Friday, December 11, 2009

Santa Claus Is Coming To Town by The Jackson 5

Now I never believed in Santa Claus.

My parents being immigrants and not Christians did their best with Christmas. They did the gift thing, got a tree decorated the house but that was as far as it went with my family. We visited Santa in the mall and took pictures with the guy but there was never any illusion that anyone but our parents were responsible for getting us gifts. It wasn't so much that my brother and I were motivated to be good because of Santa but rather our parents.

Now perhaps having an outside influence, an omnipresent force like Santa to remind kids to be good is helpful but it kind of seems like a parental cop-out. I mean if your child is acts better when you mention Santa Claus as opposed to behaving well just for you then it seems you may have some behavior and respect issues to deal with.

The one song that most directly addresses the Santa Claus myth is "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town." Originally performed on sung on Eddie Cantor's radio show in 1934, this song became an instant Christmas classic.

Now most recordings of "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town" come from the perspective of an adult warning a child to be good. The words are a little ominous and foreboding saying telling a child that they should not only be good for Santa sake but "good for goodness sake."

Just think about the lyrics a second. Every line of the verse starts out with "you better." If that's not a veiled threat I don't know what is. I mean the song never explicitly describes what will happen if you are bad but I got to wonder if there isn't something punitive involved with Santa besides not getting gifts. This in addition to the fact that Santa is kind of a stalker is kind of disturbing, I mean this guys knows EVERYTHING!!

Here's the thing, I actually like this song the connotations don't work from me but it’s different hearing the words come from a child. This is one reason that my favorite version of "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town" is by The Jackson 5.

Not that it was enough for The Jackson 5 to break out with "I Want You Back" (which was one of the first posts I wrote), but the Jackson 5 and the geniuses at Motown continued to revolutionize popular music.

The Jackson 5 reved up the "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town," adding a classic up tempo Motown beat. They also changed the melody on the line "Santa Claus is coming to town." Instead of starting low and rising up and down using broken thirds, it starts on high note out of nowhere falling down before jumping up for another high note. I mean Michael just gives that high note everything that he's got. You can just picture him closing his eyes, throwing his head back and letting free his voice.

In Michael's hands this song is less about being good or being bad, but just celebrating the fact that Santa is on his way. Michael captures a child like joy and innocence like other children singers but his vocal power and expression adds a layer of soul to his performance that takes this song to a whole different level.

The Jackson 5's version is so influential that many artist like Bruce Springsteen “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town” is as the Jackson 5 did modifying the melody and mimicking the Jackson 5's joyous spirit.

Listening to Michael makes you feel that he actually believes that Santa coming to town and his joy makes me want to believe in Santa Claus.

1 comment:

  1. What happens to bad children is documented in historical B-movies such as Silent Night, Deadly Night and Santa's Slay. :P