Have yourself a merry little Free Bird


There are really only two things that will get my kids hand slapped: reaching for a hot stove or the radio dial when the Rolling Stones are on. I was raised on classic rock and take my music very seriously.

Granted no matter what your family background, I believe some things are in the DNA. Just like we are told that a tiny amount of mercury exists in the bloodstream of every American, so it goes with Hotel California.

I don’t own the CD and hardly think I listen to it in any great measure. Yet, from the time they were toddlers both my children would respond enthusiastically and bop their heads along with the music. It’s like they were born knowing the words.

They are also inordinately fond of Margaritaville, which is frankly embarrassing in the wrong company. American Pie is another song that seemingly everyone knows. This is impressive considering the majority of listeners have no idea what Don McClean is singing about, only that he is very sad.


Free Bird is a song that most cover bands will assure you is shouted out as a request at every venue where they have ever performed. This is true even at weddings. Perhaps especially at weddings.

The live version of Free Bird is, perhaps, the longest song on record. Perhaps it just seems that way when you are shuffling around the dance floor of the eighth grade dance.

Before anyone sends me angry letters correcting my limited and fatally flawed knowledge, it is rumored that In A Gadda Da Vida is actually one of the longest rock songs with a guitar solo that lasts approximately 13 days.

I contend that no one knows this for sure because the audience for that song is comprised almost entirely of stoners who pass out long before you get to that point.

Love them or hate them, the truth is that certain songs have entered the American consciousness and become “classics.” We know them. We (usually) love them (if only in some collective sense) and we can scarcely control ourselves from turning them up or tapping a toe.


This brings me to the crux of this week’s column: I had no idea people harbored such hate for Christmas music. Show me someone who thrills to Silent Night and I’ll show you six more who swear they will poke out their own eardrums with a drum stick if they have to hear the funeral dirge version of The Little Drummer Boy one more time.

Some holiday music is tailor made for hatred. I realize that opinions are subjective but I think it’s safe to say that I have yet to find anyone who claims a deep and abiding love for Dominic the Italian Christmas Donkey. Oddly, there are aficionados of Snoopy and the Red Baron (my perennial hate).

It’s a given that some people could go happily to the end of their days never listening to Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer or anything involving barking dogs yelping out carols ever again. Still, it’s when the savored holiday faves fall under fire that I begin to question our collective sanity.

Who knew people hated Silver Bells? Silver bells, silver bells, its Christmas time in the city? Is that some consortium of country folks angry at such a geo-centric song? I don’t know what they are whining about. People having been going “over the river and through the woods” forever, and I think “bells on bobbed tail ring” is clearly a reference to livestock. Rural life is well covered in caroling lore.


I think the truth is that one loves — or doesn’t — most “classic” songs based on their own memories. This explains why so many people would rather be struck deaf than listen to Jose Feliciano sing Feliz Navidad and I stop the radio dial and sing-along — loudly and horribly — every chance I get.

My enduring memory of that song is seeing it performed on Sesame Street as a very small child. I love it — and the warmth that memory provides — to this day.

One friend admitted that for years she harbored a memory of a kindly relation, only to realize that she was mixing up her own family memories with those of the characters of Crosby and Danny Kaye from the movie Holiday Inn. I think it’s safe to assume that she still hums along when “Uncle Bing” brings White Christmas across the airwaves each year.

Yet another friend thinks the song is ridiculous. It IS a love letter to a weather pattern after all.

My favorite?

It’s hard to choose just one but I’d say I’ll Be Home For Christmas. Where, God willing, there will be jingle bells, silver bells and not a single barking dog or Italian Christmas donkey to be found. Feliz Navidad!

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