"Christmas Pipes" - A Half-Century of Top Female Christmas Recordings
By Red Dirt Kelly on December 15, 2011
When my mind drifts to Christmas music, I'll frequently hear Bing Crosby crooning, Nat King Cole smoothly balladeering, or perhaps Mark Lowrey's "Mary Did You Know."
But when I focus my thoughts on what female artists have contributed to the Christmas recording repertoire this past half-century, I'm truly amazed.
I've decided to open up a discussion about the most influential, powerful or classic female Christmas recordings. Below are my selections of true difference makers in the Christmas recording world. There are sixteen in all.
I've started with the ones I feel are relevant, but as you near the end of the list you'll find the ones I feel "win" in incredibly amazing ways.
I'd love to hear your own opinions as well, so please feel free to keep the discussion going as we near our Christmas Holiday. All the best, Red Dirt Kelly
Noted by some as "the best voice in the world," Sissel sings an arrangement of "In the Bleak MidWinter." She's backed up by the Mormon Tabernacle choir. Her simplicity is where her power lies.
At a time when it was extremely rare to see African American women highlighted on T.V., Mahalia Jackson's 1961 performance of "Sweet Little Jesus Boy" is indeed music to my ears. I wish the quality was better, but at the same time, perhaps it helps us realize that we're traveling back in time to be at her side as we listen.
Noted for her unusually creative videos and simple, sweet voice, Regina Spektor's "Because its Christmas" is trendy and pure. Very nice work.
The Andrews Sisters keep plugging through "Jing Jing-a-Ling" at a highly rapid pace. They manage to continue their smooth harmonies to the end and have an incredible amount of fun to boot.
The Christmas setting for Whitney Houston's performance of "I Love the Lord" in "The Preacher's Wife" send shivers up my spine. Wait for it...the end is amazing.
There are hundreds of incredible recordings out there when it comes to finding a good, "Silent Night." I've chosen Stevie Nicks' arrangement, however, because there's quite a story behind it. She approaches the song with her unique vocals in her own way, but also smoothly and capably. Start the video at 1:30 if you'd like to skip the interviews.
Okay, we're kicking into the power-group. First up is Jennifer Hudson and her family singing "O Come, All Ye Faithful" from her "Gospel Christmas Finito." The video is an excerpt from her 2009 Christmas Show. Watch as much or as little as you'd like.
Next up, a classic's classic. A beautiful moment in Americana as Judy Garland sings, "Have Yourself a Merry little Christmas." (The embedding is disallowed, so I encourage you to click on this link, sit back, and smile.)
Are you smiling yet? I hope so. If not, perhaps this will help. Our last mid-century selection, this is Patty Page and her "Boogie Woogie Santa Claus."
Well, we've now reached the top of the top. First up? Mariah Carey singing "All I Want for Christmas is You." 'Nuff sed.
And, speaking of powerful voices and powerful performances, how about Christina Aguilera's "Merry Christmas Baby?"
Just five left! Who are they? Well, first up is Carrie Underwood's understated and controlled, "The First Noel." A very well done Noel.
Recorded when she was just 17, this is one of Alicia Keys' Christmas favorites, and after hearing you'll understand why. This particular selection is from 2009 in the Rockefeller Center. Here's Alicia singing "The Little Drummer 'Girl.'"
Next is the amazing Aretha Franklin singing "Joy to the World." This song just knocks my socks off.
Highly sentimental to me, our next selection is historically special: Natalie Cole's remake of her father's renowned "Christmas Song." She does her daddy proud.
Well, we're at the end. I've selected THAT most powerful female Christmas recording of the last half-century. You might have guessed that it is "O Holy Night." But WHOSE did I choose?
This was the toughest choice of this post. Carrie Underwood, Aretha, Alicia...there are so many. But none of them can hit as many octaves as Mariah Carey. Her arrangement builds and builds and builds. It made me cry, and I hope it will give you a huge dose of joy. Enjoy!
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