Die, Little Drummer Boy, Die

Girl Talk, Weezer, OK Go and MoJo readers recommend holiday music that Does. Not. Suck.

<a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/qwazymonkey/5245747967/in/photostream/">Jonathan Ooi</a>/Flickr

Fight disinformation: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter and follow the news that matters.

We recently reached out to a bunch of our favorite musical artists, DJs, and critics, to ask about their personal preferences—including the music we all love to get cynical about, holiday songs! So let’s hear from our celebs first, and then well turn to our Facebook fans who responded to a similar question we posted. Click on each artist’s name for a more in-depth Q&A. (The few that aren’t yet posted should be up soon: Check the Riff every Music Monday—and follow Mother Jones on Twitter.)

Q: What’s your favorite holiday song or album?

Tim Nordwind

Tim Nordwind
(of OK Go):

The Jackson 5—”Santa Claus is Coming To Town”


Sasha Frere-Jones

Sasha Frere-Jones
(of The New Yorker):

It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown

Avey Tare

Avey Tare
(of Animal Collective):

Soundtrack for Mr. Magoo’s A Christmas Carol 

Ramble John Krohn

Ramble John Krohn
(a.k.a. RJD2):

Every Christmas-related Blowfly song ever

Greil Marcus

Greil Marcus
(author and critic):

Darlene Love’s “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” from Phil Spector’s A Christmas Gift for You

Rhiannon Giddens

Rhiannon Giddens
(of Carolina Chocolate Drops):

Tie: Handel’s Messiah: A Soulful Celebration (gospel/soul take) and A Charlie Brown Christmas by the Vince Guaraldi Trio.

Gregg Gillis

Gregg Gillis
(a.k.a Girl Talk):

Wonderful Christmastime,” by Paul McCartney

Vieux Farka Touré

Vieux Farka Touré

Walé,” a traditional song from the North of Mali sung by the elder women to honor the grand mosque each year. It’s on my album Fondo.

Rivers Cuomo

Rivers Cuomo
(of Weezer): Holiday, by Weezer

Bradford Cox

Bradford Cox
(of Deerhunter):

Halloween, by Dream Syndicate

Mike Stroud

Mike Stroud
(of Ratatat): Phil Spector’s Christmas Album

Boots Riley

Boots Riley
(of The Coup):

Albert Hague—”You’re A Mean One, Mr. Grinch”

Janelle Monae

Janelle Monáe:Nature Boy,” by Nat King Cole

I listen to him a lot around the holidays. I love A Charlie Brown Christmas, too. I listen to it over and over.

Panjabi MC

Panjabi MC: I’ve got my ’80s selection, with all the anthems like “Don’t Let It Get to Your Heart” and “I Believe in Miracles,” as well as Biggie and Dre—it’s got to be mainly West Coast. Classics are what I put on my holiday mix tape.

And now, if you’ll kindly forgive us for not publishing all the pretty headshots of MoJo readers who responded to our slightly modified version of the question, namely: What’s your favorite holiday song or album that you won’t hear on your supermarket Muzak loop?

(Add your own favorites in the comments.)

Kathryn Searles: Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas”

Dave Nelson: The sweet sound of “Total Absence of Holiday Music” 🙂

Jibreel Riley: None. I put on my headphones and carry on with, currently, M.I.A.

Scott Cornwall: The Beatles’ “Lady Madonna”

Cynthia Melcher: “I Believe in Father Christmas,” by Emerson, Lake and Palmer (Alice E. Washburn concurs.)

Harold Jennings:Christmas at Ground Zero,” by Weird Al Yankovic (Cesslie Joy Pharr concurs.)

Cynthia Melcher: ‎And I already never want to hear “Santa Baby” again as long as I live.

Antoinette Marrero: “The Elf’s Lament,” by Barenaked Ladies—hilarious song about elves on strike

Jonah Phoenix: Sting singing “Gabriel’s Message” from the first Very Special Christmas album

Steve Hart: “F%#K Christmas,” by Fear (Robert Conway concurs.)

Larry Gentry: “Christmas Wrapping,” by The Waitresses (Fernando von Balertwine concurs.)

Sebastian Moraga: “Pretty Papers,” the Roy Orbison version

Joseph Shorter: The Vandals’ “Oi to the World” (Nick Shawver concurs. Angela Mayes McGonigle digs the No Doubt version.)

Kimberly Martin Grantham: Adam Sandler’s version of the “Chanukah Song,” hand’s down! (Bruce Good and Jay Grosflam concur.)

Jenny Jusell: “Maximum Security Christmas,” by Lee Harris and Country Sunshine

Roger Lynn: Bruce Springsteen’s “Santa Claus is Coming to Town”

Deb Poage: The sequel to “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer”: “Grandma’s Revenge.” (Hank Miller and Jack Migdal suggested the original.)

Lucinda Lynch-Powell: Anything from Brian Setzer

Laura Kay Perrine Freeman: From Toys (soundtrack): “The Closing of the Year

Richard Zink: Why, “Santa lost a Ho,” of course.

