
Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow

When we finally kiss goodnight
How I’ll hate going out in the storm
But if you’ll really hold me tight
All the way home I’ll be warm…

Baby It’s Cold Outside

I simply must go
Baby it’s cold outside
The answer is no
Baby it’s cold outside
The welcome has been
How lucky that you dropped in
So nice and warm
Look out the window at the storm
My sister will be suspicious
Gosh your lips look delicious…

You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch

Another novelty song that dates back to the ’60s, but I’m fascinated by the incredible number of insults the song makes to the foul Mr. Grinch. It’s in the regular rotation of the local Christmas music station.


You’re a mean one
You really are a heel
You’re as cuddly as a cactus
You’re as charming as an eel
Mr. Grinch, you’re a bad banana
Mr. Grinch, with the greasy black peel

You’re a vile one
You got termites in your smile
You have all the tender sweetness
Of a seasick crocodile…

Wonderful Christmastime

This is a huge departure from, say, Helter Skelter or Back in the USSR, for Paul McCartney. But his music has grown lighter and more sentimental since his Beatles days. This song is way overplayed on the local Christmas music station.

Wonderful Christmastime
The moon is right
The spirits up
We’re here tonight
And that’s enough
Simply havin’ a wonderful Christmastime
Simply havin’ a wonderful Christmastime

The party’s on
The feelin’s here
That only comes
This time of year
Simply havin’ a wonderful Christmastime
Simply havin’ a wonderful Christmastime…

I could go on and on about the dozens of secular Christmas songs that we hear all the time or have heard over the years. The Chipmunk Song, anyone? But I’ll end this with a few lines from a favorite of mine from Robert Earl Keen, because everyone has a big, messy family gathering over the Christmas holiday, right? (Disclaimer: alcohol plays no role in our family gatherings)

Merry Christmas from the Family

Mom got drunk and Dad got drunk
At our Christmas party
We were drinking champagne punch
And homemade egg-nog

Little sister brought her new boyfriend
He was a Mexican
We didn’t know what to think of him
‘Til he sang “Feliz Navidad, Feliz Navidad…

Fred and Rita drove from Harlingen
I can’t remember how I’m kin to them
But when they tried to plug their motor home in
They blew our Christmas lights

Cousin David knew just what went wrong
So we all waited out on our front lawn
He threw the breaker and the lights came on
And we sang “Silent Night, oh Silent Night”…

Merry Christmas from our family to yours.

A playlist to take you back in time

Album covers

On my way to the dentist one day a few years ago, the song “American Woman” came on the radio. It was followed by Paul McCartney’s “Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey,” and then “A Horse With No Name,” by America.

A wave of nostalgia hit me so hard I almost had to pull over.

I was no longer in my car in the 2010s.  I was a teenager in 1971 sitting in a 1965 Pontiac Catalina (look it up) in Fort Smith, Ark.

This was almost a song-for-song playlist of the music I was listening to in the early ’70s just as I was completing high school. If there were such things as playlists back in 1971.

We had a new FM radio station in Fort Smith with the call letters KISR, which played Top 40 hits and was immensely popular among high school students. Its play list rotation was really small, so you heard the popular songs again and again.

Pontiac CatalinaI wouldn’t have had FM radio in my Pontiac — a hand-me-down from my dad — but that’s the memory that washed over me when I heard the music from a distant time.

Isn’t it amazing that hearing the opening riff to a single song — Neil Young’s “Ohio,” for instance — can instantly transport you back in time to exactly where you were at when you first heard the music?

Sitting in a car. Dragging Main Street. At the lake. Hanging out at someone’s house.

It puts you right there again. It’s almost like Deja Vu (all over again!).

Turns out, that there are studies on the subject of how music can take you back and rekindle vivid memories from decades ago. And how music creates waves of nostalgia that make you emotional for a time long gone.

It even occurs with more recent music and memories. Whenever I hear Phillip Phillips’ “Home,” I’m right back in Chesapeake Energy Arena waiting for KD, Russ, Serge and the rest of the Thunder to hit the court.

“Home’ was the pregame warmup music for an entire season back in the good ol’ days of the Thunder. How I miss it.

The music carries me back.

Paul McCartney knows just how OKC feels

When Kevin Durant told OKC two weeks ago “It’s not you, it’s me” and moved in with the Golden State Warriors, there was something familiar about the scenario. It was the type of relationship-gone-bad about which movies are made and songs are written. One person left stunned and hurt as their lover announces out of the blue that he or she is moving on to a new partner.

kd pixThen I was driving down the road Saturday when the Beatles’ “I’m Looking Through You” came on the radio. It hit me. Paul McCartney’s bitter lyrics about the partner who jilted him was a perfect description of how thousands of OKC fans felt watching @KDTrey35 being introduced as a Warrior. Well, it hit me that way, anyway.

Here is a sampling of the lyrics written 50 years ago. They perfectly describe the KD-OKC breakup:

I’m looking through you,
Where did you go?
I thought I knew you,
What did I know?
You don’t look different, but you have changed.
I’m looking through you, you’re not the same.

Your lips are moving,
I cannot hear.
Your voice is soothing,
But the words aren’t clear.
You don’t sound different,
I’ve learned the game.
I’m looking through you,
You’re not the same.

Why, tell me why, did you not treat me right?
Love has a nasty habit of disappearing overnight.

You’re thinking of me,
The same old way.
You were above me,
But not today.
The only difference is you’re down there.
I’m looking through you,
And you’re nowhere.

Why, tell me why did you not treat me right?
Love has a nasty habit of disappearing overnight.

I’m looking through you, 
Where did you go?
I thought I knew you,
What did I know?
You don’t look different,
But you have changed.
I’m looking through you,
You’re not the same!

Yep, KD. You don’t look different. But you have changed.