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Posts Tagged ‘John Lennon’

1.     Believe (Josh Groban):  Like so many other songs of Christmas, the inclusion of this track in a popular holiday movie has cemented its invitation to the annual yuletide reunion.  Josh Groban’s strong vocal performance, combined with the vivid imagery of “The Polar Express,” is the perfect recipe for an enduring holiday classic.

2.     Silent Night (Mannheim Steamroller):  Even though Chip Davis’ assembly “Mannheim Steamroller” had gained considerable notoriety with their “Fresh Aire” projects, it was their Christmas recordings (beginning in 1984) which brought them their greatest success.  Arguably, their version of Silent Night or “Stille Nacht”, from that first Christmas record, represents a pinnacle in their holiday offerings.

3.     Breath of Heaven Mary’s Song (Amy Grant):  Written in a period where Grant’s pop music success had caused some to question her commitment to spiritual themes, this song stands as one of her most profound and timeless compositions.

4.     You’re a Mean One Mr. Grinch (Thurl Ravenscroft & Others):  Buoyed by the annual replay of the original animated Dr. Seuss Christmas special, and reignited by the subsequent release of the feature film (starring Jim Carrey), this song has undoubtedly made a spot for itself at our holiday tables. 

5.     Christmas Eve/ Sarajevo 12/24 (Trans-Siberian Orchestra):  This progressive rock variation of the “Carol of the Bells” has already become a Christmas classic, and made the Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s annual tours a must-see holiday event.

6.     Mary Did You Know (Michael English & Others):  Originally written by comedian/singer Mark Lowry for a church Christmas production (1984), it has no doubt been a part of many other seasonal pageants in the years since.  Though the song has been recorded by several Christian artists, it has also been popular with mainstream artists such as Kenny Rogers/Wynonna Judd, Cee Lo Green and Clay Aiken.

7.     Wonderful Christmas Time – Paul McCartney:  Though die-hard Beatles fans might eschew this light-hearted ode to Christmas, it has still managed to carve a niche for itself in pop music’s holiday tradition.

8.     Santa Claus in Coming to Town (Bruce Springsteen):  “The Boss” puts his stamp on this holiday staple, as he playfully banters with both his band and the live audience; and then tops it all off with a tasty sax solo by the “Big Man” (Clarence Clemmons).

9.     The Christmas Shoes (Newsong):  This heart-wrenching tale of a little boy’s holiday quest for his dying mother started as a simple song and has since blossomed into a batch of best-selling books and popular TV movies/DVD’s.

10.  Happy Christmas War is Over (John Lennon):  Given Lennon’s political history, it’s not surprising that his first holiday offering would come in the form of a war protest song.  Written and recorded around the same time his legendary “Imagine” was released, it was everything his fans had come to expect and love.

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The Humanist wants to believe that left to its own devices mankind would eventually create a Utopia. Unfortunately for them, all of human history flies in the face of that notion. While Mr. Lennon could imagine a world with “no heaven”, “no hell”, and with a “people living for today” as paradise, history must once again protest that it would be anything but that. To be sure, it is our very nature to relish the autonomy that accompanies the idea that every man defines truth for himself (i.e. relative truth), yet our demands for justice remain absolute in the things we choose to abhor. To shun the concept that there is a power and authority that is greater than any man could possess is to forfeit our place of refuge from life’s inevitable storms. In such cases we are forced to create imaginary friends, like luck or fate, in order to produce some small sense of hope. But alas, it’s all too much like spending the rent money on lottery tickets. Like the popular country artist, Tim McGraw, sings, life tends to lead us to either “drugs or Jesus”.

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1. Art Garfunkel (Simon & Garfunkel):  Undoubtedly Art Garfunkel possessed one of the most distinctive voices in popular music; but despite his moderate success as a solo artist, it was really his collaboration with Paul Simon that allowed his gifts to be fully realized. Simon’s amazing songwriting and his deft vocal interplay were the perfect vehicle for Garfunkel to shine. While Simon’s career continued to soar as a solo artist, Garfunkel never again scaled the heights he visited in this partnership.

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2. David Crosby (The Bryds, Crosby Stills Nash & Young):  Like Art Garfunkel, David Crosby possessed a truly unique and beautiful voice. Though he was also an able songwriter and musician, it was his collaborations with people like Roger McGuinn (The Byrds), Gene Clark (The Bryds), Graham Nash (The Hollies), Stephen Stills (Buffalo Springfield) and Neil Young that created a lasting impact.

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3. Eddie Van Halen (Van Halen):  Eddie Van Halen is not only a tremendous guitar player, but a multifaceted musician and the creative force behind the band “Van Halen”. Yet despite his ample talent, it is unlikely that he would have ever achieved the same level of success without finding someone to be the face and voice of his band. Needless to say, he found two of rock’s most memorable showmen in David Lee Roth and Sammy Hagar.

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4. Freddie Mercury (Queen):  Almost the polar opposite of Eddie Van Halen, Freddie Mercury was a quintessential showman, in need of collaborators to create the proper setting to showcase his talent. He found that in Brian May and the other members of the band Queen. This highly underrated group of musicians provided an accessible context and added valuable substance to Mercury’s eccentric persona.

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5. Ric Ocasek (The Cars):  Undoubtedly the quirky pop genius of Ric Ocasek was the driving creative force behind the music of “The Cars”. And while it seems unlikely that they would have had been noticed without him, the band’s best work occurred when Elliot Easton’s edgy guitar and Benjamin Orr’s emotive vocals were allowed to balance out his off beat lyrics and synth-pop sensibilities.

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6. Dennis DeYoung (Styx):  Like Ric Ocasek of the Cars, Dennis DeYoung of the band “Styx” was the pop visionary behind their most successful music. His creative flourishes fueled the concept albums and stage productions that distinguished the band from its peers. But at its core, Styx worked best as a rock band and in those moments, Tommy Shaw and James Young were essential in balancing DeYoung’s more theatrical sensibilities. Neither DeYoung nor the remaining members of Styx (who perform without him), have been as compelling since they parted company.

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7. Elton John:  Without question, Elton John is a tremendously gifted musician, singer and performer in his own right; but it is through his 40+ year songwriting collaboration with Bernie Taupin that his most memorable work has been produced. It is difficult to know what his career would have been without Mr. Taupin’s contributions.

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8. Roger Waters (Pink Floyd):  Certainly Roger Water’s dark cynicism and disdain for standard musical conventions were at the heart of Pink Floyd’s most memorable recordings, but without the balancing contributions of his band mates (most especially David Gilmour), his solo work has been erratic and far less compelling. Considering his sizable contributions to the band’s collective identity, the remaining members have made some surprisingly worthwhile music without him.

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9. Eric Clapton:  Though Eric Clapton has enjoyed a long and successful career as a solo artist, his most notable moments have almost always come through his collaboration with other artists. His contributions to bands like “The Yardbirds”, “John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers”, “Cream”, “Blind Faith” and “Derek & the Domino’s” were legendary and even much of his most memorable solo work showcased other songwriters like J.J. Cale (After Midnight), Robert Johnson (Crossroads) and Bob Marley (I Shot the Sheriff).

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10. Lennon & McCartney (The Beatles):  While inferring that either one of these musical legends wasn’t talented enough to stand alone would amount to sacrilege in the minds of most people, I would submit that both benefited greatly from their collaboration. Though they each created some classic music on their own, neither consistently produced anything that rivaled their work together.

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