Wrap the Rainbow: (Afric) black

Even though Christmas has become an amalgamation of many cultural celebrations, the anglo-white version gets the widest play. But true Christians welcome all comers to the fold. So let’s go black (we might never come back) with Akim and Teddy Vann’s 1973 “Santa Claus is a Black Man.” Get adorable, get funky.

On a community stage with a slowly warming audience, GloZell leads guilty white West Coast Singers in a rousing (tinny recording of) “Black Christmas.” Now we see what black means to faith, hope, charity, and novelty Christmas songs.

More audible and just as reactionary, The Harlem Children’s Chorus sing “Black Christmas.” They do make a point, they just don’t make a beautiful song. Richard Wolfe has a more honest version that testifies.

Add more funk and pour in the soul and Rose Graham delivers “Black Christmas” so that you can not avoid her raw pain. Don Smith makes the same song more personal, and a little more disco.

Motown, mo’ music! The Emotions sing “Black Christmas” with angelic harmonies and soft-pedaled race relations. Just how soulful white people want to buy it.

A Month of Love: The Jackson 5

“Give Love on Christmas Day” debuted on a Jackson 5 album around 1970. The cut was no ‘Up on the Housetop,’ but it has endured. In fact, 5’s Motown sound has inspired many a group to gospel heights. So this song has many aspiring children.

New Edition capture that Jackson 5 mellow richness in a near perfect echo to the original.

The Temptations go stratospherically falsetto with their version. Piercing.

SWV sing it like children, not beautiful adult women.

More recently, Johnny Gill has gone solo with the song. All the need for love, quintuple the soul.

The same year Ledisi leaned hard into the R+B of the song and gave us another present (just this side of disco).

And then Yolanda Adams did it. She’s done better. Hers is more pop than soul.

Slightly to the East are further interpretations (KathNiel, Sarah Geronimo, Danny Espanto), and oh about another dozen or so folks of all colors–everyone with an impressive vocal range wants to nail this slider.

But, let’s get back to basics. The original Jackson 5 with “Give Love on Christmas Day.” (No directions on how to wrap it.)

A Month of Love: Stevie Wonder, Kimberly Brewer

Duets sound less desperate as love songs, don’t they?

United Nations Messenger of Peace Stevie Wonder is known for ‘Superstition,’ ‘You are the Sunshine of My Life,’ and ‘I Just Called to Say I Love You.’ Blind Mr. Morris nee Judkins has been changing how music has been made for decades.

’90s serial back up singer Kimberly Brewer has been paired most successfully with Wonder.

Their number here (“I Love You More”) is from an old TV Christmas special. It barely mentions the holidays, even says he loves here more than Jesus (i think). But love makes us lose track of the seasons… right?

A Month of Love: Sara Bareilles

Happy Groundhogs Day, Bill Murray!

Sara Bareilles is a powerful voice in soft, meaningful pop music. She hit big with an iTunes free song of the day back in ’07 and has been nominated for Grammies several times. The Obamas have invited her to sing for events. She’s cool.

Check out her delicate, soulful “Love is Christmas.”

A Month of Love: James Brown

February means 1/2-way between the shortest day of the year and the equinox. And it means black history. And it means presidents.

And it means love–for St. Valentine’s sake.

The Godfather of Soul was 73 when he passed… On Christmas Day! (back in ’03). Although a drug user and domestic abuser, he shaped rock and roll in terms of the black man. He was one of the first inductees when the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame opened in ’86.

Best known for his ’60s breakthroughs ‘Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag’ and ‘I Got You (I Feel Good),’ our current love song, “Christmas is Love,” comes from the same time period, his same era of carnal power and strength.