Since early this month, the most popular CD in the Stevemobile has been "Merry Christmas, Baby," Rod Stewart's first journey into that particular genre. And the two-time Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee's takes on some of the holiday classics are surprisingly good.
While listening to Rod the Mod's interpretations of "White Christmas," "Blue Christmas" and others, I started thinking about what have been the best contemporary versions of Christmas songs over the last 30 to 40 years. I was pleasantly surprised at how many quality songs I found in that period. Here are the ones I consider the best:
1. "Silent Night," by Stevie Nicks (1987): The legendary Fleetwood Mac singer provides a chilling -- yet oh-so uplifting -- rendition of the song first performed in Austria on Christmas Eve 1818. This is one of those songs where about 15 seconds into the first time I heard it 25 years ago, I knew I was hooked forever. There is a unique spirituality about it that can bring goose bumps to even the most casual listener. It is truly a great interpretation.
2. "Feliz Navidad," by Jose Feliciano (1970): Every time I hear this upbeat holiday classic, I start singing along. It makes me feel great no matter what kind of day I'm having. For those youngsters who have no idea who Jose Feliciano is, he is a blind Puerto Rican guitarist who originally burst on to the pop music scene in 1968 with an acoustic version of Jim Morrison and the Doors' "Light My Fire."
3. "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town," by Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band (2003): Santa Claus never came to town with electric guitars and a backbeat until the Boss came along. This is another song that is impossible not to start singing along with when it comes on the radio. "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town" was written in 1934 and was first performed on the Eddie Cantor radio show. It now is a traditional part of Springsteen's live concerts this time of the year.
4. "Little Drummer Boy," by Bob Seger (1987): This has been one of my Christmas favorites since I was a wee lad, and no one -- repeat, no one -- does it better than the former front man of the Silver Bullet Band. An honorable mention goes to David Bowie and Bing Crosby's 1977 collaboration. Katherine K. Davis composed "Little Drummer Boy" in 1941.
5. "Do They Know It's Christmas?" by Band Aid (1984): Producers Bob Geldof and Midge Ure put together what was an impromptu "Do They Know It's Christmas?" project to provide aid for victims of a famine that was ravaging the people of Ethiopia. The recording featured an all-star lineup of British pop stars at that time. The song has become a radio Christmas standard.
For those who are curious, on Rod Stewart's holiday CD, these are the songs I consider the best:
1. "Blue Christmas."
2. "White Christmas"
3. "Merry Christmas, Baby."
4. "Auld Lang Syne."
5. "What Are You Doing New Year's Eve?"
And until we meet again on Dec. 26, Merry Christmas!