I’m a self-professed Christmas fanatic. I love the music, the decorations, the trees, the lights, the ambiance, and the kitsch – sign me up! I also know how tiring it can be for those of us who love this holiday to listen to the same 20 songs played over and over on the radio. With kids in the house, it’s often tough to find music that pleases everyone. Try these classic albums (plus a new one that I just couldn’t resist) for good Christmas music you and your kids will like. I’ve linked these all to Spotify, though they’re easy to find anywhere.
“A Christmas Gift For You From Phil Spector”, 1963 – Hands down my favorite Christmas album ever, this is full of upbeat songs from the great girl groups of the 60’s like the Ronnetes, The Crystals, and the incomparable Darlene Love. There are a couple of weird tracks where Phil Spector is just kinda talking, but feel free to skip these like I do. What a great way to introduce this genre of music to your kids!
“A Charlie Brown Christmas”, Vince Guaraldi Trio, 1964 – This one always evokes instant nostalgia for me, and is great background music for a quiet night with the family. One of the most laid-back, easiest-going albums of the season. A must alongside watching the classic TV special by the same name which is currently streamable through Apple TV (and FREE from Dec.11 – Dec.13).
“The Beach Boys’ Christmas Album”, The Beach Boys, 1964 – This album is great for family dance parties and sing-a-longs in the kitchen or a drive to the Christmas tree farm. It’s fun and light and has all those great harmonies the Beach Boys are known for.
“The Ventures Christmas Album”, The Ventures, 1964 – One of the greatest instrumental bands ever comes up with a fun holiday album that will enliven any atmosphere. Great luau-esque background music for decorating, baking, enjoying company, or dancing in the living room to get some energy out.
“Ella Fitzgerald Wishes You a Swinging Christmas”, Ella Fitzgerald, 1960. Ms. Fitzgerald does my absolute favorite rendition of “What Are You Doing New Years Eve?” on this album. The whole thing is beautiful and jazzy and fun and impeccably sung (of course). A joy to listen to from beginning to end.
“In the Christmas Spirit,” Booker T and the MG’s, 1966. The fantastic R&B/soul band put out this wonderful album that I’m always in the mood for. It has a nice mix of slower and more upbeat songs, all with a great groove. Lots of funky organ vibes throughout. Some of the slower renditions like “Silent Night” and “Blue Christmas” are like lullabies and would be great before-bed music to wind down.
“James Brown’s Funky Christmas”, James Brown, 1995. I mean, it’s James Brown. What’s not to love? This is a compilation of three Christmas albums Brown recorded from 1966-70. His track of “Let’s Make Christmas Mean Something” is an all time favorite of mine. In general, he manages to show restraint and not over do the “James Brown-ness” of it, though at times he just can’t help himself.
“A Very She and Him Christmas”, She and Him, 2011. Not a “classic” but the sound of M Ward and Zooey Deschanel always evokes the same “oldies” feel for me. I think your family will like it too.
Diana is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, OR with her son and cat. She likes words, history, and playing catch.