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Friday, December 6, 2013

Fun Friday: Why Judy Sings It Best

Last month, you may remember (or not) that I wrote a gratitude post every Thursday to explain what I love about the writing life. Now that we've charged headlong into the holiday season, I'm going to share a bit of Christmas cheer every Friday of December. Yes, I said Christmas cheer, not holiday cheer. That's not because I don't honor Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Diwali, or Secular Commercial Month When You Plant a Tree Your Living Room and Snarl at the Nice Folks at Target. Those are all legitimate seasonal traditions too. But I grew up with Christmas, so that's what I'm celebrating.

Having invoked the phrase Christmas cheer, I may now confuse the issue by championing the original version of one of the most beautiful modern Christmas songs, "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas." If you don't know the words (really?), here they are:

Have yourself a merry little Christmas
Let your heart be light
Next year, all our troubles will be out of sight
Have yourself a merry little Christmas
Make the Yuletide gay
Next year, all our troubles will be miles away

Once again, as in olden days, happy golden days of yore
Faithful friends who are dear to us will be near to us once more

Someday soon, we all will be together
If the fates allow
Until then, we'll have to muddle through somehow
So have yourself a merry little Christmas now.
(music and lyrics by Hugh Martin and Ralph Blane)

Sound melancholy? Yeah. It is. The song was written for the 1944 film Meet Me in St. Louis. Judy Garland sings it to little sister Margaret O'Brien after the family learns that they'll soon be leaving not only their beloved St. Louis home, but also all their friends and the man Judy loves. So, yeah. She's sad.

This song perfectly captures the melancholy that often accompanies Christmas as well as the hope that things will get better. Never mind that Garland's beautiful, heartfelt rendition prompts Margaret O'Brien to burst into tears and knock down her snowmen in a fit of grief. No one can sing a song like Judy--just an opinion, but hey, I'm also right--and it galls me that we more often hear this hokey, cheerified version of her classic, which looks like this:

Have yourself a merry little Christmas
Let your heart be light
Next year, all From now on, our troubles will be out of sight
Have yourself a merry little Christmas
Make the Yuletide gay
Next year, all From now on, our troubles will be miles away

Once again, Here we are as in olden days, happy golden days of yore
Faithful friends who are dear to us will be gather near to us once more

Someday soon, Through the years we all will be together
If the fates allow
Until then, we'll have to muddle through somehow Hang a shining star upon the highest bough
So have yourself a merry little Christmas now.
I'm all for Christmas glee, but not everything about Christmas is happy. It's an emotional time that often is tinged with wistful thoughts. I love the ambiguity of the original song, and again I say, nothing can touch Garland's tremulous vocals. If you've never watched this scene, do it now:




And have yourself a merry little Christmas.


Read more about this holiday classic here.

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