I was listening to my Great Christmas Playlist Shuffle and this question popped into my mind. Let’s groupsource it! I’m curious what other people think. And if nothing else, you get to listen to two shockingly beautiful simple musical recordings.
“Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” was written in 1944 in the middle of one of the worst years of WWII. It’s a song for depressed people who are trying not to be depressed. It’s not about that feeling of “I’m super super sad and wallowing in it”, it’s about that feeling of “I am just trying to put one foot in front of the other and somehow keep going.”
Judy introduced it, and the combination of the gentle sadness of the lyrics with Judy’s “sob in her throat” voice is something really magical, an immediate Christmas classic.
And then there’s James Taylor’s version, which includes the intro lyrics that Judy did not use, and which give a little more of a “try to appreciate what we have this moment” message. Two very unusual things about this recording, first that Taylor usually writes his own songs so to have him do a cover of an decades old song is odd. Second, it wasn’t from a Christmas album, it was from a regular album released in August and is the only Christmas song on it. It was released in 2002 and worked on in 2001, and I believe in my heart, although I can’t find confirmation of it, that he must have decided to add this song after the September 11 attacks.
Okay, which version is more meaningful to you????
I think I’ve gotta go with Judy’s version. Which is strange, because usually I am all about the lyrics, and Taylor does more lyrics. But Judy really makes the song her own for me, and I can relate more to her sort of full throated sorrow than Taylor’s gentler sadness.