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Most rock bands have one primary singer. Though other members might contribute background vocals, harmonies, or an off-beat album track, it’s somewhat unusual to see different vocalists in the lead role, on a consistent basis.  There are some bands that consistently featured two lead singers (e.g. Cream – Bruce/Clapton, Simon and Garfunkel, Styx – DeYoung/Shaw, The Cars – Ocasek/Orr), but few who exceeded that.  Even more uncommon is to see a band have a string of hit songs, featuring different lead vocalists.  The bands listed below have done just that.

  1. Chicago (Robert Lamm – “Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?, Terry Kath – “Colour My World”, Peter Cetera – “25 or 6 to 4”)
  2. The Doobie Brothers (Tom Johnston – “China Grove”, Patrick Simmons – “Black Water”, Michael McDonald – “Takin’ It to the Streets”)
  3. Pink Floyd (Roger Waters – “Another Brick in the Wall”, David Gilmour – “Money”, Richard Wright – some lead vocals on “Time”, Syd Barrett – “Astronomy Domine”)
  4. The Monkees (Micky Dolenz- “Last Train to Clarksville”, Davy Jones – “Daydream Believer”, Michael Nesmith – “Listen to the Band”)
  5. Jefferson Airplane/Starship (Grace Slick – “White Rabbit”, Marty Balin – “Miracles”, Mickey Thomas – “Jane”) Founding member Paul Kantner also sang lead on many of the groups popular album cuts.
  6. The Mama’s and the Papa’s (Though they almost always sang as an ensemble, you can find some lead vocals, like John Phillips – “Creeque Alley”, Denny Doherty – “California Dreaming”, Michelle Phillips – “Dedicated to the One I Love”, Cass Elliot – “Dream a Little Dream of Me”)
  7. Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young (Stephen Stills – “Woodstock”, Graham Nash – “Our House”, David Crosby – “Wooden Ships”, Neil Young – “Helpless”)
  8. Fleetwood Mac (Stevie Nicks – “Dreams”, Christie McVie – “You Make Loving Fun”, Lindsey Buckingham – “Go Your Own Way”, Peter Green – “Black Magic Woman”)
  9. The Eagles (Don Henley – “Hotel California”, Glenn Frey – “Tequila Sunrise”, Randy Meisner – “Take It to the Limit”, Joe Walsh – “In the City”, Timothy B. Schmit – “I Can’t Tell You Why”)
  10. The Beatles (Paul McCartney – “Yesterday”, John Lennon – “All You Need is Love”, George Harrison – “Something”, Ringo Starr – “Yellow Submarine”)

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  1. Turn the Page (Bob Seger) – Metallica.  This remarkably straight up remake retains all the road weariness of the original, while replacing the iconic saxophone arrangement with a surprisingly effective guitar line.
  2. Sounds of Silence (Simon and Garfunkel) – Disturbed.  The mix of Paul Simon’s epic lyrics, a sweeping orchestral arrangement, and David Draiman’s powerful vocals makes for compelling musical theater.
  3. Smells Like Teen Spirit (Nirvana) – Tori Amos  Somehow Amos’ striped down, piano arrangement manages to build its own strange sort of tension.
  4. Solitary Man (Neil Diamond) – The Sidewinders  A slightly grittier, more muscular version of a Neil Diamond classic.
  5. Hurt (Nine Inch Nails) – Johnny Cash  Cash’s take on this Trent Reznor lamentation is as emotionally raw as anything you’ll ever hear on the radio.
  6. Sweet Jane (The Velvet Underground) – The Cowboy Junkies  The Junkies seem to transport the urban cool of this Lou Reed tune to a roadhouse somewhere in the Midwest.
  7. Bad Company (Bad Company) – Five Finger Death Punch  The ultra-cool original gets a dose of steroids from this Vegas hard-rock outfit.
  8. Higher Ground (Stevie Wonder) – Red Hot Chili Peppers  Though not a radical departure from the original, the Peppers still manage to leave their distinctive fingerprints on it.
  9. Little Wing (Jimi Hendrix) – Sting  The jazzy recasting of this Hendrix classic makes it almost unrecognizable when compared to the original.
  10. Careless Whisper (Wham) – Seether.  Even those of us who loathed the frothy pop of Wham can appreciate Seether’s roughed up arrangement of this chart topper.

