The best Christmas songs missing from your playlist

14 of our favourite Christmas tunes

Welcome to the Tri-Cities Dispatch office party! It’s like a regular office party only the small talk is interrupted by fundraising campaigns.

For this year’s music, we dug deep. And without disrespecting Mariah Carey, Wham! or Paul McCartney (well, maybe disrespecting one of them) we believe there’s a treasure trove of Christmas classics worthy of rediscovery. Thanks to everyone who sent in their picks.

The Harmony Grits: Santa Claus is Coming to Town
Made up of outcasts from The Drifters, The Harmony Grits only recorded a couple songs, including this up-tempo doo-wop gem with a gospel call-and-response that’s the perfect way to kick off a Christmas party.

The Reverend Horton Heat: Frosty the Snowman
The Texas psychobilly trio plays it straight on this one, capturing the fun, the exuberance and thumpity-thump-thump-thumpity the song deserves.

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Solomon Burke: Presents for Christmas
The musical titan who fused rock ‘n’ soul gives us a joyful groove here. It’s the rare Christmas song you can dance to and the even rarer Christmas song you’ll want to dance to.

The Cadillacs: Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer
The funniest, finest version of the classic song.

The Rubber Band: Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree
Here’s the concept: an album full of Christmas songs re-arranged to sound like Beatles tunes. Doesn’t sound great, does it? Well, for the most part it’s not but this version of Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree melded with I Saw Her Standing There is – inexplicably – wonderful.

Lou Rawls: Christmas Is
You want something a little mellow, something smooth you can put on when the chaos is over? Lou Rawls somehow manages to be Nat King Cole, Otis Redding and Santa Claus all in one on this track.

Stan Rogers: At Last I’m Ready for Christmas
Rousing and sweet, it’s a Christmas folk song that pays tribute to parental exhaustion. Some lyrics may be a bit dated (Christmas bonus?) but the story of toiling to give the kids a great Christmas remains both true and moving.

Detroit Junior: Christmas Day
Maybe best known as Howlin’ Wolf’s piano player, Detroit Junior released this uproarious, horn-filled Christmas jam as a B-side in 1961. It should’ve been a hit.

Dinah Washington: Ole Santa
From ribald blues to sophisticated jazz, Dinah Washington could do just about everything. This song captures a child’s anticipation on Christmas Eve

Brook Benton: Soul Santa
As smooth as rayon, as deep as a crevasse, Brook Benton stays in a lowdown groove on this track that imagines Santa Claus as a “fine soul brother.”

Slade: Merry Xmas Everybody
Whatever your opinion of glam rock, this tune just might be the ultimate sing-along Christmas rocker.

Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings: Ain’t No Chimneys in the Projects
A gorgeous piece of neo-soul, Jones tells the story of a child’s skepticism and a mother’s reassurance.

Whitney Houston with the Georgia Mass Choir: Joy to the World
It starts out fine. Nice, but nothing you haven’t heard before. And then the choir hits and the song becomes overpowering and infectious.

Duke Ellington: Sugar Rum Cherry (Dance of the Sugar-Plum Fairy)
I wish I had the vocabulary to do this song justice. As slinky and silky as, um, a silk Slinky? It’s great, is the point.

Honourable mentions

  • Ella Fitzgerald: Medley: We Three Kings/O Little Town of Bethlehem
  • Charles Brown: Silent Night
  • Barbara Streisand: Jingle Bells?
  • Odetta: Ain’t That-A-Rocking
  • Cheap Trick: I Wish it was Christmas Today
  • The Youngsters: Christmas in Jail
  • James Brown: The Christmas Song (thanks Don)
  • Emerson, Lake & Palmer: I Believe in Father Christmas (thanks Jen)
  • Chris Rea: Driving Home for Christmas (thanks Debbie)

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