Jill Bellrose Slade: Moishe Oysher’s “Chanukah Song.” Never happen.

Jenniffer J Thusing: Johnny Cash’s “The Harp Weaver.”

Stephen Bailey: I detest Xmas music. However there was a recording of music done by various ska artists. “Run Rudolf, Run” was the standout. I also like old English Xmas music played in moderation.

Joey Mitchell: “My Pal Satan,” by George Harrison w/Yoko Ono and the Hellbound Ono Band

Alice E. Washburn: Decidedly, Emerson, Lake and Palmer’s “I Believe in Father Christmas.” But also any solstice carols, for those of us not of the Christian persuasion! 🙂

Lee Stamp: “Father Christmas” by The Kinks (Ken Hallock concurs.)

Joe Tate: The Pogues’ “Fairytale of New York” (Jo Kamira, Jessi Vasconcellos, Jacqueline Hannum, and Rosey Goodman concur—as does Matt Welsh, who calls it “the only good Christmas song.”)

Stephen Williams: ‎”Be-bop Santa Claus,” by Babs Gonzalez

Bo Bentzen: The Beatles’ “Let It Be!”

Melissa Swanzy: “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen,” by Barenaked Ladies (featuring Sarah McLachlan)

Kathy Thompson: “Feliz Navidad,” by Daze

Cary Aye: ‎”Santa Claus is a Fat Bitch,” by Insane Clown Posse

Eric Berg: ‎”My First Christmas as a Woman,” by the Vandals

Nancy Reese: Are you kidding me? The country is going to hell in a hand-basket and you, Mother Jones, want to know our favorite holiday songs?

Sam Carruth: ‎”Santa Claus is Watching You,” by Ray Stevens

Baltazar Ricardo Pinedo: ‎”El Brindis del Bohemio” by Guillermo Aguirre y Fierro, as read by Juan Manuel Bernal. My father would play this every year around this time. If you understand Spanish, I highly recommend you listen to this beautiful piece. It will CHOKE YOU UP!!! Happy holidays, everyone!!!

Nathan Wilcox: The entire Nightmare Before Christmas soundtrack!

Mark Marshall: Lord Nelson’s “Party for Santa Claus

Laura Mirian: “Ochos Kandalikas,” by the Hip-Hop Hoodios

Dave Hathaway:Silver Bells,” with Mr. Dee Snyder! And Twisted Fucking Sister!

Amanda Stanford: Garrison Keillor, “Christmas in Lake Wobegon”

Sandi Tinker: The Manhattan Transfer’s The Christmas Album

Doug Gauss: ‎”Christma-Hanu-Rama-Ka-Dona-Kwanzaa,” by Roy Zimmerman

Jack Campbell: “Walking Round in Women’s Underwear” (Richard Zink concurs.)

Christiaan Havelaar: “Christmas in Hollis,” by Run DMC (Jim Greenberg concurs, adding that he also likes the entire Bob Dylan Xmas Album.)

Mary Pat Andrews: Kenny Rogers’ version of “Mary, did You Know?”…hauntingly beautiful! John Denver and the Muppets’ “A Christmas Together”…some great not-so-common carols. And for pure sentimental nostalgia, nothing beats the voice of Karen Carpenter singing “Merry Christmas Darling” or “I’ll be Home for Christmas”!

Richard M Hays Jr: A great version of “Mary’s Boy Child,” by rock musician B.E. Taylor. Log on for details about his excellent Christmas album tunes and all other great music. Taylor is here on Facebook as well.

Peter Arena: Cheech and Chong’s “Santa Claus and His Old Lady”—”On Chewie, On ‘tavo, Come on ‘berto!” (David Edwards concurs.)

Thomas E Youngs: ‎”Lost in the Supermarket,” by The Clash

Melissa Swanzy: “Chipmunks Roasting On An Open Fire” by Bob Rivers. HILARIOUS song!

Eva Bell: Eek-A-Mouse, “Night Before Christmas“!

Erin Pinkerton: Jackson 5, from A Motown Christmas

Karen Lindsey: “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” but in the original version, in which the sadness and well as the happiness of the season is addressed.

Karen Buchanan: “Frosty the Snowman,” by the Cocteau twins

Candi Fisher: ‎”Please, Daddy, (Don’t Get Drunk This Christmas)” Unintentionally hilarious.

Ursula Roma:I Ain’t Afraid,” by Holly Near

Annette Sandone-Skaroff: Any tracks from Native American Carlos Nakai’s Winter Seasons CD

George Lyne: BOTH Los Straightjackets’ holiday CDs

Gary Green: “War Toys for Christmas,” by Roy Zimmerman

Lisa Panure: ‎”We Three Kings,” as interpreted by Deborah Henson-Conant

Nancy Reese: The above are prime examples of why this country is in the shape it’s in. The Repubs have formally declared war on middle class today in a written letter to the President say that they will do nothing…nothing until the tax cuts for the wealthy are extended. And people here are listing their favorite holiday songs.

Lynne Harter: Mel Torme’s rendition of “Christmastime is Here,” from A Charlie Brown Christmas.

