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Songs of the Season: Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer

This must be just about the most popular Christmas song in the United States – certainly the one that pretty much everyone knows all the words to. And pretty much everyone has done a version of it:

Gene Autry, “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” (Gene Autry was the “Singing Cowboy”)

Jack Johnson, “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer”

Chris Isaak, “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer”

The Temptations, “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” – from A Motown Christmas

Ella Fitzgerald, “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer”

Ray Charles, “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer”

Dean Martin, “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer”

More recently, Destiny’s Child did a funked up version of this Christmas classic, with an accompanying video that integrates them into the 1964 TV special:

But here’s the thing – this song epitomizes the commercialization of Christmas:

Robert L. May created Rudolph in 1939 as an assignment for Montgomery Ward. The retailer had been buying and giving away coloring books for Christmas every year and it was decided that creating their own book would save money. In its first year of publication, 2.4 million copies of Rudolph’s story were distributed by Montgomery Ward. The story is written as a poem in the meter of “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas”. (via Wikipedia.)

Created by a department store/catalog company as a way to make more money during Christmas, and visually best known through a TV special. It’s a manufactured tradition – made to order, literally. And yet it does seem to have become part of our Christmas thing, at least here in the United States. And the song has become one of those pieces of general knowledge – every kid seems to know it, even if they’ve never seen that special. Still, I love it less for knowing its department store origins.

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zerode by nick chapman is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.

Oh - and hello to Jason Isaacs.

The 400 Blows

zerode

is an over-caffeinated and under-employed grad school dropout, aspiring leftwing intellectual and cultural studies academic, cinéaste, and former poet. Raised in San Francisco on classic film, radical politics, burritos and soul music, then set loose upon the world. He spends his time in coffee shops with his laptop and headphones, caffeinating and trying to construct a post-whatever life.

 

What's in a name... The handle "zerode" is a contraction of Zéro de Conduite, the title of Jean Vigo's 1933 movie masterpiece about schoolboy rebellion.

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