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“The Sound Of Silence” – Simon & Garfunkel

 

“Fools” said I, “You do not know

Silence like a cancer grows

Hear my words that I might teach you

Take my arms that I might reach you”

But my words like silent raindrops fell

And echoed in the wells of silence

“Lyin’ Eyes” – The Eagles

 

I guess every form of refuge has its price

*

“This Is The Sea” – The Waterboys

 

These things you keep

You’d better throw them away

You wanna turn your back

On your soulless days

Once you were tethered

And now you are free

Once you were tethered

Well now you are free

That was the river

This is the sea!

*

“Round Here” – Counting Crows

 

Round here we talk just like lions

But we sacrifice like lambs

“Fire And Rain” – James Taylor

 

Won’t you look down upon me, Jesus,

You’ve got to help me make a stand.

You’ve just got to see me through another day.

My body’s aching and my time is at hand

and I won’t make it any other way.

*

“Ship of Fools” – World Party

 

Avarice and greed

Are gonna drive you over the endless sea

They will leave you drifting in the shallows

Drowning in the oceans of history

 *

“Closing Time” – Semisonic

 

Every new beginning comes from some other new beginning’s end

*

“Be Somebody” – Thousand Foot Krutch

 

We’re all see through, just like glass

And we can shatter just as fast

That light’s been burned out for a while,

I still see it every time I pass

It was lost in the corners of my mind,

Behind a box of reasons why

I never doubted it was there,

It just took a little time to find

*

“New York Minute” – Don Henley

 

He had a home

The love of a girl

But men get lost sometimes

As years unfurl

One day he crossed some line

And he was too much in this world

But I guess it doesn’t matter anymore

“Freewill” – Rush

 

If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice

 

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“That’s The Way I’ve Always Heard It Should Be” – Carly Simon

My friends from college they’re all married now;

They have their houses and their lawns.

They have their silent noons,

Tearful nights, angry dawns.

Their children hate them for the things they’re not;

They hate themselves for what they are-

And yet they drink, they laugh,

Close the wound, hide the scar.

*

“Slip Slidin’ Away”Paul Simon

I know a woman, (who) became a wife

These are the very words she uses to describe her life

She said a good day ain’t got no rain

She said a bad day is when I lie in the bed And I think of things that might have been

*

“At Seventeen” Janis Ian

To those of us who knew the pain

Of valentines that never came

And those whose names were never called

When choosing sides for basketball

It was long ago and far away

The world was younger than today

And dreams were all they gave for free

To ugly duckling girls like me

 

We all play the game and when we dare

We cheat ourselves at solitaire

Inventing lovers on the phone

Repenting other lives unknown

That call and say – Come dance with me

And murmur vague obscenities

At ugly girls like me, at seventeen

*

“Vincent”Don McLean

And when no hope was left in sight

On that starry, starry night

You took your life, as lovers often do

But I could’ve told you Vincent

This world was never meant for One as beautiful as you

*

“I Can’t Make You Love Me” Bonnie Raitt

I’ll close my eyes ‘Cause then I won’t see

The love you don’t feel When you’re home with me

Morning will come And I’ll do what’s right

Just give me till then To give up this fight

And I will give up this fight

‘Cause I can’t make you love me if you don’t

You can’t make your heart feel Somethin’ that it won’t

And here in the dark, in these final hours

I will lay down my heart I’ll feel the power,

but you won’t

No you won’t

‘Cause I can’t make you love me

When you don’t

*

“Two Black Cadillacs”Carrie Underwood

Two months ago his wife called the number on his phone

Turns out he’d been lying to both of them for oh so long

They decided then he’d never get away with doing this to them

Two black Cadillacs waiting for the right time, right time

 

And the preacher said he was a good man

And his brother said he was a good friend

But the women in the two black veils didn’t bother to cry (Bye bye, Bye bye)

Yeah they took turns laying a rose down

Threw a handful of dirt into the deep ground

He’s not the only one who had a secret to hide (Bye bye, bye bye, bye bye)

It was the first and the last time they saw each other face to face

They shared a crimson smile and just walked away

And left the secret at the grave
*

“Hungry Heart”Bruce Springsteen

Got a wife and kids in Baltimore, Jack

I went out for a ride and I never went back

Like a river that don’t know where it’s flowing

I took a wrong turn and I just kept going

*

“Lyin’ Eyes”The Eagles

She gets up and pours herself a strong one

And stares out at the stars up in the sky

Another night, it’s gonna be a long one

She draws the shade and hangs her head to cry

 

She wonders how it ever got this crazy

She thinks about a boy she knew in school

Did she get tired or did she just get lazy?

