r-3519121-1412977518-7113-jpegGene Autry – “Frosty the Snowman” – (1950)

He didn’t write it, but Gene Autry was the first to record it and made it famous. It was a top ten hit around Christmas of 1950 and would later be made into an animated TV program (though Jimmy Durante sang this song there). If you like the idea of a mid-century Christmas like I do, then this is a must-have song.

R-4488498-1366321031-4796.jpegBing Crosby & The Andrews Sisters – “Mele Kalikimaka” – (1950)

You don’t have to Hawaiian to appreciate this song. Bing is crooning in his classic style and The Andrews Sisters are great too. It really takes you back to this era when Hawaii was still sort of a new phenomenon. But this song is perfect for any Christmas when you’re under palm trees and near an ocean. Many people have since recorded this but this version remains the best. 

Sammy Davis Jr. – “The Birth of the Blues” – (1955)

Sammy Davis Jr. was one of the most famous members of the “Rat Pack” – after Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin. But I don’t think he was nearly as talented as those two. This standard was released on his debut studio album in 1955. The song was first published in 1926 and recorded by a number of people over the years. In 1965, Davis, Sinatra, and Dean Martin performed this together on a live TV special. That’s probably the song’s most famous moment (not that anyone knows it anyway).

Frank Sinatra – “Jingle Bells” – (1957)

Let’s be honest, “Jingle Bells” is a kids song. But nobody does it better than Frank. I love the “I love those J-I-N-G-L-E bells.” And then Sinatra comes in singing – you can almost hear the scotch in his hand sloshing around as he sings this one. The background vocals are great too. This is one of my favorite Christmas songs. It just came from that perfect time (the 1950s) for music like this. For me, picturing a “traditional” Christmas scene almost always ends up as a snowy 1950s American scene. With a song like this playing in the background.

Chuck Berry – “Run Rudolph Run” – (1958)

Well if it’s a rockin’ Christmas you want, look no further than one of the masters of rock-n-roll, Chuck Berry and his most famous Christmas tune. It has been covered a billion times – as have all Christmas songs by this point, but it was a solid hit for Berry in 1958 – charting at #69 on the Hot 100. It appeared in the U.K. in 1963 and went to #36. It found a second life in movies, having appeared in Home Alone, among others. And, without the lyrics, you wouldn’t be able to tell this is a Christmas song – but you would definitely know it is Chuck Berry.

Perry Como & the Fontaine Sisters with Mitchell Ayers & his Orchestra – “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas” – (1951)

So far, I think that’s the longest artist/song title combo we’ve yet had on this site. I hate leaving out orchestras and their conductors, so I included it there. Memorize it, there’ll be a quiz later. This is the best version of this Christmas classic – he and Bing Crosby both recorded it in 1951, but Como’s was more popular initially and with Bing having done every other popular Christmas song up to that point, why not let someone else have a win. Have I already called it a classic?

Dean Martin – “That’s Amore” – (1953)

I hear this song every time I eat at The Olive Garden. So I thought, when I go to Italy, this is the type of thing they’ll be playing while I eat. Wrong! I ate at a decently sized restaurant in Venice and what were they playing? Mariah Carey and Enigma. Needless to say, I was disappointed. But seriously, if someone opened an Olive Garden in Rome they’d be rich. The food in that part of Italy doesn’t have a lot of flavor. It’s actually kind of bland. I didn’t make it to Sicily, but I suspect things improve as you head south. Song-wise, they don’t come much better than this. Take it away, Dino!

Fiorello & the Guy Barker International Quintet feat. Jude Law & Matt Damon – “Tu Vuo’ Fa L’Americano” – (1999)

This song was originally written in 1956 by, guess who, Renato Carosone. This is my favorite version of it. It featured Jude Law and Matt Damon singing from the movie The Talented Mr. Ripley (which is an awesome movie). This song was – in a way – very popular during 2010. Yolanda Be Cool & DCUP used it in their hugely popular “We No Speak Americano.” When I think “Italian songs,” I immediately think of “Tu Vuo’ Fa L’Americano.”

Renato Carosone – “Mambo Italiano” – (1954)

Guess what country we’ve moved to this week. Italy! I heard a Frenchwoman say that “the Italians are just like the French – but happy.” And it’s true. There’s just something about being in Italy that makes you happy. I was walking around Venice singing this song – except for whatever reason I was substituting “Janet Napolitano” for “Mambo Italiano.” At the time I had no idea who she was and looked it up later (she’s the Secretary of Homeland Security in the U.S.). It was kind of the theme for Italy while I was there. The album cover to the right is a picture from La Dolce Vita – a film that romanticizes Italy like nothing else. I ate at a gelato shop in Rome called La Dolce Vita (which means: “The Sweet Life”). Also, when I walked past the Trevi Fountain, I wanted to go running through it. Renato Carosone was kind of the king of Italian music throughout the 50s and later. This is probably his best.