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Decades for Popular Christmas Songs

J. Dan

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I may have brought this up some years ago but I think about it every Christmas.


For me, the "classic" Christmas songs I like to listen to are of the Andy Williams, Bing Crosby, Tony Bennett, Johnny Matthis, Gene Autry variety. While those spanned some time, I think it's safe to say that a lot of the "classic" songs of that variety came out in the 40s and 50s and spilled into the 60s. What I mean to say, was that it was popular to write Christmas songs, there were a lot of them, and they are still played today.


Of course going "MUCH" older than that, you have Handel's Messiah.


I could be completely wrong, but other than a few songs like from John and Yoko, there don't seem to be many songs from the late 60s and 70s. I wasn't around in the 60s and don't remember a lot of new Christmas songs in the 70s, and certainly don't hear more than a couple played on the Christmas stations.


Then came the 80s and it seems like there are a TON of songs...like everybody did Christmas songs. I haven't researched, but maybe some of the ones I'm thinking of were actually 70s or 90s, but Springsteen, Wham, Eagles, John Mellancamp, Waitresses, the whole Band Aid thing, they go on and on.


It spilled into the 90s some with Mariah Carey and similar artists but then seemed to fizzle out. I know there are some hits from the 200's but it doesn't seem like we've really had "top 40" Christmas songs in any kind of volume for the last 20 years. There are some exceptions like Harry Connick Jr., but for the most part the ones that do well are just covers of the older songs. The 80s actually had some "new" Christmas songs that still get played (although the most popular ones were still covers).


Is it something we just don't have a market for anymore? Do people just prefer the classic versions? Or is it that there's something about the style of music from decade to decade that determines whether it's suitable for Christmas music? Or am I just wrong in my assessment? I'd be curious about others' perceptions and opinions.



Acoustic/Electric stringed instruments ranging from 4 to 230 strings, hammered, picked, fingered, slapped, and plucked. Analog and Digital Electronic instruments, reeds, and throat/mouth.

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This article supports your impression:


All the Most Popular Christmas Songs Are From the '40s and '50s


Granted, it's about the most popular songs rather than about how many Christmas songs were written in each decade; but it's worth noting nonetheless.


Missing from the list are "Happy Xmas (War Is Over)" and "Wonderful Christmastime," so it may be best to take the list with a grain of salt.





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I did a search but couldn't find what I was looking for. I wanted to see by year, including every year for maybe the last 100 years (though they didn't do billboard charts that long ago) how many songs each year reached top 40. All I could find was subjective "top 100 Christmas songs of all time" and stuff like that.


I'd really like to see 2 different stats to compare - top 40 Christmas songs by year, and top 100 Christmas songs played this season. That would compare/contrast popularity of Christmas songs within the decade released alongside "staying power", or ones still being played.


But again, I think 40s and 50s are obvious, but my sense is that there was a resurgence in the 80s that trailed off into the 90s - even though the article contradicts this by showing 60s and 70s higher than 80s 90s. But it may be a factor of my age being born in 71.



Acoustic/Electric stringed instruments ranging from 4 to 230 strings, hammered, picked, fingered, slapped, and plucked. Analog and Digital Electronic instruments, reeds, and throat/mouth.

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I'd be interested to see a breakdown for the UK - it feels like it would be more skewed towards the 70s what with Slade, Wizzard and Greg Lake being such big hits over here. I've been hearing Jethro Tull, Mike Oldfield and Steeleye Span in shops more than usual this year too.


Interesting that there are no songs for the 00s in that list - shows how long it takes things to seep into the public consciousness. In the UK all I can think of that might come close is Christmas Time (Don't Let The Bells End) by The Darkness - which deserves a mention just for getting that title past the censors...

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I grew up with the Christmas music of my parents - Nat, Bing, Ella, Perry etc. which I passed along to my kids along with The Carpenters, Bob James, Larry Carlton, Aaron Neville etc - but I know many of their friends now wax nostalgic over the good old days of Boney M & Mannheim Steamroller. Same as it ever was.


Here for the gear.

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IMO, the social climate of a time period has a huge influence on songwriting and composition in general.


I believe the post-depression period of the 1940s-1950s fueled the sentiment that poured from the pens of songwriters during that era.


I'm just guessing the 1960s through 1970s were too radical for penning holiday songs. :laugh:


During the 1980s, Heavy Metal and New Wave didn't lend itself to writing holiday songs that would stand the test of time. :D


Then, around 1986, Paul McCartney, bless his heart, recorded that godawful "Wonderful Christmastime" song. :laugh:


The 1990s were redeemed by Pop singers offering their melismatic take on original holiday tunes.


It seems the safest bet over the past 60 years has been to cover those "pure" holiday songs of yesteryear. :cool:



"The greatest thing you'll ever learn, is just to love and be loved in return."--E. Ahbez "Nature Boy"

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Well, every songwriter knows about the potential financial rewards if you can come up with a Christmas song that enters the annual seasonal playlist, so just about all of them have at least tried.


Elton John's wonderful entry, "Step Into Christmas," one of my favorites, was in the 70's, never became a huge classic hit (was a B-side I think, and not on an album), more like a forgotten "gem" that you only hear a time or two each year, maybe that contributes to what makes it enjoyable for me.

Rich Forman

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A lot of Christmas novelty songs appeared in the 40's and 50's and many of these are still widely heard today such as:


All I Want for Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth

The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don't Be Late)

Frosty the Snowman

Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer

I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

Run Rudolph Run

I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas

Santa Baby

Jingle Bells - The Singing Dogs


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