Music

Gregory Porter’s ultimate festive playlist

Posted by
Dave Fawbert
Published
Gregory Porter

It’s nearly Christmas, and if you haven’t yet got into the festive mode, then now is the time to do it.

And what better way to get Christmassy than by letting Grammy Award-winning jazz star Gregory Porter - the possessor of one of the most velvelty, soulful voices around - guide you through his Christmas playlist?

Grab a mulled wine, stoke up the fire, put those slippers on, and let’s get going.

Gregory’s new album Nat King Cole & Me featuring the Christmas single ‘ The Christmas Song’ is out now

Listen to the playlist on Spotify here

Nat King Cole - ‘A Cradle in Bethlehem’

“For me the song symbolises the gentle, quiet nature of Christmas. It sets a scene – it’s one of those songs that paints a portrait. I love the quiet, gentle nature of it – it’s so sweet, the lyrics: ‘A mother tonight is rocking a cradle in Bethlehem’. It’s universal.”

Gregory Porter - ‘Go Tell it on the Mountain’

“We used to sing the song in church year round and it was years until I realised it’s appropriate for Christmas. We used to sing it in church in a straight up, gospel, clap your hands style – it was the Christmas song I didn’t know I was singing year round.”

Kenny Rodgers - ‘Mary Did You Know’

“Kenny Rogers’ version was the first version I heard of this song – and it was the first time that I heard how flexible and soulful Kenny Rogers voice was. For years I remember playing around with the song until I had the opportunity to perform it on the BBC Gospel program last year.”

Gregory Porter - ‘The Christmas Song’

“It’s the first song I want to hear once I have the tree fully decorated and it says: ‘Now it’s Christmas time’. The significant meaning for me is when I play it, I hear Christmas and it sounds strange but I smell Christmas – when I hear the song. I smell the pine of the Christmas tree and sweet potato pie – the spices, mixed with new presents under the tree! It can sound corny, but it’s all what I had as a little kid and I’m trying to recreate it for my little boy.”

The Temptations - ‘Silent Night’

“The traditional version of the song is gentle– you can almost hear some boys’ choir singing in a sweet way but The Temptations do it in a similar way but it opens up and it’s just so soulful. From the beginning notes it’s saying… this is a silent night of another kind! This is a silent night dipped in hot sauce and barbecue sauce. Its a soulful retelling of the story. I love to hear traditional versions of songs but I also love it when country artists and soul artists do their versions and you hear a wider cultural influence.”

Donny Hathaway - ‘This Christmas’

“What I particularly love about this version as well as Donny’s soulful voice – is the timpani bass drum. It’s just so wild to me and its coming out of nowhere and it makes the song really cool and unique. I remember hearing ‘This Christmas’ as a teenager and being mad I hadn’t heard it before.”

Bing Crosby - ‘Little Drummer Boy’

“I love the song’s underdog story – I don’t have much, but this is what I have. I appreciate the imagery. It reminds me of my song ‘Take Me to the Alley’ – I don’t have much, but I have something. I love it!”

Bing Crosby - ‘Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas’

“Bing’s version and these Christmas songs from the ‘30s, ‘40s and ‘50s, they have a sweetness and innocence - primarily the post-war Christmas songs – they have a happiness and a built-in forgiveness of corniness. They say it’s OK to talk about the sweetness of life and the beauty of this time of year. This one of songs I hear when I think of that ‘50s style of singing about the joy of this time of the year.”

Jose Feliciano - ‘Feliz Navidad’

“Jose Feliciano‘s version of ‘Feliz Navidad’ was probably the first Spanish I learned. The track’s got a really cool sound. I’m not sure how popular it was in the UK but it was a big song around the world, and especially in the US and I’ve sung it every year since I heard it!”

Bing Crosby - ‘Do You Hear What I Hear’

“I just love the song’s strange progression and how it asks the listener a question. I remember as a kid, listening to it and in my mind, I always answered the person singing it. ‘Do you hear what I hear?’… ‘Well, yes I do!’”

Ray Charles & Betty Carter - ‘Baby it’s Cold Outside’

“It shows how soulful Christmas can be – I love the Ray Charles, Betty Carter version - it’s a killer! Over the years we try to find ways to make love songs of our favourite holidays and I think this is probably one of the earliest ones. We all know what he’s saying. He wants to stay and keep kissing under the mistletoe. Its a great way of getting a love song into a holiday song as well.”

Dean Martin - ‘White Christmas’

“I love Dean Martin’s version. The origins of the song are from that war time period when people were longing for a time for when it was peaceful and calm. Being at home and longing for everything Christmas represents. The fire, the food and the family. So now I listen to it differently from when I was a kid. I think about the period in which it was written and the people listening to it, wishing for their loved ones to come home safely. It’s not overtly political but it is in a way, the idea of ‘peace is all’ through Christmas music. The idea of peace on earth, asking for a renewal of the human spirit, the idea of people wanting to come together with an idea of global peace. There is plenty of politics in Christmas music – I can hear it.”

(Image: Erik Umphery)

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Dave Fawbert

ShortList.com staff writer Dave’s primary passions are pop, prose, punning and power ballads (and alliteration). A lower division football enthusiast and long-suffering cricket fan, he is one of only 110 people followed on Twitter by Chas Hodges from Chas ‘n’ Dave. Follow Dave on Twitter like Chas: @davefawbert

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