- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 17, 2015


There’s a noticeable un-Christmaslike spirit in the air.

An unhappy spirit.

It’s not necessarily angry or mad, or even sad.

We mustn’t let it become the spirit of all future Christmases, however.

We know the reason for the season, so let the music lift your spirit.

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For you, Christmas might be “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” as near-perfect-pitch Andy Williams first sang in 1963 (though I prefer Harry Connick Jr.’s cover).

Or you may like other winter-themed tunes, “The Christmas Song,” which no one sings better than the late, great Nat King Cole, or “Jingle Bells” (sung by anyone), and practically any Christmas-related tune that was written by Jewish-American songwriter Johnny Marks.

It’s hard to float around America during the month of December and not hear a Marks song, especially “A Jolly Holly Christmas” by Burl Ives, and the guitar-strumming Chuck Berry version of “Run, Run, Rudolph,” an upbeat tune covered by contemporary artists from Kelly Clarkson and Cee Lo Green to rockers the Grateful Dead and Aerosmith guitarist Joe Perry.

For some of you, your Christmas comfort zone is wholly spiritual. So no “Frosty the Snowman,” which likely means Jesus, Christ, Bethlehem, holy, angels and the like are in the title.

“O Holy Night” instrumental versions are among my favorites, with “This Christmas,” co-written by Donny Hathaway. “This Christmas” not only has an easily singable melody, but the punctuation marks of the percussion and the remarkable anticipation expressed in the lyrics are spot on.

I know, I know. I haven’t said a word about “Joy to the World.” Ha!

Sharing a title with Christmas carolers’ hymnal favorite, the Three Dog Night tune has nothing to do with a holy night, reflects not one iota on the Holy Trinity and, in fact, the Jeremiah it references was no prophet.

The Three Dog Night song does, though, have a well-known author, Hoyt Axton. Yes, that Hoyt Axton, he of “Heartbreak Hotel” fame, whose hound dog of a singer, the one and only Elvis Presley, loved Christian hymns and Christmas music more than the rock ‘n’ roll tunes he made famous.

That Three Dog Night’s “Jeremiah was a Bullfrog” was not coincidental. One band member said producers heard the melody and opening lyrics, “Jeremiah was a prophet,” but “no one liked that.” So Axton went back to his original placeholder, and Jeremiah returned to being a bullfrog. The song, as you probably now know, is one of the best-selling singles of all time, despite having nonsensical lyrics.

There is nothing nonsensical about the hymn “Joy to the World,” which some say glorifies the triumphant return of Jesus Christ:

“Joy to the world! The Lord is come; Let earth receive her King; Let every heart prepare Him room, And heaven and nature sing, And heaven and nature sing, And heaven, and heaven, and nature sing.”

The second verse also reminds us to be mindful: “Joy to the earth! The Savior reigns; Let men their songs employ; While fields and floods, rocks, hills, and plains, Repeat the sounding joy, Repeat the sounding joy, Repeat, repeat the sounding joy.”

Hymnals of the Latter-Day Saints and other religious denominations and language translations have variations among the four verses. The meaning remains the same, though.

Joy to the world is certainly something we all can use.

Emotions and thoughts are entangled in terrorism, hatred, fear of the unknown. Mayhem, hunger, homelessness, joblessness, substance abuse and political shenanigans — which, by the way, cannot all be blamed on Donald Trump and Barack Obama.

Joy is a simple pleasure. Merriam-Webster defines it with words even young children can understand: a feeling of great happiness; a source or cause of great happiness; something or someone that gives joy to someone.

Acknowledge it, claim it, share it.

Joy to you and yours this season of Christmas.

Deborah Simmons can be reached at [email protected]



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