Observation of the Day

In the midst of a review of Gold City’s Christmas project, SG blogger Kyle Boering observes:

“Let It Snow” and “Winter Wonderland” are both jazzed up, but without abandoning the quartet feel. Jonathan Wilburn sure seems to have fun with them, too (I’ve always found it interesting when gospel acts include these two songs, as they are essentially secular love songs with a winter theme as opposed to actual Christmas songs).

I have wondered the same thing myself. The best I’ve been able to come up with is that the melody may evoke memories of happy Christmases in the performer’s past. But I’ve still yet to figure out a good answer to the question.

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28 Letters to the Editor

Southern Gospel Journal welcomes letters to the editor. We will post the most thoughtful and insightful submissions. Ground rules: Don't attack or belittle groups or fellow posters, or advance heresies rejected by orthodox Christianity. Do keep comments positive, constructive, and on topic.
  1. I don’t know, but maybe it’s because I HATE snow that I’ve never like either of those two songs! 🙁 As far as I am concerned, I rather have two other songs on the CHRISTmas CD!

  2. Well, I love snow and still don’t care for either! 🙂

  3. Personally, I don’t mind enjoying winter songs in the wintertime, although I don’t pretend that they’re about “the true meaning of Christmas.” Santa Claus is a little over the top for me, although I’ve heard some beautiful harmonies – and Tim Parton’s instrumental on L5’s Christmas CD is FANTASTIC! I think that if such songs go on a gospel album, they at least ought to be done in moderation (e.g., a couple are OK). Please don’t ask me to defend said opinion logically!

    As to the songs mentioned above, I played them on the piano when I was little, and they didn’t mean love songs at all to me at the time. So they still, to me, evoke images of my brother and me playing in the snow … LOL.

  4. OK, I won’t ask you to defend your position logically! 🙂

  5. I don’t know why nearly everyone seems to include “Winter Wonderland” on their Christmas cd’s, but I hear it about 16 times a day during December. I specifically look for albums that avoid that song!

    Here’s a puzzler: When I was in grade school (lo those many years ago…), the annual Christmas programs always patently avoided including any religious references – which is why I hate “Up On The Housetop” & “Jolly Old St. Nicholas.” By the time I got to high school, the music department had “Christmas Vespers” every year; we started the program with “Come, Singing Noel” & ended with Alfred Burt’s “Silent Night.” Very, very odd. Needless to say, I enjoyed those high school years so much more!

    To get myself through the bad songs of the season, I either corrupt the lyrics (so much fun) or sing along in a different key. Loudly.

  6. You’re more creative than I am! I either skip the song or, as the case may be, turn off the radio. 😎

  7. I am not sure if it because I am involved in both sacred and secular music or what but I do not see anything wrong with these songs…I actually love these wonderful old Christmas songs.

  8. I have over one thousand Christmas songs on my iPod, so there’s no need to listen to the radio. And if I don’t want to hear a certain song, I just skip it.

    However, since I have Gold City’s original release of “Gold City Christmas”, I’m missing out on two of the songs. Hopefully before Thanksgiving, I’ll be able to purchase the cd. (it’s the only CD of Gold City’s that they have available that I don’t have in my collection)

    Oh, and I like hearing SG artists adding some of the “secular” songs on their Christmas cds.. Makes the albums unique! Plus, the children’s medley that the Cathedrals did back in the 80s is just awesome! (You just can’t beat George Younce singing “Santa Claus is coming to town”)

  9. Paul – out of curiosity, would you say that you like seeing them on Gospel projects? Liking them and liking seeing them on Gospel projects *can* be two separate things.

  10. However, if there was a SG artist that decided to record “Santa Baby”, I may change my mind. I dislike that song with every bone of my body.

  11. I am not sure, Daniel. I guess it depends on how musical the version is.

  12. Re: Matt #10

    Amen, brother!!! Did Eartha Kitt ever do any other holiday song?

  13. I’ve shoveled enough snow here in Pennsylvania to last a lifetime. So now I no longer find it exciting. My position is, if there will be snow on the hilltops of Glory . . . it can STAY there as far as I’m concerned.

    When I get to heaven I plan to live in the Miami Beach section.

    Oh yes, and give me a great Christmas Carol and I’m fulfilled. But I must say that “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” has a tug upon the heartstrings. It must be the nostalgia thing.

