6 Controversial Christmas Carols

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When you think of Christmas, you probably envision a row of cherry-faced carolers standing on your doorstep, holding candles and swaying to the soft, delicate notes of classic Christmas songs. But at certain points in history, some carols might have gotten those festive vocalists chased out of the neighborhood.

1. Elvis Presley's "White Christmas" (1957)

It seems that every major musical talent falls into the trap of doing a Christmas album, and the King of Rock 'n Roll was no exception. Elvis' 1957 Christmas album caused a huge firestorm of controversy for a man who was already in hot water with every decency and obscenity group in the country—and his rendition of Irvin Berlin's "White Christmas" was at the top of their "To Hate" list. Even Berlin himself, after hearing a recording, ordered that the song be banned from the airwaves. Radio stations refused to play it, and one disc jockey in Portland lost his job for ignoring his station's "White Christmas" embargo. When asked if he'd play the song, Los Angeles DJ Dick Whittinghill replied, "That's like having [stripper] Tempest Storm deliver Christmas gifts to my kids."

2. Placide Cappeau de Roquemaure's "O Holy Night" (1847)

One of the most sung and universal Christmas carols actually caused quite a stir when it first hit people's ears around the holidays. Placide Cappeau de Roquemaure, a French poet and commissionaire of wines, was asked by his parish priest in 1847 to write a poem for Christmas mass. The poet was so moved by the words that flowed out of him that he decided to set his poem to music, with help from a musician friend by the name of Adolphe Charles Adams. The song gained popularity, but was banned after Cappeau left the church and leaders learned Adams was Jewish. Despite the edict, people in France continued singing the song, and in the mid-1850s, writer John Sullivan Dwight brought it to America.

3. Billy Joel's "Christmas in Fallujah" (2007)

He had not released an album in 14 years, but Billy Joel returned to the airwaves in 2007 to speak his mind at Christmas time. The artist wrote and produced a rather blunt Christmas tune about U.S. troops stuck in Iraq during the holidays. He told Katie Couric of CBS News that he hoped the Christmas ditty would remind people about the troops and the conflict. Some critics called it an anti-war song and the Pentagon Channel, an Armed Forces TV network, pulled a segment on the song at the last minute for fear of hurting morale. Some individual soldiers told CBS they didn't have a problem with it and were even moved by Joel's lyrics and thoughts.

4. The Charlie Brown Christmas Album (2006 Remix)

charlie-brown-christmasThe classic Charlie Brown Christmas is so loved and revered that any attempt to alter any portion of it will immediately be met with harsh vengeance. That's exactly what happened when the Concord Music Group released a remastered version of the famed Vince Guaraldi Trio's soundtrack to the 1965 CBS Christmas special. Fans with mosquito-like hearing noticed some major discrepancies in the tracks, including alternate takes, noise reduction, and outright sound manipulation through digital technology. The backlash became so heavy that CMG offered customers a replacement disc.

5. John Lennon's "Happy Xmas (War Is Over)" (1971)

John Lennon tried to recapture the spirit of the peace movement with "Happy Xmas (War Is Over)." The song, based on a billboard campaign he and his wife Yoko Ono ran around the world, raised some ire for combining anti-Vietnam sentiments with Christmas tunes, but it would later be one of the artist's last hit singles. Years later, after Lennon's assassination in 1980, the song made the Billboard chart.

6. Christmas in the Stars: The Star Wars Christmas Album (1980)

Maybe not controversial, but we've included this entire album for just being awful. If you're already familiar with the eye-bleeding badness of The Star Wars Holiday Special, then this musical attempt to cash in on Star Wars at Christmas shouldn't require any personal reviewing to confirm any critique. The album featured such spacey themes as "R2D2's Sleigh Ride" and "What Can You Get a Wookiee for Christmas (When He Already Owns a Comb?)" The fact that it features Jon Bon Jovi's first recorded musical performance might make you wish R2D2 had never stopped that trash compactor in the first place.

Danny Gallagher is a freelance writer, reporter and humorist living in Texas. He can be found on the web at dannygallagher.net, on MySpace and on Twitter.

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December 16, 2009 - 7:13am
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