“This Christmas” by Donny Hathaway

Dear Santa Claus:

This letter is a request to help make my Christmas very special.

I listen to the radio, both traditional and satellite, a lot during the holidays. I know that I have the option of turning to my own music collection, and I sometimes do, but I have always enjoyed the random nature of radio–the anticipation of wondering what the next tune will be and the hope that I’ll hear one of my favorites when I need it most. I know I can always play a great song 100 times in a row if I want to, and sure, I enjoy that. But there still is nothing like listening to the radio and hearing that same song pop on after waiting patiently through seemingly endless commercials and jingles, smiling silently as I know that timing and fate conspired to ensure that my ears were in the right place at the right time.

For fans of the holiday music genre, this time of year requires a certain tolerance of repetition. There are only so many holiday songs, and most stations rely on a small selection of well-known favorites. Stations try to minimize the repetition by trotting out the same songs, but spicing things up by including different versions by assorted artists. I don’t mind this–in fact, in several cases, I welcome it. Even with some of my most preferred songs, by some of my most beloved artists, I am happy to hear alternative interpretations. The best example of this would involve “Wonderful Christmastime.” I really always want to hear My Sir Paul alone sing it. But I can grant that The Shins just released a decent, listenable cover, and about five years ago, Jars of Clay did an awesome version for which I give them eternal props.

But some songs really should be played only in one version. And for me that’s true of “This Christmas” by Donny Hathaway.

Why would I want to look at a fifth-grader’s attempt to mimic Starry Night by Vincent Van Gogh? Why would I watch Gus Van Sant’s lame attempt at Psycho with Vince Vaughn when Alfred Hitchcock got it perfect the first time with Anthony Perkins? And why would I ever, ever want to hear anyone else sing this song, rendered in perfect voice by the original artist, at the right tempo, with an awesome band behind him?

Could you consider working a little Christmas magic over the radio stations and, when it’s time for this song to be in rotation, for them to play it only in Donny’s incarnation? Even the late Amy Winehouse knew there was nothing anyone could teach that she couldn’t learn from Mr. Hathaway.

As I said earlier, I know that when it comes to Christmas music there’s not a ton of variety with which to work. So if we can’t strike a deal to limit “This Christmas” to my preferred version only, can I at least ask to somehow be spared the following:

  • Chris Brown’s version, because I don’t want to think of him luring any young woman to spend a very special Christmas with him
  • Christina (or should I say Xtina) Aguilera’s version, because she sounds like she’s having indigestion, Tourette’s syndrome, a stroke, or maybe all three through most of it, and I can’t take it
  • Above all, Gloria Estefan’s misguided and headache-inducing version, which includes cheesy, dated synthesizers, a cutesy children’s choir (never, in my opinion, the right backup group for a sexy, romantic number in which the lead singer pleads to “hang all the mistletoe, I want to get to know you better”), and strained vocals way outside her narrow and limited range

I’ve been really good this year. You already knew this, being Santa and all.

Merry Christmas. XO. Shake a hand, shake a hand now.

Sincerely,

A Lifelong Fan and True Believer

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