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Christmas Blues: Ten Blue Songs About Christmas

I grew up in the "classic rock" era, but I love music of every genre. I love sharing my old favorites while still discovering new artists.


Do Christmas Carols Give You the Blues?

Once Thanksgiving is over it’s hard to walk into a shop without hearing a relentless barrage of traditional Christmas music. Even if you are the epitome of the Christmas spirit, and you love the usual carols, it can start to get to you.

If the steady diet of Jingle Bells, and Rudolph the Red-Nose Reindeer is giving you the blues, maybe you should check out some of these Christmas blues songs.

1. "Christmas Tears" —Eric Clapton (1998)

Eric Clapton

I hear sleigh bells ringing, but I haven't heard a word from you in years."

Blues legend Freddie King wrote and recorded "Christmas Tears" in 1961. It is a heartbreaking blues ballad about lost love at Christmas time.

Clapton's rendition of the song is from a fundraising benefit concert for the Special Olympics. The concert took place at the White House, and it was filmed for television. The music has been released on a CD, "A Very Special Christmas Live from Washington D.C."

2. "Christmas Blues" —Canned Heat (1968)

Well, what's is my life, pretty baby,with another Christmas time without you?"

Canned Heat is a rock band noteworthy for its interpretations of blues material. Formed in 1965, the band has always promoted blues music and its original artists. The band was founded by Alan Wilson and Bob Hite. They got the name for the band from Tommy Johnson's 1928 song "Canned Heat Blues." It was a song about an alcoholic who had started drinking Sterno, generically called "canned heat."

Canned Heat's version of "Christmas Blues" was first released on the album Boogie With Canned Heat in 1968. It can also be found on the Canned Heat Christmas Album, released in 2007.

3. "Merry Merry Christmas" —Koko Taylor (1992)

Koko Taylor

Christmas in Chicago, New York, too. Way down in New Orleans and right here with you"

This daughter of a Tennessee sharecropper grew up to be blues royalty. Known by her many fans as the "Queen of the Blues," her most successful song was "Wang Dang Doodle," written by Willie Dixon,

With that raw, powerful voice of hers, Koko could lift a tune solely on the attitude she brought to it. Many people noticed her singing "Merry Merry Christmas" in the background on the Sandra Bullock movie "While You Were Sleeping."

4. "Slippin' Into Christmas" —Leon Russel (1972)

Leon Russel

I’m feeling kind of useless like a secondhand Christmas tree, and I’m sneaking into sorrow these blues have got a hold on me"

Russell’s often overlooked 1972 “Slippin’ Into Christmas” featured his usual band, plus Freddie King. This is a wonderful bluesy arrangement, but it never became a holiday hit.

The lyrics of this song are the perfect expression of how it feels to be apart from the one you love at Christmas time. If you have ever had that experience, you will know exactly what he was singing about in this song.

5. "Back Door Santa " —Clarence Carter (1968)

Clarence Carter

I ain't like old St. Nick, he don't come but once a year."

Mixing the sacred with the profane is par for the course for Clarence Carter. The highly sexualized "Back Door Santa" is one of his most successful songs, along with another sexy song, "Slip Away." Both were originally recorded in 1968.

6. "Santa Claus is Back in Town" —Elvis Presley (1957)

Elvis Presley

Hang up your pretty stockings and put out the light, Santa Claus is coming down your chimney tonight!"

Written for Elvis by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, "Santa Claus Is Back In Town" is almost a burlesque of the blues. This smoking song exemplifies Elvis' talent for taking corny or lackluster material and spinning it into gold. Elvis' growling vocals lend vibrant sexual energy to the recording.

7. "Christmas Celebration" —B. B. King (1962)

Here's to you, honey, may Christmas bring you happiness. I want you to have a good time like we did on all the rest"

B.B. King is, by far, the most famous blues musician in history. This is a cover of a song written and recorded in 1951 by Jesse Thomas. Thomas' version is subdued, but King's cover is brassier, full of the manly bravado and smoking guitar leads that have earned him his well-deserved reputation.

8. "Merry Christmas Baby" —Otis Redding (1968)

Otis Redding

Merry Christmas baby, sure do treat me nice. Bought me a diamond ring for Christmas

I feel like I'm in paradise"

Otis Redding's rendition of Charles Brown's "Merry Christmas Baby" is a radical reinterpretation. Compared to the original, the song is almost unrecognizable. It was recorded in Memphis in 1967, but it was not released until after Redding's death. Booker T. Jones' contributes the organ, and Steve Cropper is on guitar.

9. "How I Hate to See Christmas Come Around" —Jimmy Whitherspoon (1947)

Santa may have brought you some stars for your shoes, but Santa only brought me the blues.”

Great blues shouter Jimmy Witherspoon cut this tragic Christmas song in 1947. If you think Christmas is stressful for you, just wait until you hear his story. Jimmy spends the season at the loan company and the pawnshop instead of fighting crowds at the mall.

10. "Santa Claus go Straight to the Ghetto" —James Brown (1968)

Santa Claus, go straight to the ghetto. Santa Claus, the soul brothers need you so. Santa Claus, tell them James Brown sent you"

What sets James Browns' Christmas song apart from the rest is its good humor. In this funky song, Brown beseeches Santa not to forget the needy residents of the ghetto. It's not exactly "Jingle Bells," but it's a joyful little song with a positive message.

Blues Christmas Songs

I had fun creating this short respite from the usual holiday melodies, I hope you had fun reading and listening, and that you don't have the Christmas Blues.

Merry Christmas!

© 2016 Sherry Hewins


Sherry Hewins (author) from Sierra Foothills, CA on December 29, 2016:

Santa Claus is Back in Town is a more upbeat Christmas song by Elvis. Even if it is "the blues."

teaches12345 on December 28, 2016:

I guess we have a lot of blues Christmas songs out there! I enjoy Elvis singing Christmas carols but never enjoyed it when he sung "I'll have a blue Christmas". It was just too sad.

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on December 21, 2016:

What a great lineup! I listened to these bluesy Christmas songs during my lunch break. Thanks for the entertainment!

Pat Mills from East Chicago, Indiana on December 16, 2016:

Another one that comes to mind is Please Come Home For Christmas, first written and recorded by Charles Brown. I first heard it when the Eagles covered it with their hit version. It's another good song about loss and longing, and certainly puts the blues in Christmas in its own way.