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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

We are diving into the holiday season here at MORNING EDITION by bringing you some holiday music.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SANTA CLAUSE IS COMING TO TOWN")

BARRY MANILOW: (Singing) You better watch out. You better not cry. You better not pout, I'm telling you why.

CHORUS: (Singing) Why?

MANILOW: (Singing) Santa Claus is coming to town...

GREENE: Today, we hear from Barry Manilow's latest Christmas record. And he has had a few. This one is appropriately titled "The Classic Christmas Album."

MANILOW: For a Jewish guy, I have recorded a lot of Christmas album's, isn't it?

GREENE: Well, what got a Jewish guy into recording Christmas albums?

MANILOW: First of all, I love the time of the season. It's the only time of the year that everybody stops hollering at each other and everybody thinks about giving and receiving. And I just love the whole feel of this time of the year.

But musically, the reason I love these Christmas songs is that most of the standard Christmas songs were written by composers and lyricists who knew how to write a song. People like Irving Berlin and George Gershwin and the rest. I was born too late and...

(LAUGHTER)

MANILOW: I was. So whenever I get an opportunity to do a Christmas album, I jump at it.

GREENE: Well, as I understand it, one of your favorites on the new album is "Violets For Your Furs."

MANILOW: Yeah, it was written by Matt Dennis, a wonderful, wonderful songwriter. And it's not really known as a Christmas song. But it's a winter song, so I thought, well, it's a winter song - it's close enough.

It's a lovely song. Sinatra did it on one of his earlier albums, and my stepfather showed it to me. I never quite got over it. And so I put it on one of the Christmas albums.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "VIOLETS FOR YOUR FURS")

MANILOW: (Singing) It was winter in Manhattan, falling snowflakes filled the air. The streets were covered with a film of ice...

GREENE: So Barry Manilow, tell us what we're hearing here in the writing and the lyrics that you really loved, that you feel is missing in a lot of music today.

(LAUGHTER)

MANILOW: A melody, and a lyric.

(LAUGHTER)

MANILOW: I mean, you know, it's a great idea for a song: I bought you violets for your furs.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "VIOLETS FOR YOUR FURS")

MANILOW: (Singing) I bought you violets for your furs and it was spring for a while, remember...

And the melody is just delicious. The chord changes are, you know, some something from heaven, and the melody is so memorable. We don't hear this anymore. We just don't hear it anymore.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "VIOLETS FOR YOUR FURS")

MANILOW: (Singing) That we fell in love completely the day that I bought you violets for your furs...

On that song, you know, since Sinatra did it - I am a friend of Barbara Sinatra, his wife, and when I finished doing the record, I brought it over to her house and I said, hey, listen to this, Barbara. And she put it in her CD and she stood there crying because she told me the story that they were in New York at Rockefeller Center and he bought her violets and sang the song to her standing in front of the Christmas tree.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "I'VE GOT MY LOVE TO KEEP ME WARM")

MANILOW: (Singing) The snow is snowing. The wind is...

GREENE: That was Barry Manilow. His latest Christmas record is called "The Classic Christmas Album." And you can hear songs from the album at NPR.org.

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm David Greene.

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