Book Review: Sleigh Rides, Jingle Bells and Silent Nights

Sleigh Rides, Jingle Bells and Silent Nights is a Cultural History of American Christmas Songs.  For some reason, I always find myself drawn to these christmas song books.  While this post isn’t actually going live until October I am actually reading it in July during one of our many heatwaves.  Maybe wishing to be cold and have snow is what drew me to this book this time.

The first page of each chapter has the paragraphs/quotes arranged in such a way that it looks like there are 3 christmas ornaments on the page.  Definitely an interesting touch!

It focuses a bit on several different topics and mentions the songs that fit in to each such topic.  A lot of these songs were written a long, long times ago but have been re-recorded time and time again and continue to remain popular.   I never have really thought of these songs from a history stand point – they are just classics that we all know and love and sing around christmas time (or after thanksgiving or maybe even after halloween depending on how early they try to squeeze the holidays in stores now!)

Overall it is a very in depth read on a lot of the Christmas music that you know and love (if you celebrate Christmas, that is) and certainly interesting to read about!

I received a free e-copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley in order to write this review. I was not otherwise compensated.

About the Book

When Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas” debuted in 1942, no one imagined that a holiday song would top the charts year after year. One of the best-selling singles ever released, it remains on rotation at tree lighting ceremonies across the country, in crowded shopping malls on Black Friday, and at warm diners on lonely Christmas Eve nights. Over the years, other favorites have been added to America’s annual playlist, including Elvis Presley’s “Blue Christmas,” the King Cole Trio’s “The Christmas Song,”  Gene Autry’s “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” Willie Nelson’s “Pretty Paper,” and, of course, Elmo & Patsy’s “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer.”          Viewing American holiday values through the filter of familiar Christmas songs, Ronald Lankford examines popular culture, consumerism, and the dynamics of the traditional American family. He surveys more than seventy-five years of songs and reveals that the “modern American Christmas” has carried a complex and sometimes contradictory set of meanings. Interpreting tunes against the backdrop of the eras in which they were first released, he identifies the repeated themes of nostalgia, commerce, holiday blues, carnival, and travesty that underscore so much beloved music. This first full-length analysis of the lyrics, images, and commercial forces inextricably linked to Yuletide music hits the heart of what many Americans think Christmas is–or should be.  Ronald D. Lankford Jr. is a freelance writer on music and popular culture who lives in Appomattox, Virginia. He is the author of Women Singer-Songwriters in Rock: A Populist Rebellion in the 1990s and Folk Music USA: The Changing Voice of Protest.

Category: Book Review
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