She’s so far gone she feels just like a fool

 

My, oh my, you sure know how to arrange things

You set it up so well, so carefully

Ain’t it funny how your new life didn’t change things

You’re still the same old girl you used to be

*

“Fast Car”Tracy Chapman

See my old man’s got a problem

He live with the bottle that’s the way it is

He says his body’s too old for working

His body’s too young to look like his

My mama went off and left him

She wanted more from life than he could give

I said somebody’s got to take care of him

So I quit school and that’s what I did

 

You got a fast car Is it fast enough so we can fly away?

We gotta make a decision Leave tonight or live and die this way
*

“Diary”Bread

I found her diary underneath a tree

And started reading about me

The words began to stick

and tears to flow

Her meaning now was clear to see

The love she’d waited for

was someone else not me

Wouldn’t you know it

She wouldn’t show it

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Last Friday evening was Senior Night for the football team, and we parents were encouraged to write a letter to our Senior player.  I’ve pasted a copy of that letter below.  Though his mother is just as proud of him (and he knows it), we agreed that some things need to be said in a father’s voice, and so I wrote it from that perspective.

 

Dear Son

 

Well, here we are closing another chapter from your childhood.  I feel like we’re going to do a lot of that this year.  It seems like you’ve been playing football forever, but I remember the beginning as though it were yesterday.  As much as I was surprised by your brother sticking with the game, it was a no-brainer that this would be a part of your journey.  From your first day on this earth, you were long on passion and short on fear.

 

I remember you playing on the line during Pee-Wee ball.  You were really undersized for your position, but that never stopped you from taking on the biggest guys on the opposing team.  I specifically recall a Unioto scrimmage, where you got low and lifted a kid, who outweighed you by at least 50 pounds, off the ground.  It was just one of those pictures that will forever be etched in my memory, because it helped me to understand who you are.

 

I remember the year when you decided not to play because some of your teammates made you feel like you didn’t belong; but when Coach Bonner called and said the team needed you, you stepped right up.  I remember the year, when the team only had 13 players, and everyone had to play both ways.  Somehow you guys still managed to have a winning season.  And I remember last year, when your arm was shattered in the Clinton-Massie game.  Though people on the sidelines and in the stands were horrified at the sight of it, you never made a sound, and wanted to stay until the game was over.

 

As much as I love football, your participation in the sport has never really been about the game itself.  It was about getting stronger and pushing yourself beyond what you thought you could do.  It was about sticking to a commitment, even when it was hard, and overcoming adversity.  It was about being a part of a team, and making sacrifices for something bigger than yourself.  Ultimately, it was about preparing you for life, and from that standpoint it has been an unmitigated success.

 

Even though we place a huge emphasis on education, life isn’t much like a classroom.  In truth, it’s a lot more like a football field.  The classroom is a controlled environment, with a set script and a seat for every student.  But life is not something we can control, and it cannot be scripted.  It comes with bad field conditions, and injuries, and adversaries who hope to stand in the way of our victory.  It comes with dropped passes, and interceptions, and blindside hits.  In the end, it is our ability to deal with these hardships that sets the stage for our victory.

 

I know that in some ways the final chapter of your football career has been a disappointment.  I know that you never envisioned spending your senior season on the sideline in a cast, but as I’ve watched you cheer on your teammates, and lift your younger brother up, I want you to know that I’m not disappointed.  It takes a far bigger man to celebrate other people having the success they hoped would be their own than it does to make tackles or to catch passes.  I can’t help but admire a man who can set aside his own disappointment and lift up the people around him.  From where I sit, that is the sort of man that you’re becoming.

