Christmas 2020 – Despair and Hope

Back in the late summer of 2000 a CD single landed on my desk at the radio station. It was a new song by a new group, Soleil Moon. The song was “Never Say Goodbye.” I loved it the first time I heard it. We added the song to our playlist, and I scheduled the hell out of it, hoping it would become a hit. It didn’t. Trust me, it was not the only time a record I thought was deserving of hit status died on the charts. Over the years I’ve come to understand a hit record has to have a certain amount of luck and timing behind it. And these days, lots and lots of promotional money, too.

A few months later another CD single came my way by these guys, their rendition of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.” Now, considering my well known love of pop music, some might be surprised to find out what a grinch I can be regarding Christmas music. Blame it on my work. All those years in radio, all those holidays seasons made miserable by upending the format and playing the same Christmas tunes over and over and over again until I wanted to stick my head in the paper shredder. Uh huh. I’ve been out of the biz for ten years now, and I can still only handle Christmas music in very limited doses.

Anyway, back to 2000. I am sure I rolled my eyes when I saw this CD single. I can’t even fathom how many covers of Christmas classics we received from artists and record companies ever year. Christmas is the time when record companies try to cash in on established artists and classic songs. Trust me, I do my best to put my cynicism to rest in December, but when the pile of Xmas CD submissions would rise higher than my desk, I would have unpleasant thoughts about Corporate America, and the more sinister motivations behind American Christmas. Oh, and by the way, a good many of those recordings were beyond awful. They were Gong Show awful. That guy auditioning for American Idol with “She Bangs” awful. And at least ninety percent of them were simply uninspired. The rare one worthy of airplay truly was a needle in a haystack. I assumed the Soleil Moon recording would be just that — uninspired, but I gave it a listen and was pleasantly surprised, even emotionally moved, which at that time of year had become, for me, a rare experience. Let me tell you, folks, I have heard a LOT of versions of “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas,” and in my opinion this was the only one since the 1944 original recording by Judy Garland that came even close to expressing the same emotions — a frustrating tangle of despair and hope. THAT’S what made the original so beautifully haunting. I can only imagine how it sounded toward the end of WWII, when everyone was tired and hope was damn close to being one of the many things rationed. The Soleil Moon guys got that.

Twenty years later, that CD single is still in my stash of Christmas music, and the song is on my computer as well. I can’t say I’ve listened to it every year, but it has definitely been my Christmas song of choice this year. If ever there was a Christmas season full of despair and hope, it’s Christmas 2020. Therefore, despite all the woe, I’m doing my best to hope for bright times in the New Year. I hope there’s good news for all of us coming soon.


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