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Songs show we all need a little Christmas

By Bruce Morrow, Special to CNN
Bruce "Cousin Brucie" Morrow says holiday songs stir up emotions in everybody, regardless of religion.
Bruce "Cousin Brucie" Morrow says holiday songs stir up emotions in everybody, regardless of religion.
  • Bruce Morrow says nothing stirs emotions as powerfully as Christmas songs do
  • He points out the various tunes: Classic carols, religious music, silly songs for kids
  • "Cousin Brucie" points out that many seasonal tunes have nothing to do with the holidays
  • Morrow says magic of the holiday lies in the security of home, family, friends

Editor's note: Radio personality Bruce Morrow's show, "Cruisin' with Cousin Brucie," can be heard on SIRIUS XM's '60s on 6, SIRIUS and XM channel 6. Morrow, who emceed The Beatles 1965 Shea Stadium concert, is the author of "Rock & Roll... And the Beat Goes On."

(CNN) -- What is it about Christmas music that enters our very souls, calms us and even gets us to do things that are right for humanity? This music even has the ability to make us like our old Aunt Emily. If there were a marketing campaign for Christmas, it would be the most successful campaign ever devised.

Paintings of angels protecting sheep or a masterly rendition of the manger scene certainly evoke emotion. Then there's a good Christmas story. In 1843, Charles Dickens gave us "A Christmas Carol." This literary gift had the power to make us actually give a farthing or two to the needy.

However, it is music and song that has no rival in the ability to stir raw emotions. It doesn't matter what your religious persuasion is. Most people can recite and hum the Christmas carols they've heard repeatedly since childhood.

Among the most familiar are the pop songs: "Santa Claus is Coming To Town," which the Four Seasons, Bruce Springsteen and Bing Crosby all performed; Gene Autry's "Here Comes Santa Claus"; Elvis Presley's "Blue Christmas"; and Brenda Lee's "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree."

Then there's one that the marketers made sure really goes for the heart -- "I'll Be Home for Christmas" -- and the line, "if only in my dreams." I forgot how lonely and depressed I was until I heard that song. The "home for Christmas" notion originates during World War I, when U.S. soldiers expected a quick victory, thinking they'd be back in the United States in time for the holidays. That was not the case, and the song was a huge hit decades later -- in 1943. Speaking of hits, there's "White Christmas" -- more than 500 different recordings were made of this song; which was originally written for the movie "Holiday Inn."

These songs conjure up old family photos of relatives here and long gone. We say, "Oh my, look here's an old tintype of Aunt Emily -- she was so kind and generous." (Even if we never really liked her -- but then, it's Christmas.)

Next up are the seasonal songs that really have little or nothing to do with the holiday. Once again, those marketers have honed their skills at pulling our sentimental heartstrings. Dean Martin singing "Let It Snow! Let it Snow! Let it Snow!" Dinah Shore and Buddy Clark doing "Baby, it's Cold Outside." (This song of trying to entice a young lady to stay was written for the film "Neptune's Daughter," with Esther Williams and Ricardo Montalban.)

Judy Garland singing "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas" in the 1944 film "Meet Me In St. Louis" and dozens more all have great images, and are all seasonal. Did you know that "Jingle Bells" was originally titled "One Horse Open Sleigh" and was written in the late 1850s by James Pierpont, to be performed during a Thanksgiving service at his Unitarian church in Savannah, Georgia? The congregation enjoyed it so much that it was repeated during Christmas services, and "Jingle Bells" took off from there.

Of course, Christmas is children. There are the novelty songs written for kids -- like the one about the most famous reindeer of all, Rudolph. He came prancing into our lives when we were young with his shiny red nose and never left the roof. Then there are Jimmy Boyd's "All I Want For Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth", The Singing Dogs version of "Jingle Bells" and Homer and Jethro's "Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer." Songs only a kid could like.

But my favorite has to be Lou Monte's "Dominic the Italian Christmas Donkey." And how about "I Want A Hippopotamus For Christmas," by Gayla Peevey? Somebody please explain why anybody would buy that song.

So here's the question: What is this all about? The emotional and often wonderful snapshots of our lives, past and present, all wrapped up for Christmas. Have we been duped into loving this holiday? Absolutely not.

I realized a while ago that indeed we all need a little Christmas. The security of home, family and friends is essential.

So this marketing campaign that started with our first footsteps is fine -- we need it. Is there a Santa Claus? Have I been a good boy? Or, as Nat King Cole famously asked: Do reindeer really know how to fly? Yes, of course, to all those questions. Wouldn't it have been nice if those marketing guys figured out a way to make those 12 days of Christmas last for the other 353 days of the year?

So deck the halls and please stop leaving Santa those fattening chocolate chip cookies -- he's gained a lot of weight during the past 200-plus years. And I say unto ye -- Fa la la la la, la la la la.

Happy holidays, cousins.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Bruce Morrow.