 

Tonight, as your mother and I walk across the field with you, I will surely shed a few tears (because that’s how I am), but I won’t be sad.  I will be grateful for the years you’ve played, and the teammates and coaches you’ve played with, and the things you’ve learned, and the strength you’ve gained.  I will be thankful for the injuries that never happened, for the care you received for the ones that did; for all the wins, and even for some of the losses.  But most of all, I will be humbled by the privilege of being your dad, and for the man God made you to be.  I love you son, and I couldn’t be more proud of you. 

 

Love Always – Dadsenior-night-16

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  • Ambrosia:  People who’ve only heard their Top 40 hits have no idea what a brilliant and bizarre band this was.  Their first album was engineered by Alan Parsons (of Dark Side of the Moon fame), who went on to produce their second LP (Somewhere I’ve Never Travelled) as well.  After two records filled with symphonic pop opuses and medleys that wouldn’t seem out of place on a Broadway cast album, they turned to a sparkling jazz pop fusion for their most successful records Life Beyond LA and One-Eighty.  The originality, musicianship and vocals on these four albums rank them amongst my favorites of all time.
  • Steve Winwood:  This talented singer has been around for decades and I’ve enjoyed his work through every phase of his career.  Whether it was the blue eyed soul of the Spencer Davis Group (Gimme Some Lovin’), the eclectic improvisation of Traffic (Low Spark of High Heeled Boys), the rootsy blend of Blind Faith (Can’t Find My Way Home), or even the pop sheen of his solo work (Arc of the Diver), he’s proven himself to be one of rock music’s most enduring and talented vocalists.
  • Ricki Lee Jones:  Despite the popularity of her first hit, “Chuck E’s In Love”, it was really her appearance on Saturday Night Live, singing “Coolsville” that grabbed my attention.  I don’t know too many other 15 year old boys who were mesmerized by her blues/jazz/funk/folk/beat poet blend, but something about her startling honesty resonated in my soul.  All these years later, it still does.
  • Dire Straits:  Though Mark Knopfler and his band eventually became a hugely successful pop group, it was the rich textures and soundscapes of their non-radio songs (e.g. Water of Love, Follow Me Home, Romeo and Juliet, Telegraph Road, Brothers In Arms…) that really struck a chord with me.  Perhaps their least commercially viable album, Love Over Gold was, for me, the pinnacle of their catalog.
  • Crowded House:  Born from the ashes of the successful 80’s band, The Split Enz, Neil Finn and his mates (occasionally including brother Tim) produced four memorable albums (Crowded House, Temple of Low Men, Woodface, Together Alone) of smartly written, skillfully performed pop music.  Both witty and wistful, even twenty years removed, much of this music still sparkles.
  • Peter Gabriel:  After a sterling start with art rock pioneers Genesis, this multi-talented artist forged a highly successful career as a solo performer.  His music was always original (Games Without Frontiers), sometimes peculiar (Shock the Monkey), frequently poignant (Biko, Don’t Give Up, The Book of Love) and consistently compelling (Solsbury Hill, San Jacinto, In Your Eyes, Blood of Eden).
  • Til Tuesday:  Though the band’s singer had the look of a punk rocker, and their first big hit Voices Carry was an MTV sensation, it was ultimately the unpretentious distinctiveness of lead singer Aimee Mann that made them memorable.  After the stir caused by their debut release, their follow up albums Welcome Home and Everything’s Different Now were considered commercial failures.  Yet, artistically they were both a giant leap in texture and tone.  Upon the breakup of the band, Mann went on to have an admirable solo career.
  • Tears for Fears:  Though the band featured numerous talented musicians and collaborators, it was essentially the creative vehicle for singer/songwriter Roland Orzabal.  Their 1982 debut The Hurting chronicled his painful childhood and largely featured a moody synthesizer sound, not unlike The Cure.  Their second record, Songs from the Big Chair, featured a much less subdued tone and became a huge international pop hit.  Orzabal continued his evolution with the soulful, and at times beatlesque, release Sowing the Seeds of Love, and a fourth release Elemental, which was essentially a solo album.  Despite the changing styles, the music remained fresh and compelling.
  • The Innocence Mission:  This Pennsylvania based folk band featured husband and wife team Karen and Don Peris, who garnered a fair amount air time on Alternative radio stations in the early to mid-1990s.  Though their records did not achieve platinum success, the hauntingly beautiful songs featured on their first three releases (The Innocence Mission, Umbrella, Glow) make them a standout amongst their contemporaries.
  • Steely Dan:  To call the musical musings of Donald Fagen and Walter Becker unique would be a vast understatement.  Fagen’s distinctive vocal style, combined with wry lyrics, complex jazz influenced arrangements, virtuoso musicianship (e.g. Jeff “Skunk” Baxter, Jeff Porcaro), and pristine production values resulted in a sound that could not be duplicated.  Though they seemed an unlikely pair for pop radio success, they managed to create a string of successful and memorable records that spanned the 1970s and 80s.

