Jill Sobule's Got Your Holiday Cheer

The singer/songwriter strums up some Yuletide feeling.

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(Soundbite of music)

ALISON STEWART, host:

I know this one.

RACHEL MARTIN, host:

You seem to know, we (unintelligible) to that.

STEWART: Mm-hmm. Welcome back to THE BRYANT PARK PROJECT from NPR News on this Christmas 2007. We are on digital, FM, satellite and online at npr.org/bryantpark.

Merry Christmas, everybody. I'm Alison Stewart.

MARTIN: Hey, happy holidays. I'm Rachel Martin.

Coming up, what's so special about all those Christmas specials on TV? We're going to tell you.

But first, our best of series looking at the best of the best of lists of 2007.

(Soundbite of song, "Simply the Best")

Ms. TINA TURNER (Singer): (Singing) You're simply the best.

STEWART: We continue today with the best of the saddest Christmas songs as ranked by Entertainment Weekly magazine. These are not the songs that make you feel jolly and they don't make you feel like decking the halls or riding in a one-horse sleigh. So for all you scrooges out there, this list could be for you. And for BPP fans, it's also for you because there is a person who is very special to our show, who made it to the list at number 10.

Let's start it off, though, at number one. It's Judy Garland, "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas."

(Soundbite of song "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas")

Ms. JUDY GARLAND (Actress; Singer): Have yourself a merry little Christmas. Let your heart be light. Next year all our troubles will be out of sight.

STEWART: EW points out that if you really listen to the words and you know the context, is a (unintelligible) bummer. It's from a sad scene from the movie, "Meet Me in St. Louis" where Garland tells her little sister in the film, it's okay. Really, it's okay that we're moving away from all our friends.

(Soundbite of song "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas")

Ms. GARLAND: (Singing) Next year all our troubles will be miles away.

STEWART: At number four, Joni Mitchell "River," where she cries herself a river and wants to escape all things Christmas.

(Soundbite of song "River")

Ms. JONI MITCHELL (Singer): (Singing) It's coming on Christmas. They're cutting down trees. They're putting up reindeer and singing songs of joy and peace. Oh, I wish I had a river I could skate away on.

STEWART: At number eight, the B-sides of the Prince classic, "I Would Die 4 U" is a really depressing song about a guy who is missing his girlfriend because she died on Christmas.

(Soundbite of song "Another Lonely Christmas")

PRINCE (Musician): (Singing) Last night I spent another lonely Christmas. Darling, darling, you should've been there 'cause all the ones I dream about. You are the one that makes my love shout. You see, you are the only one I care for.

STEWART: And at number 10, a familiar voice to BRYANT PARK PROJECT listeners. She does our musical editorials for us - singer, songwriter, blogger Jill Sobule is here. And Jill, congratulations, I think.

JILL SOBULE: I finally made a list.

(Soundbite of laughter)

STEWART: Were you oddly excited to be on the EW list of saddest Christmas songs? I was so excited to be on any list and I was really excited to beat out number 11, William S. Burroughs' "A Junky's Christmas."

(Soundbite of laughter)

SOBULE: So - and I was excited because I didn't think anyone knew this song.

STEWART: When did you write the song?

SOBULE: I've wrote this about four or five years ago with a friend, James Mastro. And I put it on a CD of mine that went out to just some fans. So there was probably about 20 people that heard the song. So it must have been the person from Entertainment Weekly was one of those 20.

STEWART: Now, the name of the song is "Saddest Day of the Year." But we should point out - I get your newsletter and have been on your blog, you actually like Christmas.

SOBULE: Yeah. I like Christmas a lot. But I think this was also thinking about leaving New York and not having all those wonderful iconic New York moments of Christmas. But I don't know. I probably wrote this just on a bad day.

(Soundbite of laughter)

STEWART: All right, Jill. So we want to hear your song, which made the EW list, "The Saddest Day of the Year" by Jill Sobule.

SOBULE: Okay. Here it goes.

(Soundbite of song "The Saddest Day of the Year")

SOBULE: (Singing) Everything's so tinsel-bright and new. Giant snowflakes fill Fifth Avenue. Window shoppers whistling merry tunes. Wait in line to get a better view of something that makes them feel alive like when they were a child waiting for the gifts to open. A round of "Jingle Bells." Wish your loved ones well. Wish that you could be there with them. Christmas is the saddest day of the year. Christmas is the saddest day of the year.

Carriage bypass skaters in the park. Buildings reaching up to neon stars. Lovers bundled up against the cold. Visions of sweet sugarplums and home or something that makes you feel apart. That warms a jaded heart. Waiting to restore your faith in a verse of "Silent Night." Tuck the child in tight. Wish that you could be there again. Christmas is the saddest day of the year.

STEWART: It's a blue Christmas although that's got a really sweet sound to it. Was it hard to write a song that was sort of sad but still have that little bit of a holiday (unintelligible)?

Ms. SOBULE: Well, I think that sometimes I - it wouldn't have been right if it would have sounded like, you know, a dirge or a Nine-Inch Nails kind of song. So I think it's still - I mean, it's almost kind of a little more sad when it has that kind of (unintelligible). My friend Eben(ph) on the (unintelligible). Yay(ph)

STEWART: Yay, Eben.

Ms. SOBULE: And that's how I like to do that kind of mixed music and lyrics together.

STEWART: Are you a fan of Christmas music at all?

Ms. SOBULE: You know what? I kind of am. I have to admit. There's nothing like Johnny Mathis and Karen Carpenter singing Christmas songs. And I kind of am serious about that.

STEWART: That's okay. I believed you when you say you're serious about that. Can you play us out with something that might have a little more holiday spirit in it, since you just admitted to actually like some Christmas music?

Ms. SOBULE: Okay. Here it goes.

(Soundbite of song "Christmas Time is Here")

Ms. SOBULE: (Singing) Christmas time is here, happiness and cheer. Fun for all, the children call their favorite time of year. Snowflakes in the air. Carols everywhere. Olden times and ancient rhymes and love and dreams to share. Sleigh bells in the air. Beauty everywhere. Yuletide by the fireside and joyful memories there. Christmas time is here. We'll be drawing near. All that we could always see such spirit through the year.

STEWART: Hearts melting all over the Internet, the satellite universe and on some terrestrial radio stations.

Jill Sobule, happy holidays. And we'll see you in 2008.

Ms. SOBULE: Yay, thank you guys. Merry Christmas. Happy holidays.

STEWART: You too.

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