It’s been a little while since my Thanksgiving column about songs giving thanks, and now that holidays of separate origin are quick approaching, it’s appropriate to dedicate this article to a totally different theme…of giving. Yeah, I know I’m original, but out of all there is to celebrate over the winter holidays, giving to others is what it’s all about. Now before you send in the hate mail that it’s not about who has the biggest and best Turbo Man action figure, there are many more ways to give something special to your families and loved ones that don’t have anything to do with material objects. As we anxiously await a break from the normal life routine to spend quality time with loved ones, I would like to share with you my six favorite songs about giving. Have a great winter and I can’t wait to be back with you next year! Thanks for reading!
“Shower the People”
By: James Taylor
Off the album: In the Pocket (1976)
Before we begin, get your mind out of the gutter. In this tune, we’re talking about showering those we care about with love; one of the best gifts someone could ever give another person. Now a staple at James Taylor concerts, the song is the first track of Taylor’s album In the Pocket, a highly-praised record for its diverse and polished melodies, even if it was his lowest-charting album of the 70s. Although this song doesn’t apply, the LP featured many special guest performances on several songs, including David Crosby, Graham Nash, Art Garfunkel, Bonnie Raitt, Stevie Wonder and Taylor’s then-wife Carly Simon.
“Love is a Gift”
By: Olivia Newton-John
Off the album: Back with a Heart (1998)
While we’re on the theme of giving love, this was a statement album for singer/songwriter Olivia Newton-John. At the time, this release marked the first time a Newton-John song appeared on the U.S. Country charts in almost 20 years, reaching its peak at #9. While a re-recording of her 1974 number-one hit “I Honestly Love You” was the only song on this record that reached the charts, “Love is a Gift,” won a Daytime Emmy Award in 1999 for Outstanding Original Song after its use in daytime soap opera As the World Turns.
“Give a Little Bit”
Off the album: Even in the Quietest Moments… (1977)
Yes, the Goo Goo Dolls did an excellent cover of this song in 2004, but you have to give credit to the original writers. Founding member Roger Hodgson, who composed and sang many of the band’s hits including “Take the Long Way Home,” wrote this song in Malibu, where he would walk around with a tape that had a recording of the tune so he could work on it wherever he was. The song was a staple at Supertramp concerts, but the band stopped playing it when Hodgson left the band in 1983. Hodgson has played the song at nearly every one of his solo shows, while the remaining members of Supertramp did not perform the song live again until 2002.
“With a Little Help from My Friends”
By: The Beatles
Off the album: Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967)
Co-written by Paul McCartney and John Lennon, the two wrote the song with the intention of having drummer Ringo Starr taking lead vocal duties. To account for Starr’s lack of vocal range (sorry Ringo, I still think you’re awesome!) the songwriting duo specifically wrote the music to have a limited range, until his last note of the song, to which McCartney helped Starr achieve the high note. The first draft of the song originally asked, “What would you think if I sang out of tune? Would you throw ripe tomatoes at me?” Starr requested the lyric be changed because of an instance that happened when the band was just getting started. When the band was young, George Harrison made a comment that he liked jelly babies (the U.K. equivalent of gummy bears), and fanatic concertgoers would constantly throw the sugary snack at the band while they played.
By: Elton John
Off the album: Elton John (1970)
Talking about giving, I think one of the best gifts you could ever receive is a song written for you by Sir Elton John. This was John’s breakout hit, even though it wasn’t intended to receive huge airplay at first. The song was included as the B-side to “Take Me to the Pilot,” but DJs ended up preferring “Your Song,” leading it to becoming a top ten hit on both U.K. and U.S. charts. The song’s success actually ended up confusing a lot of American fans about how long this Elton John guy has been performing. This record was his second release, but his debut album never officially hit the U.S. until 1975. Furthermore, being that this LP was simply named “Elton John,” this led many in America to believe this was his debut.
”Twelve Days of Christmas”
Alright, I have to admit; it is pretty awesome to receive presents. This traditional Christmas carol was first published in 1780 with no musical accompaniment. Its origins are thought to be of a children’s memory game where individuals would pass on chanting each gift until someone fumbled their line. There have been a few lyrical changes throughout history that have modernized the song. The first drafts of the carol did not include the word “On” at the beginning of each verse, and it was not added until the early 1900s. To keep up with modern vocabulary, the line “my true love sent to me” was changed to “my true love gave to me” in the 20th century. The gift of “four calling birds” was originally written as “four colly birds” (the word “colly” is an old English word that represents the color black). “Five golden rings” was changed as well, but don’t worry, it wasn’t due to the wishes of a Macy’s department store executive. The first variant simply said “five gold rings,” but was changed to “golden” so the lyric’s syllables matched the notes sung.