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Sleigh Rides, Jingle Bells, and Silent Nights: A Cultural History of American Christmas Songs Hardcover – October 1, 2013


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 264 pages
  • Publisher: University Press of Florida (October 1, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0813044928
  • ISBN-13: 978-0813044927
  • Product Dimensions: 7 x 5.1 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,334,297 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Ronald D. Lankford Jr. is an independent scholar and freelance writer who lives in Appomattox, Virginia. He is the author of Women Singer-Songwriters in Rock: A Populist Rebellion in the 1990s and Folk Music USA: The Changing Voice of Protest.

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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By M. Ritchie on November 9, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Every bit of the title of this book is misleading: First of all, "Sleigh Ride," "Jingle Bells," and "Silent Night" are not mentioned in this book--certainly Leroy Anderson's "Sleigh Ride" belongs here. Second, this is not a history of American Christmas songs, it is an quasi-academic survey of a handful of such songs; maybe 15, if that many, are written about in any detail. The "cultural" part of the title is accurate; the author does a nice job throwing a net around Christmas popular culture of the past fifty years as he sets up context for the discussion of songs, but material on the songs is weak and unfulfilling. His thesis is interesting: the genre of American Christmas pop music, which was born during World War II and largely ended in the 1960s, is not about any of the religious aspects of Christmas, but instead focuses on domesticity, nostalgia, romance, and commercial consumption.

But what he leaves out could fill another book. He doesn't discuss songs such as "Jingle Bell Rock," "Holly Jolly Christmas," 'Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree," "Little Drummer Boy," "Silver Bells," "Do You Hear What I Hear," "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)," "Please Daddy, Don't Get Drunk This Christmas," "Please Come Home for Christmas," or "All I Want for Christmas Is You.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Ron Titus on October 2, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Ronald Lankford, Jr., does not provide a standard history of Christmas songs. He does not discuss in detail who wrote a particular song. That type of history can be found in books such as Stories Behind the Best-Loved Songs of Christmas by Ace Collins. Lankford instead studies how Christmas songs fit into and reflect American culture especially in relation to movies and television shows.

After an introductory essay on the American Christmas song tradition, Lankford examines Christmas songs in relation to nostalgia for earlier times, Santa Claus and gift giving, Christmas as carnival time, the poor and hard times in relation to American celebratory practices, and Christmas satire songs. Lankford finishes the book with a return to nostalgia beginning in the 1980's.

If you are interested in the culture of Christmas, Lankford will not disappoint. He provides plenty of evidence to back his claims, using movie stills and reference material to illustrate the book. He provides a serious, yet entertaining look at a timely topic.
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Format: Hardcover
This book is scholarly without being in the weeds and provides an intelligent examination of how Christmas evolved through its pop culture and musical progression. It certainly goes into an analytical depth that other books of this kind do not. Which is why there is a hole in it through which you could drive a truck.

I realize that the throwaway mention of "Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer" as a TV special is within the context of a treatise of the American family and yes, Santa and Rudolph's dad are negatively depicted. But what is astonishingly ignored is that it is the single longest running network special in TV history and has much more to it thematically. How could one overlook that Johnny Marks wrote eight additional songs for the special -- one of which, "Holly Jolly Christmas" is also a standard?

The author mentions the often deleted verse of "Santa Claus is Comin' to Town," yet overlooks the verse as it was written for the TV special based on that song. There's discussion of how the lyrics for "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" were changed for Judy Garland. Shouldn't special lyrics for Fred Astaire also be mentioned?

How can one write a book about some of the greatest songs ever written yet briefly and arbitrarily dismiss the films they inspired -- particularly the musical aspects of these films? As an author, I know there are only so many pages in a work. However, one can limit extensive descriptions in one area to allow space for another.

No book can contain every song and that's why there are often follow up volumes. But the songs that are included should have benefited from having their cultural context more fully delineated by acknowledging the major and highly ubiquitous Rankin/Bass productions in which they still are seen and heard.
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Sleigh Rides, Jingle Bells, and Silent Nights: A Cultural History of American Christmas Songs
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