Maria Lazarus: “Back Door Santa,” by Clarence Carter

Kent Chapline: Robert Earl Keen’s “Merry Christmas From The Family”

Sheila N Vinson: ‎”Ave Maria,” by Leontine Price, featuring the Vienna Boys Choir—Beautiful!

Stephanie Vargas: Britten’s “Ceremony of Carols.” Whatever music you like, call your congressional legislators and tell them you will NOT vote for them again for not helping those who can’t find work. Shame on the GOP… coal in their stockings.

Lisa A. Frisch: It’s a little sad that there are some folks that deride this posting for being “silly.” Yes, things are hard right now and even frightening, but goodness, it doesn’t hurt to lighten up once in awhile—even Mother Jones. That said, one of my faves is “Christmas at KMart” Happy Holidays, All!

Alex Enyart:Merry Christmas, I Don’t Want to Fight Tonight,” by The Ramones

Alyce Thompson Cato: I like Tennessee Ernie Ford‘s Xmas album.

Maureen Sullivan: A John Waters Christmas, by various artists. My favorite is “Happy Birthday Jesus” by Little Cindy. Also, The Ventures’ Christmas Album

Lisa Ryder: ‎”2,000 Miles,” by The Pretenders

Mary Triulzi: I’m enjoying Sufjan Stevens’ Songs for Christmas… good stuff!

Bob Suzuki: The Ronettes’ version of ‎”Frosty The Snowman”

Donna Warren: I love “Same Old Lang Syne,” by Dan Fogelberg. Such a great song.

Sarajane V. Lien: Squirrel Nut Zippers’ Christmas album is one of my favorites, especially “I Love the Winter Weather” and “Christmas in Carolina.” Another good one is “I Yust Go Nuts at Christmas.” And, oh yeah: John Boehner can go boff himself with an empty orange spray-tan bottle. Effing wanker.

Greg Hay: Any Jane’s Addiction song. … Well, that’s not entirely true. I’ve (seriously) heard a Muzak version of “Been Caught Stealing.”

Levi Mitchell:Holiday in Cambodia,” by Dead Kennedys

Yael Li-Ron: ‎”A Jew on Christmas,” by Kyle of the South Park gang.

Brian Brown: ‎”Oh Holy Night,” by Nat King Cole. They [supermarket Muzak tracks] don’t play the religious-themed stuff much anymore. Funny thing is, they won’t play Run-DMC’s “Christmas in Hollis” either.

Betty Rubble-Larsen: Christmas in the Stars: Star Wars Christmas album—the one about getting the wookie a gift

Andrea Roberts: All of the obtuse tracks from the movie soundtrack of The Grinch

Maria Marchese: “Winter Wonderland,” by Jason Mraz!

Debby Heckman: “A Wild Eyed Christmas Night,” by .38 Special and “Run Run Rudolph,” by Lynyrd Skynyrd. They Rock!

Noel Devin Keith: “The Night Santa Went Crazy,” by Weird Al Yankovic

Marcia Henderson: “Blue Xmas,” by Miles Davis

Rikki Johnson:The 12 Days of Christmas” by Bob and Doug McKenzie (“And a beer in a tree.”) (Jenny Okrasinski concurs.)

Rita Malenczyk:‎ “Christmas in Prison,” by John Prine

Norm Emps: Alligator Records’ Christmas Collection (old blues and soul). Traditional folk at parties turn up their noses—so funny.

Beth Belgard Crader: “Feliz Navid” is my all-time favorite. When I lived in MD we would go into DC to club and there was a band there that played it every night for me!!

Mary Wood: ‎”White Wine in the Sun,” by Tim Minchin, an Xmas song for atheists that is both beautiful, kind of funny; ironic rather than angry. And people, come on: “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer”? That most definitely gets played on grocery store Muzak and is one of the reasons I seriously consider going without food for the month of December—so I never have to hear that idiotic thing again.

John Noel: Gaga, Lady—”My Christmas Tree’s Delicious”

Francie McGowan:Santa Claus is a Black Man

Joseph W Hlebica: Peter Brewis’ “Santa’s Super Sleigh,” from the About a Boy soundtrack

Petr Salidar Threnody:Threnody for The Victims of Hiroshima,” by Krzysztof Penderecki

Bill Green: White Zombie’s La Sexorcisto—Devil Music Vol. 1

Remember to add your own favorites in the comments section, and click here for more Music Mondays.


Mother Jones was founded as a nonprofit in 1976 because we knew corporations and billionaires wouldn't fund the type of hard-hitting journalism we set out to do.

Today, reader support makes up about two-thirds of our budget, allows us to dig deep on stories that matter, and lets us keep our reporting free for everyone. If you value what you get from Mother Jones, please join us with a tax-deductible donation today so we can keep on doing the type of journalism 2022 demands.

payment methods


Today, reader support makes up about two-thirds of our budget, allows us to dig deep on stories that matter, and lets us keep our reporting free for everyone. If you value what you get from Mother Jones, please join us with a tax-deductible donation today so we can keep on doing the type of journalism 2022 demands.

payment methods

We Recommend


Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.


Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.