I'm dreaming of a white Christmas … not! After all, there's a heaping portion of our country -- from the cypress-lined streets of Savannah to the palm tree-lined boulevards of Hollywood -- whose holidays don't involve a single snowflake or sleigh ride, to say nothing of Jack Frost nipping at their noses. And they like it this way, which is why we here at Rhapsody have put together A Beach Blanket Christmas for all our subscribers who have never had the experience of living in a winter wonderland, where operating a snow blower is necessary for your very survival. Inspired by Ms. Colbie Caillat's new album, Christmas in the Sand (bathing-suit alert, boys), our playlist covers the concept of the warm-weather holidays in all its glorious permutations.
Like Caillat, Jack Johnson (see his "In the Morning") believes Christmas is best served on a beach somewhere in Kaua'i or Malibu or wherever the environmentally conscious surfer-dude will hang 10 this December. Johnson and Caillat are merely the latest in a long line of artists to rhapsodize on the unique joys of surf, sun and, uh, eggnog. Back in the '60s, legendary surf rockers The Ventures (who hailed from Tacoma, Wash., oddly) released The Ventures' Christmas Album. Meanwhile, down in Hawthorne, California, a certain famous pop group featuring a trio of brothers unleashed The Beach Boys' Christmas Album.
Now, 20 miles due north of Hawthorne lies Tinseltown (y'know, Hollywood); that's where many of pop music's most cherished Christmas songs were recorded, including Elvis' Christmas Album and Bing Crosby's "White Christmas" in the early '40s. Rather ironic, right? I mean, think about it: After committing to wax a quintessential holiday tune (one that tries to make frostbite actually sound charming, no less), Bing probably left the studio, slipped on a pair of shades and zipped off in a convertible for frilly cocktails with his agent.
The American South has also produced its fair share of balmy Yuletide cheer. After all, Faith Hill (who dropped the charming Joy to the World album) surely wasn't roasting chestnuts as a little girl growing up in Ridgeland, Miss. But perhaps no other country singer sums up the genre's relation to Christmas better than Kenny Chesney on his 2003 album All I Want For Christmas Is a Real Good Tan. On the cover he can be seen barefoot and wearing a Santa cap, leaning up against a palm tree.
Chesney's album is a meditation on the tropical holidays, a concept that was given a decidedly Caribbean twist by none other than Jimmy Buffett and his 1996 record Christmas Island. Surely no other singer spikes his eggnog as potently as Buffett. And speaking of the Caribbean, since the great José Feliciano hails from Puerto Rico, one could argue his "Feliz Navidad" is one of the all-time greatest beach-blanket holiday anthems.
Merry Christmas, America!