Starting shortly after my birth, my parents purchased Christmas albums for $1 from an unlikely place, tire stores.
(That’s as seemingly outmoded as getting, for instance, glasses every time you filled up at your favorite gas station, back in the days when gas stations were usually part of a car repair place, not a convenience store. Of course, go to a convenience store now, and you can probably find CDs, if not records, and at least plastic glasses such as Red Solo Cups and silverware. Progress, or something.)
The albums featured contemporary artists from the ’60s, plus opera singers and other artists.
These albums were played on my parents’ wall-length Magnavox hi-fi player.
Playing these albums was as annual a ritual as watching “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas,” “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” or other holiday-season appointment TV.
Those albums began my, and then our, collection of Christmas music.
You may think some of these singers are unusual choices to sing Christmas music. (This list includes at least six Jewish singers.)
Of course, Christians know that Jesus Christ was Jewish. (And faithful to his faith.)
And I defy any reader to find anyone who can sing “Silent Night” like Barbra Streisand did in the ’60s.
These albums are available for purchase online, but record players are now as outmoded as, well, getting glasses with your fill-up at the gas station. (Though note what I previously wrote.)
But thanks to YouTube and other digital technology, other aficionados of this era of Christmas music now can have their music preserved for their current and future enjoyment.
The tire-store-Christmas-album list has been augmented by both earlier and later works.
In the same way I think no one can sing “Silent Night” like Barbra Streisand, I think no one can sing “Do You Hear What I Hear” (a song written during the Cuban Missile Crisis, believe it or not) like Whitney Houston:
This list contains another irony — an entry from “A Christmas Gift for You,” Phil Spector’s Christmas album. (Spector’s birthday is Christmas.)
The album should have been a bazillion-seller, and perhaps would have been had it not been for the date of its initial release: Nov. 22, 1963.
Finally, here’s the last iteration of one of the coolest TV traditions — “The Late Show with David Letterman” and its annual appearance of Darlene Love (from the aforementioned Phil Spector album), which started in 1986 on NBC …
… and ended on CBS:
Merry Christmas. (To play this whole thing as a YouTube playlist, click here.)