Otis Redding - "White Christmas"
Today I woke up dreaming about what kinds of holidays I'd like to find in my life. The small gifts you can gift to yourself, the dreams you let linger a little longer because they make you feel good. Today I woke up thinking about all the gifts I have, and how, somehow, there are still so many dreams I'd like to make come true.
It isn't about having more stuff, or having more things to show off to people, but about creating a life that gives you the experiences you want. This feeling of wanting more in your life, not because your life is empty but because you want to share your gifts with someone else, and multiply your happiness.
To me, Otis Redding Jr. did something incredible with this song. He took a saccharinely sweet, nostalgic jazz song and turned it into a song about heartfelt longing, a call for brighter days past with a few rare but honest glimpses into the heartbreak of what the holidays can bring to those outside the warm glow of love. He made this song real, and it is both staggeringly beautiful and hopelessly honest.
In case you don't know Otis' story, here's what wikipedia says about him:
Otis Ray Redding Jr. was an American singer, songwriter, record producer, arranger, and talent scout. He is considered one of the greatest singers in the history of American popular music and a seminal artist in soul music and rhythm and blues. Redding's style of singing gained inspiration from the gospel music that preceded the genre. His singing style influenced many other soul artists of the 1960s, such as James Carr and Freddie Jackson. (Woodstra and Elewine) During his lifetime, his recordings were produced by Stax Records, based in Memphis, Tennessee.
Redding was born in Dawson, Georgia and at the age of 2, moved to Macon, GA. Redding quit school at age 15 to support his family, working with Little Richard's backing band, the Upsetters, and by performing in talent shows at the historic Douglass Theatre in Macon, Georgia. In 1958, he joined Johnny Jenkins's band, the Pinetoppers, with whom he toured the Southern states as a singer and driver. An unscheduled appearance on a Stax recording session led to a contract and his first single, "These Arms of Mine", in 1962.
Stax released Redding's debut album, Pain in My Heart, two years later. Initially popular mainly with African-Americans, Redding later reached a wider American pop music audience. Along with his group, he first played small gigs in the American South. He later performed at the popular Los Angeles night club Whisky a Go Go and toured Europe, performing in London, Paris and other major cities. He also performed at the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967.
Shortly before his death in a plane crash, Redding wrote and recorded his iconic "(Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay" with Steve Cropper. The song became the first posthumous number-one record on both the Billboard Hot 100 and R&B charts. The album The Dock of the Bay was the first posthumous album to reach number one on the UK Albums Chart. Redding's premature death devastated Stax. Already on the verge of bankruptcy, the label soon discovered that the Atco division of Atlantic Records owned the rights to his entire song catalog.
Redding received many posthumous accolades, including the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award and induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Songwriters Hall of Fame. In addition to "(Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay," "Respect" and "Try a Little Tenderness" are among his best-known songs.
So today, with gratitude and wishes sprouting like Paperwhites, I choose Otis Redding's version of "White Christmas" as my, merry & bright, hopeful and heartfelt, with you in my dreams, song for a, keep dreaming, never stop hoping, yours is the joy that falls like snowflakes Wednesday.