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Christmas Music Playlists with Johnny Cash Songs
For Those Who Prefer Cash At Christmas
Factfile - Johnny Cash
- In 1959 Cash released the single Little Drummer Boy. It peaked at #24 on the Country singles chart and #63 on the Billboard.
- In 1963 he released his first Christmas album, The Christmas Spirit. It peaked at #7 on the Billboard Holiday Albums chart.
- In 1972 came The Johnny Cash Family Christmas which featured dialogue and narration from his family and friends between the songs.
- His 3rd & 4th Holiday albums were Classic Christmas (1980) and Johnny Cash Country Christmas (1991).
Johnny Cash may have been one of country music’s hardest men but boy did he love Christmas, especially the ones he spent back home on the ranch in Tennessee with his family. The ‘Man in Black’, as he was known, was a prolific musician and over a career spanning many decades he recorded 4 Christmas albums. His first appeared in 1963 in what was a momentous year for Christmas albums with ‘A Christmas Gift for You from Phil Spector’, ‘Christmas With The Miracles’ (Smokey Robinson), ‘The Andy Williams Christmas Album’ and Jim Reeves ‘Twelve Songs of Christmas’ all arriving at the same time as Cash’s ‘The Christmas Spirit’.
Although the ‘Little Drummer Boy’ single had proceeded ‘The Christmas Spirit’ in 1959 this was truly Cash’s first step into Christmas and what a debut it proved to be. The album contained 12 tracks with Cash writing 4 of them for the occasion. The title track was one such original, a spoken word homage to the true values of the season. And that is the kernel of what Johnny Cash’s Christmas albums were about, pining for Christmas the way it used to be when families spent happy times together no matter how little money they had. Of Cash’s other Christmas songs ‘The Gift They Gave’ was the standout with his deep baritone retelling the story of the nativity. ‘The Christmas Spirit’ also contained plenty of covers and it was ‘I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day’, the June Carter written ‘Christmas As I Knew It’ and perhaps the album’s highlight ‘Little Drummer Boy’ that stole the show.
It would almost be a decade later before Johnny Cash’s second Christmas album was recorded but 1972’s but ‘Johnny Cash Family Christmas’ was worth the wait. With family members including wife June Carter, her siblings, Tommy from the Cash family and friends such as Mr. ‘Blue Suede Shoes’ Carl Perkins also lending a hand this had the feeling of a friendly gathering and included plenty of spoken word dialogue between the participants. Cash again turned his hand to some original material with his duet with June ‘Christmas With You’ offering a homely odd to a family Christmas. ‘Johnny Cash Family Christmas’ was a pleasant mix of secular and religious songs with ‘Jingle Bells’ and ‘Christmas Time's a-Comin' offering an opportunity to let your hair down.
Johnny’s third Christmas outing would appear in 1980 and although ‘Classic Christmas’ contained no originals it would still illustrate Cash’s indomitable Christmas spirit. ‘Classic Christmas’ was rich in production values which resulted in a bigger sound than its predecessors. So opening track ‘Joy To The World’ feels like the heavens have just opened up with Johnny joined by a large backing choir at the gates. And ‘Classic Christmas’ follows this theme throughout with the mostly religious material sounding particularly sacred in Johnny’s hands. There is hardly any filler to be found but there are some quite notable moments on the bold and beautiful ‘Hark! The Herald Angels Sing’ and ‘O Come All Ye Faithful’ where Johnny’s voice sounds at its most imperious.
Cash would record just one more Christmas album in 1991 with ‘Johnny Cash Country Christmas’ again featuring a collection of Johnny’s takes on festive favourites. With almost 80 albums to his name at this stage in his career the country singer showed no signs of flagging and was ably supported by his wife June Carter and the wider Carter family. While ‘Johnny Cash Country Christmas’ reprised many of the great mans earlier Christmas renditions there were a couple of brand new interpretations. ‘O Christmas Tree’ and ‘Figgy Pudding’ (really just a retitled ‘We Wish You A Merry Christmas’) were two of the jolly additions to the JC Christmas canon.
On every face at every place was, "Hurry up, I'm late", But a kind old man at a chestnut stand said, "Merry Christmas mate", And I felt the Christmas spirit...
Johnny Cash, The Christmas Spirit
Johnny Cash Christmas Album & Single Covers