It's nearly that time...Christmas time...here in my part of the country the temperature on Christmas Day is predicted to be 73 degrees and I'm in the Midwest...typically by late December it doesn't get above 45 much at all during the entire months of December through late February. However, since this IS the season...it's time to spotlight the various Christmas music videos from Ray Stevens.
Let's start this off with the classic "Santa Claus is Watching You" from 1985. This not only is a classic but it's the first music video in the career of Ray Stevens. It became a tradition on The Nashville Network every season to air this video...at one point it became the most popular Christmas music video via viewer feedback/requests.
The song itself goes back in Ray's career to the early 1960s. The original recording by Ray and it's original presentation played out as a typical Children's novelty record of the time period including warnings from Ray for the kids to behave because Santa's watching. That the song could be completely re-imagined as a clever tale of holiday adultery...and have the victim/suspicious husband warn his wife that she better remain faithful because Santa's watching...well, to put it bluntly, it's one of those rare instances in which a remake/re-recording is a lot better than the original.
Ray re-recorded "Santa Claus is Watching You" for inclusion on his 1985 comedy album for MCA titled I Have Returned. The single's picture sleeve featured Ray, as Santa, peeking around the Christmas tree. The same year MCA issued a various artists collection called Tennessee Christmas. Ray contributed his original composition, "Greatest Little Christmas Ever Wuz", and for many, many, many, MANY years that 1985 compilation was the only place to find the recording. It essentially became one of those lost recordings because of it's lack of redistribution. A local AM radio station played it a lot every year...that's how I learned of it's existence...and for several years I mistakenly believed that Ray had recorded a comedy Christmas album because in my youth and inexperience about record sizes I had seen the picture sleeve of "Santa Claus is Watching You" at a flea market and mistook if for a full-length album.
How I wish I could go back to that point in time and tell my grandparent's to get that recording...but it happened to be at a time when I had not yet discovered the music of Ray Stevens. This wouldn't happen for another half a year at the least (!!). I've long since estimated that my introduction to his recordings began at some point in the summer of 1986.
Ray's first ever Christmas project didn't come along, though, until 1997 under the title of Ray Stevens Christmas: Through a Different Window. It has since become a classic in his career and a mainstay nearly every season. It's chock full of Christmas novelty songs that beat up political correctness and dare to send a comical jolt through the traditions of the season...the reason you'll see song titles such as "Bad Little Boy", "Guilt For Christmas", "I Won't Be Home For Christmas", "Nightmare Before Christmas", etc. The hit album helped spawn a hit stage show at the Opryland venue at the Acuff Theater. Strangely enough no music video productions emerged from the collection until more than a decade later...such as "Guilt for Christmas" uploaded onto his YouTube channel on May 1, 2013...
I must point out, though, that Ray re-recorded the song for this music video. In the 1997 original he doesn't sing in the pseudo-Austrian accent. The reason he decided to add the accent touch is a mystery but it's a distinguishing characteristic not found on the original.
Several years earlier on November 3, 2010 Ray uploaded "Nightmare Before Christmas" onto YouTube. This particular video's become the stand-out, the centerpiece, the unofficial national outcry of a world taken hostage by over-the-top politically correct advocates. It's not the only song that targets political correctness on the album as "Guilt For Christmas" certainly demonstrates but "Nightmare Before Christmas" hits more closer to everyone's lives because it takes the all too real situation of being labeled politically incorrect because you may hold a belief, speak in a certain manner, or have an opinion that's ordinarily perfectly harmless but because it can be misconstrued as "offensive" by somebody else then you're accused of being insensitive, inflammatory, racist, sexist, homophobic, or whatever else. The sick part of a lot of it is some people deliberately misconstrue statements made by others just to damage the person's reputation or career (a smear tactic, a smear campaign...).
Not all of the novelty songs on the 1997 Christmas CD are heavy or satiric...some are good old fashioned sing-a-longs. I already mentioned one of those types in "Greatest Little Christmas Ever Wuz". In the song Ray sings of an attempt to make-up with a lover and get back together. He suggests that because she's had to spend several past Christmases alone they'll combine all of the holiday's in a calendar year and celebrate them all at one time. The other bouncy sing-a-long is "Redneck Christmas". Although "Nightmare Before Christmas" is sort of the intellectual big brother of the recordings, "Redneck Christmas" has a lot of appeal, too. The 2 music videos are more or less neck and neck in unique views. "Nightmare Before Christmas" at the moment has 470,097 views and "Redneck Christmas" has 434,837. Keep in mind, too, that "Nightmare Before Christmas" had a 2 year head start...it arrived on YouTube in November of 2010 and "Redneck Christmas" hit YouTube on December 22, 2012.
A day earlier on December 21, 2012 Ray uploaded a cover version of "Blue Christmas" onto YouTube. The rendition that Ray paid homage to come from a stuttering version many falsely credited to the animated character, Porky Pig. The actual recording happened to be credited to the fictional Seymour Swine (Dennis Brownlee)...nevertheless if you visit social media sites you're going to come across comments from people citing the "stuttering version of Blue Christmas by the Porky Pig sound-a-like..." or "that Porky Pig version of Blue Christmas...". The music video has some comical sight gags and Ray's delivery is unforgettable, too...
In 2009 Ray issued an all-new Christmas project. This time around the collection of songs happened to be serious...featuring one original song and his versions of Christmas standards although on some of the recordings he kept the original arrangements intact. His take on "White Christmas" is something to behold. He does an uncanny impression of the recording by The Drifters...
The lone original song on the 2009 Christmas CD is "Deck The Halls with Teardrops". It builds on the traditional telling of Deck The Halls but rather than a festive and jolly fa-la-la sing-a-long it's instead a tale of melancholy and bewilderment. A different recording of "Blue Christmas" is featured on the CD...a straight recording...not the stuttering novelty. This 2009 Christmas CD is sold each season on Ray's web-store. You can also purchase it on Amazon (along with his 1997 comedy Christmas collection). Obviously you can purchase the Mp3's and have them on your computer in a matter of minutes.
This brings us to the rousing "Merry Christmas". This also hit YouTube on December 22, 2012. It revisits the politically correct theme once more and criticizes those that have problems with those that choose to say "Merry Christmas" rather than the generic 'Happy Holidays' or 'Seasons Greetings'.