Arts Desk

The Sleigher, Retro Edition: Otis Redding’s “White Christmas/Merry Christmas Baby”

Ho Ho Who: It's Otis Redding. If you don't know who he is, you're probably just reading a blog post about pop music because you're getting paid to leave a spammy link in the comments. Released in 1968, the year after Redding died in a plane crash, this Christmas covers single never charted. But it should have.

May Your Days Be Merry: Around this time of year, merely turning on the radio (except maybe to listen to NPR or WTOP) carries some danger of accidental exposure to Christmas music, most of which is loathsome. That adjective applies to the Bing Crosby original that Redding covers on the A-side of this single, too. But the King of Soul can't be brought down by Irving Berlin's treacly lyrics! He can barely even keep the tempo of the song from breaking loose of ballad territory.

Feel Like I'm in Paradise: The B-side doesn't even sound like holiday music at all, except for some jingle bells in the background that you can easily pretend are just the work of an overzealous tambourine player in the Stax studios. It's the best of all seasonal songs—people who like Christmas music will be happy with the constant "Merry Christmas"-ing in the refrain, and people with good taste will be happy because it's Otis Redding. The 1947 original, by songwriter Johnny Moore's Three Trailblazers (featuring Charles Brown) is worth a listen, too.

Cheer Factor: 9/10. Only the sad fact that this was a posthumous release puts a perfect score out of reach.

Listen: Otis Redding, "White Christmas"

Otis Redding, "Merry Christmas Baby"

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