  14. I thought it was pretty cool when NewSong recorded “You’re A Mean One, Mr. Grinch.” That was unexpected, especially considering that it was on their Christmas Shoes CD.

    I do get tired of remakes, though. Most artists record 10 songs from a list of 25 or so Christmas classics…and they don’t do anything remarkably different to make their version differ from what’s been recorded before. That goes for both sacred and secular remakes. Sometimes, they’ll include one or two new songs, but usually no more than that.

    One thing I like about the Oak Ridge Boys Christmas CDs…as a general rule, they include several new or not so ordinary Christmas songs. Then, they’ll cover a few standards, but put their own mark on them. No one would confuse their version of the “Hallelujah Chorus” with another version, for example.

    I thought it was odd that Gold City put “That Little Baby” on their _Walk The Talk_ CD rather than their Christmas CD, which came out the same year.

  15. I just had to put in my 2 cents worth. (if it is a penny for your thoughts and you put in your two cents worth, who gets the change?)

    I tend not to get caught up in this whole “Christian” verses “secular” argument. I don’t think there is such a thing. Music boils down to styles and cleanliness. I think the only music that is wrong are those songs that go directly against scripture and promote things that are against it. If it is a song that talks about going to get drunk, high, or sleep around then it is obviously wrong and obviously against scripture. The only “Christian” music is the praise music that is written directly toward God or about God. Everything else falls in between. If I sing a love song to a girlfriend or wife that is a good pure relationship that can be just as God honoring. Why are we the bride of Christ anyway? If that comparison wasn’t God honoring then it wouldn’t be in the scriptures. If I want to sing something like a Steve Curtis Chapman song like I Will Be Here to show that person is important to me, there is nothing wrong with that.

    And there are songs that Christian artists will do that are done by what many people would consider secular artists. Of course most artists don’t come up and say “Now we are doing a song by country super star Josh Turner by the name of Long Black Train. We know he’s not singing Christian music and he is doing a lot of those sinful love songs but we think you will enjoy it.” Or how about the Stamps saying “Here is a song entitled My Sweet Lord by George Harrison who is probably strung out on drugs right about now. We don’t know if it is about the Lord or the drugs but we think you will enjoy it.” You could go on and on with these from every era of southern gospel. Just to name a couple others are Teach Your Children by Crosby Stills and Nash as well as Bridge Over Troubled Water by Simon and Garfunkel. I would be interested to see a list of songs that are similar that gospel artists have done. I am surprised a southern gospel artist hasn’t done a cheap remake of In God We Still Trust by Diamond Rio. Speaking of, their next CD will be a gospel CD. I am excited because they are one of my favorite groups. I saw them in concert not long ago and they mentioned that.

    So in other words, if Gold City wants to put a love song on a CD leave them alone and let them do it. If David Phelps wants to redo clean music that has been previously done by another artist let him do it. If the Dove Brothers want to record a song called Kylie Sweet Little Baby Girl let them do it. The rest of the world will enjoy it, especially me.


  16. Gosh, Daniel, youre on a crusade to “purify” gopsel albums lately, aren’t you? First, Kim Collingsworth, and now Christmas recordings.:-)

    While I prefer gospel albums to contain songs that contain the gospel message, or have themes that illustrate a better Christian life, I see nothing wrong with including an occasional song that contains an uplifting message that does not specifically mention Jesus. After all, your heroes, the Cathedrals, recorded “Climb Every Mountain” and “May The Good Lord Bless And Keep You” on their “With Brass” album, neither of which are gospel songs, but are proven good songs with uplifting messages. They also did “Great Day” on that same album…do you honestly think that God was displeased, or fans were offended?

    For that matter, Christian artists have recorded “White Christmas” for a LONG time…which is NOT a Christmas song, but merely a well-written(and EXTREMELY popular)love song about dreaming of the same sort of thing expressed in the two songs Kyle mentioned. The song has proven its’ popularity and worth over time…why would it be inappropriate for gospel artists to treat their fans to their own renditions of it?

    Besides, as Neil says above, there may well be a place for songs about Christmas that tug at the heartstrings of their listeners…after all, quality time with family is an accepted part of our Christmas celebrations, is it not?

