It seems to me that the eternal promise of Christmas is to restore for us a certain unbroken wholeness. This wholeness can take on many appearances, but this song certainly nails one of them for me: a feeling of returning to a family home, isolated from our usual cares, but still connected to something larger than ourselves.
This song was originally recorded in 1947 by Johnny Moore's Three Blazers, featuring Charles Brown on piano and vocals. The original recording was a hit on the Rhythm and Blues charts, and the song has been recorded by many blues and R&B artists down through the years. The lyrics recount the happy tale of a man feeling appreciative of his wife/girlfriend on Christmas morning, after opening his many presents.
Much like Jackson Browne's “The Rebel Jesus,” this Christmas song from The Kinks is also focused on the needs of the poor. And although the children in this tale seem to come more from the Oliver Twist/Artful Dodger tradition than from “The Christmas Carol,” Dickens would still recognize their predicament and their motivations.
Jackson Browne's Christmas song is everything one might hope for from a singer-songwriter whose career has combined political activism with a deeply personal romanticism.
The history of Leonard Cohen's song “Hallelujah” is a fascinating one. Cohen's songs had never really been embraced by the masses, and his first recording of “Hallelujah” in the early eighties was part of an album so lacking in obvious commercial appeal that the president of CBS Records responded to it by saying: “What is this? This isn't pop music. We're not releasing it. This is a disaster.”
As ever more people work from home, and more students attempt remote learning, I'm concerned about a growing chorus of folks who are celebrating this enforced distancing as a welcome wave of the future, and suggesting that what started as a temporary fix should be embraced as a permanent fixture of 21st century society.
There is a flaw in the reasoning behind our infernal, never-ending, society-splitting debate concerning socialism vs. capitalism, and I want to point it out.
To start with, imagine the lives of our hunter-gatherer ancestors.
(Notice I say “our” with confidence because, even though I don’t know who you are or where you were raised or what you look like, I do know that you, like all of us humans, are descended from one or more tribes of hunter-gatherers.)
When historians look at the long span of our human history, they try to make sense of our arc of cultural evolution by breaking it up into phases: the agrarian era, the industrial era, the digital era, and so forth. But of course, there are multiple perspectives we can use for this sort of exercise. Perhaps the most important perspective to consider is the relationship of our human population to the rest of our world.
Even if we are fortunate enough to defeat Donald Trump in 2020, that won't mean the end of Trumpism.
Many of the things that Trump came to stand for were around before his candidacy – and, in fact, helped him to get elected – and they won't simply vanish on their own. If we're foolish enough to think they will, then we're engaging in as much magical thinking as The Donald is when he claims that COVID-19 will simply disappear all by itself.