At this time of the year, the magic of the season can be seen everywhere. But nowhere is the gaity and goodwill stronger than among the new hardcore carolers: rock stars.
Every season is ushered in with unexpected new Christmas tunes by everybody from Jethro Tull, to Lynyrd Skynrd, Strypr, the Sex Pistols, and Bitch Funky Sex machine.
The holiday spirit is particularly remarkable in bringing together odd couple carolers.
In 1977, Ziggy Stardust himself, David Bowie, joined Bing Crosby on his last Christmas special for a “Little Drummer Boy” duet. In his 2002 Osbourne Christmas Special, a sober but shaky Ozzy joined Jessica Simpson for “Winter Wonderland.”
A few seasons ago, Elton John released his compilation, "Step Into Christmas," featuring two of his own compositions, plus holiday covers by everyone from Chuck Berry to the Beach Boys to the Band. The album was a bestseller.
Thirty years before, a Florida minister staged a Christmas burning of Sir Elton’s records, as well as those of Sir Mick and the Rolling Stones, after a survey was released citing that 98.4 percent of single mothers in Tallahassee had sex to the accompaniment of their music.
While Elvis originally popularized jingle bell rock in the states with his 1957 "The Elvis Christmas Album," the Beatles did the same abroad. Between 1963 and 1969, they released their annual "Christmas Record" to their fan club. Like the King, the Fab Four held a romantic place in their hearts for the holidays.
Just as Elvis proposed to his future bride, Priscilla, on Christmas Day, 1966, George proposed to Patti Boyd on the same day in ’65, and Paul to Jane Asher in ’67.
Another holiday lover, Tiny Tim, married Miss Vicki on Johnny Carson’s Christmas show in ’69. Years later, trying to revive his career, the “Tiptoe Through the Tulips” star came out with “Santa Clause Has Got the AIDS This Year,” with its refrain, “He won’t be around to spread his Christmas cheer.”
Weeks before the sudden end of his life in ’96, the ukulele-strumming soprano got back in the seasonal spirit with "Tiny Tim’s Christmas Album" featuring such traditional favorites as “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” and “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus.”
One of the great musical surprises this season is Pope Benedict XVI’s devotional hymns to the Virgin Mother, "Alma Mater," recorded at the Beatles’ Abbey Road Studio. It includes the work of three composers: an Italian Catholic, a Moroccan Muslim, and a British agnostic Simon Boswell, whose other scores include “Pornography: the Musical,” and “Women Talking Dirty.”
The diversity of the holy father's seasonal offering is rounded out by its Jewish, gay producer, David Geffen. The proceeds of "Alma Mater" will go to musical education for underprivileged children.
Showing that the times are indeed a’changin, Dylan, too, has donned a Santa hat this season for his "Christmas in the Heart" album, all proceeds going to food charities. In the early ‘80s when the singer cut three evangelical Christian albums, critics called him a “a confused Jew.” Now they don’t know what to make of Mr. Zimmerman.
Then there is that other unpredictable pop chameleon, Alice Cooper. Billing himself as the reincarnation of a 17th century witch of the same name, the hard-drinking shock rocker’s early “Welcome to my Nightmare" and “Goes to Hell” went gold. But after his dry-out and conversion to golf and Christianity, Alice Cooper launched his annual “Christmas Pudding” fundraiser for needy kids.
In 2007, the star realized that one of those needy kids was fellow transvestite and provocateur, Marilyn Manson, named after the deceased starlet and the serial murderer. Marilyn had been desecrating the Good Book on stage. Alice chilled his junior colleague out by joining him for a duet in Romania, homeland of their hero, Dracula.
But by the next holiday season, Marilyn’s only other friend, actress Rachel Wood, dumped him. “My lowest point was Christmas Day 2008,” the anti-Christ said. “My walls were covered in scrawlings of the lyrics and cocaine bags … I was struggling to deal with being alone and forsaken.”
Might Alice's Christmas Pudding have brightened his spirits?
Mick Jagger and Bryan Adams also look out for their own during the holidays. Two years ago, they invited Amy Winehouse to their Caribbean villas for “a rock family Christmas.” The Grammy winning “Rehab” singer had recently OD’d — again. And her husband was in jail for assault. Bryan Adams — who had performed his “Christmas Time” hit for Pope John Paul II at the Vatican – tried to show Amy how to have a white Christmas without losing it in her nose.
Sir Mick — the composer of "Cosmic Christmas," retitled "Their Satanic Majesties Request" — gave Bryan a hand. After the New Year, Amy left Mustique and checked into rehab.
That year the King of Pop, Michael Jackson, threw yet another holiday bash for kids at his 2,600 acre estate, Neverland. Brought up a strict Jehovah’s Witness, as a boy he had been forbidden to celebrate the pagan holiday, though in 1970 he and his brothers released "The Jackson 5 Christmas Album." The star left the church later on due to its condemnation of “Thriller."
In 1993, he celebrated his first Neverland Christmas with Elizabeth Taylor, his chimp Bubbles, and a legion of kids.
In addition to his Heal the World Foundation, Michael contributed generously to Elizabeth’s AIDS Foundation, as well as to Elton John’s. In 2005 Sir Elton, through the Neiman Marcus Christmas catalog, offered a private performance at a mere 850,000 pounds, to be donated to his cause.
Though most stars do not have their own foundations or Christmas Pudding Fundraisers, many have been great Santas even to lawyers, managers, and complete strangers.
In 1968, Doors frontman, Jim Morrison, laid a set of golf clubs on his attorney, Max Fink, for saving him from no fewer than twenty paternity suits. In the ’92 season, Steve Tyler and Aerosmith put a bow on a black Mercedes SL for their rep, Tim Collins, who had just put them all through rehab. In 1969, John Lennon gave his island, Dorinch, off the Ireland coast, to “any hippie” who wanted to live there.
So, given this rocking history of seasonal love and goodwill toward men, might Bono, Sting, and the others next year reprise their ’84 Band Aid “Do They Know It’s Christmas” chorus?
Imagine a “We Are the World” choir — Ziggy, Ozzy, Elton, Alice, Marilyn, Amy, Mick, and Dylan – led by Pope Benedict himself, and with special guest soloists, President Ahmadinejad and Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei.
As that other great lover of the season, John Lennon, once sang, “You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.”