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Given the requisite age of rock stars from the late 1960s, and early 1970s, it’s not really surprising that many of these pop culture icons are passing away.  This last week has seen two significant figures from the world of rock and roll step into the annals of music history.  Last week is was David Bowie, whose eclectic collection of musical styles, and personas, made him impossible to categorize.  If you’ve never listened to his music, here are ten cuts worth seeking out:

 

  1. Space Oddity (from the 1969 album, “Space Oddity”)
  2. Changes (from the 1971 album, “Hunky Dory”)
  3. Ziggy Stardust (from the 1972 album, “The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust & the Spiders from Mars”)
  4. Suffragette City (from the 1972 album, “The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust & the Spiders from Mars”)
  5. Rebel, Rebel (from the 1974 album, “Diamond Dogs”)
  6. Fame (from the 1975 album, “Young Americans”)
  7. Golden Years (from the 1976 album, “Station to Station”)
  8. Ashes to Ashes (from the 1980 album, “Scary Monsters”)
  9. Fashion (from the 1980 album, “Scary Monsters”)
  10. Under Pressure – w/Queen (released in 1981 as a single, and included on the 1982 Queen album, “Hot Spaces”)

 

in recent days, Glenn Frey, of the band “The Eagles”, also passed away.  After starting out as background singers for Linda Ronstadt, Frey and drummer Don Henley went on to form what became one of the most successful rock bands of all-time.  Though detractors have often criticized the groups soft-rock, country tinged sound, the music buying public devoured their records, and turned out in mass for their concerts.  If you’ve never listened to their music, here are ten cuts work seeking out:

 

  1. Peaceful Easy Feeling (from the 1972 album, “Eagles”)
  2. Desperado (from the 1973 album, “Desperado”)
  3. Bitter Creek (from the 1973 album, “Desperado”)
  4. Best of My Love (from the 1974 album, “On the Border”)
  5. One of These Nights (from the 1975 album, “One of These Nights”)
  6. Lyin’ Eyes (from the 1975 album, “One of These Nights”)
  7. Hotel California (from the 1976 album, “Hotel California”)
  8. Life in the Fast Lane (from the 1976 album, “Hotel California”)
  9. Wasted Time (from the 1976 album, “Hotel California”)
  10. Seven Bridges Road (from the 1980 album “Eagles Live”)

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With our two youngest (Andrew and Bekah) playing for their respective high school basketball teams, we spend a lot of time courtside.  As a matter of fact, we’re in the midst of a five day stretch where either the boy’s team, or the girl’s team, has a night-time away game.  And when you frequently hang around such venues it’s not uncommon to encounter people who think that “basketball is life”.  But from where I sit, it is life that is a lot like basketball.

 

Like basketball, life requires preparation.  You may get by for a while on natural ability, but at some point you have to invest yourself in it, if you hope to have sustained success.  Just like traversing the length of the floor, and getting to the rim, there will always be situations, scenarios, and obstacles, that stand in your way.  It requires patience, perseverance, and some amount of skill, to negotiate those hurdles.  It is only on rare occasions that you find yourself completely on the other side of these things, with a clear path to the goal.  When those openings come, you must be ready; because such windows of opportunity close quickly.  There are times when you need to press, and other times when you need to let the game come to you.  Sometimes you can simply cover a zone, but other times demand one-on-one attention.  Discerning those times is a significant key to victory.  Likewise, you will find that there are often fouls in life that never get called, times when your teammates won’t pass the ball, and moments when you inexplicably dribble the ball off your own foot, or shoot it over the backboard.  How you handle these moments of disappointment, frustration, and failure, will drastically impact your potential for future achievement.  Finally, there is the noise that surrounds the game.  The instructions of a coach, the cheers and jeers of the crowd, the call of a ref, the encouragement or chastening of a teammate, the trash talk of an opponent, and the little voice inside your head that responds to all of them.  Knowing which voices to listen to, and which ones to tune out, is a crucial skill that every player needs to develop.

