Readers' Poll: The Best Christmas Songs of All Time - Rolling Stone
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Readers’ Poll: The Best Christmas Songs of All Time

Selections include ‘Christmas In Hollis,’ ‘Wonderful Christmastime’ and ‘All I Want For Christmas Is You’

bowie and bing christmas

GAB Archive/Redferns

You can try and avoid it as much as you want, but over the next month you're going to be inundated with Christmas music. It seems like the Christmas Music Industrial Complex grows exponentially bigger every year. Arenas are packed with groups like the Trans-Siberian Orchestra, who actually split into two camps so they can cover more ground in December. Countless artists – from Justin Bieber to Scott Weiland – released Christmas CDs this year. Most Christmas songs are insipid and horrible, but some gems have slipped by over the years. Last week we asked our readers to vote for their favorite Christmas songs. Click though to see the results. 

By Andy Greene

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9. Paul McCartney – ‘Wonderful Christmastime’

Nobody is going to argue that "Wonderful Christmastime" represents Paul McCartney's finest work. But the song's incredible popularity shows that Macca must have been doing something right back in 1979. McCartney wrote the song, and played every single instrument. According to a 2010 article in Forbes the song has been an incredible financial windfall for McCartney, earning him an estimated $400,000 to $600,000 a year: "That’s a bit less than what McCartney earns in an entire year these days from royalties on songs recorded by himself and with Wings and The Beatles. McCartney was likely motivated to record the holiday standard in part because of his disastrous financial experience with The Beatles."

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8. The Kinks – ‘Father Christmas’

This 1977 Kinks classic is about a department store Santa Claus who gets accosted by a group of impoverished children who have no interest in toys. "Father Christmas, give us some money," they say. "Don't mess around with those silly toys/We'll beat you up if you don't hand it over/We want your bread so don't make us annoyed/Give all the toys to the little rich boys." It's been covered by Green Day, Warrant and Bowling for Soup. 

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7. Elvis Presley – ‘Blue Christmas’

"Blue Christmas" was first recorded by Doye O'Dell in 1948, but Elvis Presley's 1957 version made the song internationally famous. He did a great version of the mournful song at his 1968 comeback special, which was originally conceived as a Christmas show. In 2010, it was the final song that Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band played during their Asbury Park Carousel House set. It turned out to be the final song that Springsteen ever performed with Clarence Clemons. 

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6. David Bowie and Bing Crosby – ‘Peace On Earth/Little Drummer Boy’

One month before Bing Crosby died, he cut this wonderfully bizarre duet with David Bowie for his TV special Bing Crosby's Merrie Old Christmas. Bowie supposedly hated "Little Drummer Boy," but was willing to do it for the chance to work with Crosby, who his mother loved. Last year, Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly recorded a hysterical shot-for-shot remake of the duet where they stuck exactly to the dialogue from the original. 

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5. Bruce Springsteen – ‘Santa Claus Is Coming to Town’

On December 12th, 1975 Bruce Springsteen performed "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town" during his show at the C.W. Post College in Greenvale, New York. The college newspaper's review read, "The crowd, figuring it was an Xmas joke, laughed and prepared themselves for a quick change into another number. But the change never came. Springsteen and the E Street Band let loose with a dynamic interpretation of the classic that stirred everyone, including Springsteen himself as he danced frantically across the stage. As the shock wore off, the audience realized that Springsteen had the ability to make even the unexpected and mundane appear exciting and entertaining." Springsteen released that recording in 1981, and put it on the B side of "My Hometown" in 1985. It's become a modern-day holiday classic. Bruce even performed it at Bonnaroo in 2009. It made for a bizarre scene on a hot night in June. 

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4. Mariah Carey – ‘All I Want For Christmas Is You’

Mariah Carey absolutely owned the 1990s. She scored an astounding number of hits during that decade, including this Christmas song from 1994. Most people record holiday standards for their Christmas albums, but Mariah wrote this song with her producer Walter Afanasieff. She wrote it in tribute to her then-husband Tommy Mottola, who she divorced a few years later. She re-recorded the song in 2010, and just this year cut it again as a duet with Justin Bieber. 

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3. Queen – ‘Thank God It’s Christmas’

Queen released this Christmas single in November of 1984, but it didn't appear on any album and isn't nearly as famous as their many, many hits. They never even made a video for it. That's a shame. It's a beautiful song that stands up to anything in their catalog. They finally put it on an album in 1999 when they released Greatest Hits Volume 3

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2. The Pogues – ‘Fairytale Of New York’

If you live in Ireland or the U.K., odds are this is your favorite Christmas song. If you live in America, odds are you've never heard it. But we urge everyone to give it a spin. You're going to love it. The Celtic Punk band the Pogues released the song in 1987, and it's remained one of their most beloved compositions – despite the use of the word "fa–ot." Back in the 1980s, that word was more acceptable. It's even in "Money For Nothing" by Dire Straits, though when Knopfler plays it now he sings "mother" instead. 

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1. John Lennon – ‘Happy Xmas (War Is Over)’

John Lennon and Yoko Ono wrote "Happy Xmas (War Is Over)" about the war in Vietnam, but it's become one of the most beloved Christmas songs of all time and few people even associate it with the war anymore. Phil Spector produced the song, and he recruited the Harlem Community Choir to join the recording session at the Record Plant in New York. The seed for the song was planted two years earlier when John and Yoko bought billboards all across New York reading "WAR IS OVER! (If You Want It.)" 

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