I don’t know what it’s like to date models. I don’t know what it’s like to live in California in the 1970s and play in a rock band. In other words, I don’t know what a pain it is to be Don Henley. But now I get it. I GET IT because of the Eagles’ 1978 version of “Please Come Home for Christmas.” Henley’s husking, not-gonna-I-swear-I-won’t-in-public-break-down voice carries this as a ballad for every sad middle-aged executive everywhere. Whether you’re having sex with your secretary on the dashboard of your Volvo, querying literary agents with your Judas memoir instead of hitting up work parties, or wishing you had “her” back, when Henley sings, “I have no friends to wish me greeting once again,” you know exactly who is to blame: your never-can-get-enough-can-you ass. It’s Irish self-loathing at its finest. Drop another whiskey shot in my egg nog, Donny, and hold tight till March. Play me out, Joe.
You get the sense James Brown had never even heard this song two seconds before someone handed him the sheet music. Like, they just started the backing track, and he screamed out the first lyric, “Bells will be ringing!” And the baffled sound engineer was thinking about saying, “Why don’t we hit an actual note, James,” but then was just like, “Fuck it, it’s gold.” In all seriousness, Brown’s interpretation of Charles Brown’s 1960 hit is inimitable. Rather than the inwardly brooding Henley, Brown knows exactly what’s up here: his girl done him wrong and she needs to see the light and make it back by Christmas Eve (or New Year’s Eve night). He changes the lyrics to impress upon listeners the fundamental dichotomy: this isn’t Christmas. The math doesn’t add up. James Brown is alone on the holidays. He needs his loved ones. He needs joy. He needs to be happy-happy once again. And you got to bring it to him, it’s the least you can do for the hardest working man in show business, and to show you how serious he is about this he spends the last, oh, 49 seconds of the track screaming, “NO MORE SORROW! NO MORE PAIN!” in between horn blasts, (likely) stage prostrations, and hi-fiving from the engineers in the booth.
Yes, Mr. Feliciano’s Feliz Navidad just hit #2 on the Billboard Top 200 downloaded songs but he is not only NOT a one hit wonder but an International Icon. Please do your research before mentioning him in the same category as Transiberian Orchestra and Mannheim Steamroller. With all due respect to all of the above, we are not talking about the same league here.