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It’s funny what people consider to be “classic”.  I suppose a lot of it comes down to what you grew up with.  For instance, I grew up watching “A Charlie Brown Christmas”, so it has always been a part of my holiday tradition.  Some of the shows on this list are “favorites”, but don’t necessarily qualify as “classics”, while there are some classics that didn’t make the list of favorites.  An example of this would be “It’s a Wonderful Life”.  Because, while I love the message of that movie, and I think that Jimmy Stewart’s performance is outstanding, watching George Bailey’s life unravel on an annual basis is just too painful for me.  The productions included below are some of the shows that have become a part of our annual Christmas tradition. 

 

  1. Miracle on 34th Street (1947 movie, starring Edmund Gwenn): This heartwarming classic (featuring Maureen O’Hara and Natalie Wood) is ostensibly about whether to believe in Santa Claus; but it is the contrasts between the kind and generous Kris (Gwenn), and the cynical commercialism of a couple of large New York City department stores (Macy’s & Gimbels), and the oppressive pragmatism of Doris (O’Hara) and the spirited idealism of her neighbor Fred, that convey a more timeless, and transcendent, message.  Favorite scene: When Susan finds Kris’ cane at her dream house.

 

  1. White Christmas (1954 film, starring Bing Crosby): Though this big budgeted Hollywood musical is only loosely tied to Christmas, the opening scenes with soldiers on the battlefront taking a break for a little yuletide celebration, the closing scene with snow coming down around a picturesque Vermont Inn, and the inclusion of what is arguably the most successful Christmas song of all-time, make it an indelible part of the holiday season.  Favorite scenes: The surprise party for the General, and the eventual arrival of snow at the inn.

 

  1. A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965 animated television special): Though the production value of this special is absolutely primitive by today’s standards, it retains a sweet innocence that is sadly missing from almost anything produced in the last 25 years.  Charlie is a type of every-man, who generally plays the role of underdog, but who aspires to do great things, and who searches for meaning within life’s mundane events.  The inclusion of a classic soundtrack, provided by the Vince Guaraldi Trio, has been a significant part of the show’s continued success.  Favorite scene: Linus’ speech on what Christmas is all about.

 

  1. How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1966 television special, featuring Boris Karloff): Based on a book by Dr. Seuss, this story touches on themes (e.g. repentance and redemption) similar to those found within the classic Dickens story, “A Christmas Carol”.  The narration by horror film star, Boris Karloff, and the memorable song, “You’re a Mean One Mr. Grinch” only add to the charm.  Favorite scene:  When the Grinch hears the Whos down in Whoville singing their joyous song.

 

  1. Scrooge (1970 musical, starring Albert Finney): Despite some very poor special effects (e.g. Scrooge flying over London), a bizarre performance by Sir Alec Guinness as Jacob Marley, and a forgettable scene where Scrooge descends into hell, this is still my favorite adaption of Charles Dicken’s classic tale.  Albert Finney is superb throughout, and the musical score manages to enhance the story.  Favorite scene – When Scrooge unwittingly comes upon his own funeral procession and thinks that the town is having a parade in his honor.

 

  1. The Homecoming (1971 movie, starring Patricia Neal): This movie became the de facto pilot for the long running television series, “The Waltons”.  It beautifully captures both the virtues and the struggles of the depression/war era it portrays.  It is both subtle and rich.  Favorite scenes – John Boy’s narration, as he recollects the events of his life on Walton’s mountain.