  17. I really don’t have a problem with it!! 🙂 I mean…they’re Christmas classics and this is a CHRISTMAS album. So ya. I really don’t think it’s wrong and actually, I like those songs!

  18. Inquirer, are you saying that you don’t think “May The Good Lord Bless And Keep You” and “Great Day” are Gospel songs? And, I may be crazy but the lyrics to “White Christmas” sure sound like a Christmas song to me. Oh well.

  19. LOL!

  20. No, Paul, those songs are not gospel songs…that’s not to say they’re not good songs, only that they’re not gospel songs. And what about the lyrics of “White Christmas” makes you think it’s about Christmas? Just because the protagonist is dreaming of a white Christmas with each Christmas card he writes does not specfically suggest it’s about Christmas per se, other than he’s wishing the object of his affection a merry Christmas…he could just as well be singing it in May! It’s clearly about a person’s expression of well-wishes to a special person in his life.

    And nowhere in that song is the Christmas story told, or even hinted at. Again, the song is a pop classic(for a long time, Bing Crosby’s version of it was the biggest selling recording of all time), and has proven its’ durability and worth over time, but it’s no more a true Christmas song than “Silver Bells” or the aforementioned “Winter Wonderland”.

  21. I always thought “Great Day” was a Gospel song about the Second Coming:

    “Gabriel will warn you
    Some early morn you
    Will hear his horn

    It’s not very far away
    Lift up your heads and say
    It’s gonna be a great day.”

  22. Daniel, one might think that based on the lyrics you quoted.

    But the fact is, “Great Day” was the title song of a Broadway play written in 1929 by famous Tin Pan Alley songwriter Billy Rose, Edward Eliscu, and Vincent Youmans. Peggy Lee did a famous version of it in subsequent years, and Frank Sinatra recorded it as well.

    It’s a good song, and it’s lyrics are most appropriate for a gospel quartet…so it’s not surprising a group with wide television exposure such as the Cathedrals(who were featured still on the Rex Humbard shows when they recorded it)would choose to record it. At that time, lots of gospel groups did songs like that. Besides the Cathedrals, the Blackwoods also recorded “Climb Ev’ry Mountain” and “May The Good Lord Bless And Keep You”, and the Blue Ridge Quartet recorded Anthony Newley’s Broadway song, “Gonna Build A Mountain”.

    It’s another tradition gospel singers held to for a time.

  23. Hmm. So it isn’t about the second coming?

    What’s it really about?

  24. Did I say that? No.

    I just tried to give you a context as far as the writing of that song is concerned. For a better answer to your question, I might suggest checking out the play.:-)

    And given it’s origins, I think it’s fair to say that it’s not really a gospel song(not that there’s anything wrong with that per se).

  25. John,

    Out of curiosity, do you count the “Hallelujah Chorus,” “I Know that My Redeemer Liveth,” and the rest of the Messiah as Christian songs, since they were originally composed for the stage and not the church?

  26. Since you’re curious, I was aware of that.

    I am also aware that several of the hymns we hold near and dear to us were derived from drinking songs…and part of our tradition as believers is that we have appropriated many of our songs and even our holidays from decidedly secular traditions.

    I don’t know what new point you’re trying to make here…my initial post was to simply offer a response to what Kyle posted. A subesequent poster issued a challenge to me, so I simply reinforced the original point I tried to make.

    If you honestly feel this line of discussion is beneficial and of interest to your readers, then I’ll do my best to be a helpful participant in it. But honestly, I feel we are straying too far from the original purpose of your post, and out of concern for you, your excellent blog, and your readers, I feel I should take a bow from this discussion and exit “stage right”.

  27. You didn’t offend me in the slightest, and there’s no need to apologize.

  28. I think “White Christmas” is considered a Christmas song in the fact that it deals with dreaming of a white, snowy Christmas. Yes, it doesn’t hint at the Christmas story, but reflects what can happen on Christmas day- weather-wise, up north!

    It also reflects a longing for those Christmas memories of past years. Everyone has them… So I think that it does very well as a Christmas song.

    It’s also funny that “Silver Bells” was mentioned. That was on Gold City’s “Home For the Holidays” (1998).

    I agree that these songs aren’t considered Christian/Gospel Christmas songs. But they are Christmas songs none-the-less. And they do not damage the CHRISTmas image (however, “Santa Baby” does!).