21

Dec 12

Miles Davis (with Bob Dorough): “Blue Xmas (To Whom It May Concern)”

Various Artists -- Jingle Bell Jazz

It wasn’t only Davis’s album, but this imagery is about as warm and fuzzy about Christmas as Miles Davis got.

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When you’re feeling like you’ve had enough of Christmas commercialism, there’s no better song for getting your Scrooge on than “Blue Xmas (To Whom It May Concern).” Columbia Records asked Miles Davis to record a Christmas song in 1962, and Davis did so with the assistance of jazz vocalist Bob Dorough, who later became better known as the voice of Schoolhouse Rock in the ’70s (and writer of “Three Is the Magic Number” and the entire first season of Schoolhouse Rock songs). Dorough wrote the lyrics, and Davis put it all to music. The result isn’t perhaps what Columbia had in mind, but they released it anyway, on the great Jingle Bell Jazz compilation, which also features the likes of Duke Ellington, Lionel Hampton, Dave Brubeck, and many more.

The song lyrics are so amusing, and cynical, that they’re worth putting here in their entirety. Dorough certainly didn’t hold back, and I think it’s exactly what Davis was looking for, because he wasn’t thrilled about the idea of going traditional with it. The one allowance that Dorough gave that not everyone is necessarily guilty of abusing the Christmas spirit is in the song’s subtitle: “(To Whom It May Concern).” With that, Dorough seems to have basically been saying, “if the shoe fits, wear it.” And even if the shoe doesn’t happen to fit you, the song is a welcome break from the traditional Christmas tunes.

Merry Christmas
I hope you have a white one, but for me it’s blue

Blue Christmas, that’s the way you see it when you’re feeling blue
Blue Xmas, when you’re blue at Christmastime
You see right through,
All the waste, all the sham, all the haste
And plain old bad taste

Sidewalk Santy Clauses are much, much, much too thin
They’re wearing fancy rented costumes, false beards, and big fat phony grins
And nearly everybody’s standing round holding out their empty hand or tin cup
Gimme gimme gimme gimme, gimme gimme gimme
Fill my stocking up
All the way up
It’s a time when the greedy give a dime to the needy

Blue Christmas, all the paper, tinsel and the fal-de-ral
Blue Xmas, people trading gifts that matter not at all
What I call
Fal-de-ral
Bitter gall . . . Fal-de-ral.

Lots of hungry, homeless children in your own backyards
While you’re very, very busy addressing
Twenty zillion Christmas cards
Now, Yuletide is the season to receive and oh, to give and ahh, to share
But all you December do-gooders rush around and rant and rave and loudly blare
Merry Christmas
I hope yours is a bright one, but for me it’s blue…

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