 

  1. Silent Night (2002 Hallmark TV movie, starring Linda Hamilton): This made for TV movie portrays a German woman (Hamilton) who takes her young son to a cabin in the woods to escape the advancing armies.  On the night of Christmas Eve, both American and German soldiers come to take refuge there, as they all wind up spending a tense night together.  Each of their stories unfolds throughout the evening, and in the light of Christmas day, they emerge from this experience changed.  Favorite scene – When the young German soldier (Peter) sings a Christmas carol for them, and they realize that he is only fourteen years old.

 

  1. The Polar Express (2004 animated movie, featuring Tom Hanks):  Like Miracle on 34th Street, this beautifully animated feature would seem to be about believing in Santa Claus; but when the kids in the film come face to face with the “Big Guy”, he reminds them that he is only a symbol of the true spirit of Christmas.  While the movie does take an occasional side trip to show off the special effects facilitated by the computer animation technology, it manages to keep the characters at the center of the story.  Along with some stunning visuals, the musical score by Alan Silvestri, and songs featuring the likes of Josh Groban, are top notch.  Favorite scene – The duet sung by the heroic young girl and the poor boy (Billy).

 

  1. Christmas in Canaan (2009 Hallmark TV movie, starring Billy Ray Cyrus): While this TV movie tackles broader themes (e.g. race relations, poverty, stereotypes, loyalty), it also maintains a strong enough connection to Christmas to be considered a holiday movie.  Favorite scene – When the impoverished family opens their presents, which are pictures from the catalog of what their father wanted to buy for them.   

 

  1. A Christmas Carol (2009 animated feature, starring Jim Carrey): There is a lot to like about this Robert Zemeckis film.  The computer animation is beautiful, and it solves the problems that most productions have with realistically portraying the supernatural elements of the story.  Carrey does an admirable job voicing Scrooge, and demonstrates his range by voicing several other characters as well.  Overall, the story sticks pretty close to Dickens original material.  Favorite scene – When an unseen Scrooge comes face to face (i.e. within inches) with a grieving Bob Cratchit.  As he stares deeply into his tear filled eyes, you can almost feel Scrooge’s heart break.  .

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One of the things I have appreciated about the Christmas season has been the opportunity to take a break from the relentless, cynical, rude, and sexualized rhetoric that seems to rule our everyday entertainment. Unfortunately, within the last couple of decades, those things have found their way into the seasons entertainment offerings. Many of which are listed below.

 

1. The Christmas Story (1983 movie, starring Peter Billingsley): Though Peter Billingsley is utterly charming throughout this movie, the rest of the cast, and the story, make it hard to watch.

 

2. Scrooged (1988 movie, starring Bill Murray): Little more than Bill Murray being obnoxious and trashing a classic story.

 

3. Die Hard (1988 movie, starring Bruce Willis): I actually enjoyed this movie, but the fact that the terrorists take over the building during the company Christmas party doesn’t really qualify it as a Christmas movie.

 

4. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989 movie, starring Chevy Chase): If you like National Lampoon, Chevy Chase, and/or the other “Vacation” movies, you probably consider this a classic. But for someone like me, it’s everything I dislike in a comedy, wrapped in Christmas lights.

 

5. Home Alone (1990 movie, starring Macaulay Culkin): Though I’m not a fan of slap stick comedy, my main contention with this film is that it isn’t a Christmas movie at all. Christmas is just a plot element, and not a substantive part of the story.

 

6. The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993 animated feature from Tim Burton): Like all Tim Burton creations, this is a fascinating film to watch, but it’s eccentricities overwhelm any genuine sense of connection to Christmas.

 

7. Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000 movie, featuring Jim Carrey): Jim Carrey goes way over the top in this overly long adaption of a beloved story. It’s painful to watch.

 

8. Elf (2003 movie, starring Will Ferrell): This is as close as Will Ferrell ever came to playing a role I could watch, but in the end it was just too ridiculous to be heartwarming.

 

9. Bad Santa (2003 movie, starring Billy Bob Thornton): Bad Santa = Bad Movie. The end.

 

10. Fred Claus (2007 movie, starring Vince Vaughn): This movie aspires to be something that it never quite achieves. All the rude, slap stick, Vince Vaughn mugging, buries whatever mild sentiment they may have been shooting for.

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