The Music of Christmas – Day 23: “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”

It’s a theme of three today.  The selections here are all versions of a Christmas classic. It’s amazing how this song can differ in mood simply by changing the tempo and the arrangement. I had a hard time picking which mood I’d showcase first, but since this is 2020, I went with a melancholy feeling first.

“Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”

By Kenny Loggins

This version starts with a piano melody, but what I really like is when the guitar starts about thirty seconds in, and then the harmonic enters. To me, a slow harmonica just captures the feeling of wistfulness and pining for something, and it can also make you feel lonely as you search for something. It can make you remember things from your past, possibly things you can’t see anymore.

The soundscape is just full of that melancholy feeling. Kenny’s vocals have an earnestness to them, like he’s waiting for the day when he can see his loved ones again.  Not to get too real world here, but if that doesn’t fit the mood of everything right now, I don’t know what does.

But it ends with a feeling of hope. The harmonica tune returns at the end but the final notes are a major chord, leaving you with hope that things will be better.

By Shawn Colvin

This version, though, is nearly the complete opposite. It starts off slow, but then gets jazzy at the first verse. It’s a simple arrangement but the faster tempo and syncopation keep the mood light and airy and much more jovial.

The second bridge has light drums enter ever-so-quietly, as it’s still an acoustic piece, but with the key change comes the final flourish, almost a gospel jazz organ feel from a revival festival.  It ends feeling much more hopeful than Kenny’s version.

By James Taylor

This version is in the middle — not as peppy as Shawn’s but not as melancholy as Kenny’s. It’s James Taylor being his best James Taylor on the song. It’s middle of the road but still a solid rendition. I like this because it uses some of the older lyrics but still references the more modern words. It’s a nice blend of guitar, keyboard, and drums to give a quiet viewpoint on the world.

Put together, this is a chameleon of a song, able to create distinct different moods, but all of them ending with hope that we will all be together once again in the future. And that’s the hope we need right now.

Stay hopeful.