Ask Billboard is updated every week. As always, submit your questions about Billboard charts, sales and airplay, as well as general music musings, to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include your first and last name, as well as your city, state and country, if outside the U.S.
How interesting that the top-selling Christmas album of the Nielsen SoundScan era, "Miracles - the Holiday Album," is by a Jewish musician, Kenny G (nee Gorelick) and that the artist at No. 2, Josh Groban ("Noel"), has Jewish ancestry, as well ( "Ask Billboard," Oct. 16).
So, I'm curious: what are some other Jewish performers and composers who have hit Billboard holiday charts with Christmas albums? I'm sure the list includes Irving Berlin, Barbra Streisand, Barry Manilow and Neil Diamond.
Belated happy new year to you, as well!
Jewish artists certainly have a successful history when it comes to Christmas songs. (Jewish radio programmers, too. When I was music director at WSNE in Providence, R.I., the station annually segued to all-Yuletide music during the holidays. Considering the station's lofty ratings for those periods, I apparently faked my way through the assignment quite well).
And, why not? Christmas fare is some of the most upbeat and melodic music ever made and, since the majority that gets airplay each season is rather secular lyrically or more seasonal than Christmas-themed, it's, thus, fairly universal in its appeal. My favorite song of Mariah Carey's entire catalog is "All I Want for Christmas Is You" and Wham!'s "Last Christmas" and Band-Aid's "Do They Know It's Christmas?" don't sound any less catchy when heard in spring, summer or fall.
Let's run down a list of notable artists of Jewish ancestry who have placed Christmas music on Billboard charts. It's even longer than might be expected (bringing to mind the classic exchange from "Airplane!": "Would you like something to read?" / "Do you have anything light?" / "How about this leaflet, 'Famous Jewish Sports Legends'?")
"Christmas Album," No. 1 (two weeks), Christmas Albums, 1968
Sammy Davis Jr. (converted to Judaism)
"Christmas With the Rat Pack," No. 4, Holiday Albums, 2004
"The Christmas Album," No. 3, Holiday Albums, 1992
"The Christmas Album Volume II," No. 9, Holiday Albums, 1994
"A Cherry Cherry Christmas," No. 6, Holiday Albums, 2009
"Miracles - the Holiday Album," No. 1 (17 weeks), Holiday Albums, 1994
"Faith: A Holiday Album," No. 1 (five weeks), Holiday Albums, 1999
"Wishes," No. 2, Holiday Albums, 2002
"The Greatest Holiday Classics," No. 3, Holiday Albums, 2005
"Navidad means Christmas," No. 9, Christmas Albums, 1966
"Noel," No. 1 (19 weeks), Holiday Albums, 2007
"Because It's Christmas," No. 1 (two weeks), Holiday Albums, 1990
"A Christmas Gift of Love," No. 6, Holiday Albums, 2002
"In the Swing of Christmas," No. 11, Holiday Albums, 2009
"Cool Yule," No. 6, Holiday Albums, 2006
"Christmas Sing-Along With Mitch," No. 1 (two weeks), Christmas Albums, 1958
"Holiday Sing-Along With Mitch," No. 1 (two weeks), Christmas Albums, 1958
"**** in a Box" (the Lonely Island), No. 8, Comedy Digital Songs, 2010
"Getting Ready for Christmas Day," No. 24, Triple A, 2010
"A Christmas Album," No. 1 (five weeks), Christmas Albums, 1967
"Christmas Memories," No. 1 (one week), Holiday Albums, 2003
Carole King could add her name to the above list, as the singer-songwriter releases her first holiday album, "A Holiday Carole," Nov. 1.
And, Irving Berlin wrote "White Christmas," which spent 11 weeks at No. 1 for Bing Crosby on Billboard's pop charts in 1942. Berlin's father's profession? Cantor in a synagogue.
(Missing from the list is Kiss, fronted by Gene Simmons, since the holiday film "Kiss Saves Santa" exists only in the "Family Guy"-verse).
Some Jewish artists have recorded Chanukah songs, as well.
Adam Sandler humorously bemoaned the lack of such music, so he wrote "The Chanukah Song" "for all those nice little Jewish kids who don't get to hear any Chanukah songs." His signature 1995 hit, which spun-off two follow-up versions, has perennially appeared on Billboard's holiday charts.
Kenny G's "Miracles - the Holiday Album" includes "Chanukah Song" (not the same song as Sandler's, but a saxophone instrumental).
And, Marc Cohn offered his interpretation of one of the most gentle traditional Chanukah songs, "Rock of Ages" (or, in Hebrew, "Ma'oz Tzur").
The hymn, believed to have been composed in the 13th century, celebrates the strength of the human spirit and gratitude for good fortune, notions fitting for all, regardless of religion.