The 12 Roots Songs of Christmas- #11   Leave a comment

May as well get the big gun out of the way.

I was too young for The Band. I didn’t really notice the band until I was in my mid- to late 20s; nobody’s fault but my own. O, I had heard “The Weight” and “Down on Cripple Creek” on FM radio when I was younger, but didn’t pay the least bit of attention to them- I was much too far into what I considered rock ‘n’ roll to pay attention to the country-influenced stylings of The Band. I admit, I was (am?) an idiot.

In fact, I am likely the only person in the world who was pulled into the grasp of The Band via Jericho and that only happened because of their amazing cover of “Atlantic City.” Quickly, one album lead to another and now I find it hard to imagine that I didn’t grow up on these sounds.

untitledThis evening’s Roots Song of Christmas is “Christmas Must Be Tonight,” written by Robbie Robertson and recorded by the original lineup of The Band in, I believe, 1975 and eventually released on an album I’ve come to quite enjoy, Islands. Barney Hoskyns, in his frequently caustic Across the Great Divide: The Band and America, describes the song using the word “saccharine.” That isn’t the word I would use at all; to me, it is an unfettered classic song of the season with elements of a hymn, interesting phrasing and word choices, and typically impressive vocals from Rick Danko and Levon Helm. The organ on this one really adds to its spiritual quality, I believe. Kudos, Mr. Hudson.

If you are going to record a track intended as a single for Christmas, as this was intended, you might as well go all out and write a song that sounds as if it has been sung for decades while making it an original creation. Even in 1975, the world did not need another version of “Frosty the Snowman,” so I sincerely admire the effort it took to craft a song, told from the perspective of one of the shepherds, about the coming birth of Christ.

If you haven’t heard the song, and it is surprising but not everyone has as I found out in conversation just the other day, you can find a YouTube clip of it at

My non-roots Christmas song for tonight is “Honky the Christmas Goose,” recorded in 1965 by the last great Maple Leafs goalie imagesCAV3NIO5Johnny Bower, Doug Favell and his truly awesome face mask be damned. will get you there: if you’re Canadian, you know this one.

As always, I appreciate your interest in Fervor Coulee. Donald


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