Holiday Music Countdown: Numbers 12 and 11, country melodies and city swingers

Yesterday I went to two Christmas parties with fun friends, and in the crazy rush of getting from place to place I missed posting a song for the holiday music countdown. So let’s have a double-helping tonight — extra nice for a snowed-in Saturday evening. (Find previous holiday countdown posts here.)

12. Christmas for Cowboys (John Denver)

Rocky Mountain Christmas album cover

When I was a kid, one Christmas album we listened to over and over (and over) was John Denver’s Rocky Mountain Christmas. It’s a pretty collection of songs, including traditional carols, popular standards, and songs written by John Denver.

Of the selections on the album, "Christmas for Cowboys" has grown to be my favorite — a gentle, simple tune that features Denver’s clear, warm voice and exemplifies his love for the American West and life outdoors.

(Side note: In skimming around various websites while writing this post, I was reminded by the John Denver Wikipedia entry of his catch-phrase: "Far out!" I had completely forgotten this — although I can’t see how, because every appearance he made on TV played it up. Apparently he said "Far out!" nineteen times during his first appearance as guest-host for Johnny Carson. That statistic is far out itself.)

Denver had a holiday special in 1975, "Rocky Mountain Christmas." This video is compiled of clips from it. "Christmas for Cowboys" starts at 2:00.

11. I’ve Got My Love to Keep Me Warm (Billie Holiday, Frank Sinatra)

Irving Berlin wrote "I’ve Got My Love to Keep Me Warm" in 1937. Billie Holiday recorded it the same year, when she had only recently begun performing with the greatest big bands. This recording shows off her distinctive voice and phrasing; the band includes jazz greats Benny Carter on clarinet and Sweets Edison on muted trumpet.

I doubt any film footage exists of Holiday performing this song, but you can listen to it on YouTube. I found the song on Have Yourself a Jazzy Little Christmas.

Frank Sinatra also recorded a fine, swinging version of this song. Here’s a clip of him performing it on "The Frank Sinatra Show." How sharp he looks and sounds!