The Emotions Behind Elvis Presley’s “Blue Christmas” [25 Days of Holiday Songs]

Thank you to all who have read the posts for the “25 Days of Holiday Songs” Challenge”. I am so thrilled that everyone has been enjoying them! Melanie, author of the blog Melanie at Home, writes today’s post about a modern Christmas classic from one of the most influential singers of the latter half of the 20th Century. Enjoy!

“Let’s just get this over with.”

These words, according to backup singer Millie Kirkham, were uttered by Elvis Presley before he recorded his epochal Christmas hit. Elvis hadn’t wanted to record this tune (originated by Doye O’Dell in 1948) and had instructed his backup group, the Jordanaires, to “do something silly” in the background. [1]

When Elvis recorded the song in September 1957, he was worn out.  He had bought Graceland earlier that year (paying $1,000 as a down payment on the home) but had barely spent time in it. Elvis was getting into silly confrontations (like when Elvis pulled a toy gun on a Marine during a fight). He left his high school girlfriend Barbara Hearn behind as he embarked on a series of flirtations with starlets and underage fans.

Presley’s grueling 1956 touring schedule had pivoted into an exhausting filming schedule, and he just wasn’t feeling the song, written by Billy Hayes and Jay W. Johnson. But his upcoming Christmas album needed some filler, so the tune went onto wax.

The song would not be released as a single until 1964, and when it was, it was an instant classic. In the UK it was the B-Side to “White Christmas” (so colorful!) and shot up the chart to number 11. The mournful tale of unrequited love wold go on to be covered by The Beach Boys, Ringo Starr, and many more.

For me, “Blue Christmas” evokes not only unrequited love but also grief. The first holiday after you lose someone is so difficult–putting up the tree and baking cookies happen on autopilot. “[It] won’t be the same, dear, if you’re not here with me” succinctly describes Christmas 2016 for me.

It is incredible to me how much emotion is in this song, despite Presley’s choppy vocal and instruction to the Jordanaires to get silly. “Blue Christmas” stands the test of time as a tender love song, perfect for getting lost in your memories as you stare at the tree with misty eyes.

You can check this song out on my “25 Days of Holiday Songs” playlist featured on Spotify.

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