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It's Not Christmas Without Music

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SANTA GUITAR
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Warm chestnuts, eggnog, firelight, family, and great music blanketing the air like gentle snow -- it's beginning to look a lot like Christmas.

As a musician, my fondest memories are intertwined with my favorite Christmas songs. With beloved classics such as "Santa Claus is Coming to Town" transporting me back to my childhood Christmas mornings, and the smooth notes of Nat King Cole's "Christmas Song" providing a poignant soundtrack for my holiday reflections, it is never more evident than at Christmas time that music is the fuel that propels love and life.

Each year I put together a playlist of all the Christmas songs that echo through the halls of my memories, eliciting joy and nostalgia. Songs that force me to stop, stare my blessings in the face and appreciate each and every miracle that has manifested in my life and into the lives of my loved ones. As my gift to you for the holidays, I've compiled a list of my all-time 10 favorite Christmas songs in hopes that they bring you as much joy as they bring me during this time of year.

1. Donny Hathaway: "This Christmas"

Donny Hathaway's "This Christmas" perfectly exemplifies the excitement of the Christmas season. The joyousness and powerful contentment that lives in this song defines the Christmas season. This song was included in our holiday trips every year and will always be a classic ode to my favorite holiday.

2. Luther Vandross: "Every Year, Every Christmas"

Luther's soul soaked vocals are even more magnetic on this song because he wrote it himself. His "This Is Christmas" album holds such a special place in my heart that I've purchased it at least four times over the years. The first notes transport me to simpler times when all I needed for excitement was this album and the warmth of my family surrounding me in the car on our way home to Atlanta from Orlando for the holidays.

3. Boyz II Men featuring Brian McKnight: "Let It Snow"

These Philly song maestros have that pitch perfect harmonious blend that remains extremely rare in the music industry. They applied it expertly to this song with the help of Orlando-native Brian McKnight, and the crystal-clear notes never fail to make me miss the occasional snow falls in Atlanta.

4. Mariah Carey "All I Want For Christmas"

The Mariah Carey Christmas album "Merry Christmas" is one of the best Christmas albums ever created and will go down in history as one of Mariah's signature achievements. I remember my mom playing this song every Christmas Eve as she passed out the one gift she would allow us to open before sunrise. This Texas tradition was passed down from my grandfather and I know I will pass it down to my children.

5. Bruce Springsteen: "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town"

This is my dad's personal favorite Christmas song and it always reminds me of him. After all, who doesn't love 'The Boss'? We try to include some of my father's Swedish traditions in our holiday celebrations every year but the rock-n-roll, soul-tinged voice of Bruce will always remind me of my father most of all.

6. Whitney Houston: "Do You Hear What I Hear?"

Whitney Houston is one of my favorite singers of all time. She has this instinctive ability to transform a simple song into a spiritual experience -- and that exemplifies a mastery that most artists could only hope to recreate. My family would always listen to this classic on our way home from our church's annual Christmas Eve service.

7. Nat King Cole: "The Christmas Song"

This song could be placed in a time capsule and labeled Christmas Music and future generations would know exactly what this phrase meant. The "Christmas Song" was written by Mel Torme' in 1944, in the heat of a July summer in Hollywood, California -- I always felt a kinship with his inspiration living in a similar climate in Orlando, Florida. Nat King Cole first recorded it in 1946 and it soon became a classic. It is the perfect Christmas song and probably the first one I ever learned. The essence of Christmas is released from each note that escapes from this crooner's lips.

8. Stevie Wonder: "Someday At Christmas"

This song has always made me pause and reflect on the socio-political circumstances that affect other people. It makes me that much more grateful for my family and blessings, while reminding me of the adversity that others face -- even during the holidays. This is one of the most honest holiday classics and always receives constant play in our household during the holidays.

9. Wham: "Last Christmas"

Definitely one of the best Blue-eyed soul Christmas songs written and performed by the incomparable George Michael. Christmas isn't always reindeer and mistletoe and this song illustrates this without apology. Intense and sobering, I experience empathy for those who contemplate past relationships even more during this season than at any other time of the year.

10. Run DMC: "Christmas In Hollis"

With a great sample from Clarence Carter's song "Back Door Santa," as well as samples from "Frosty The Snowman," "Jingle Bells," and "Joy To The World," "Christmas In Hollis" is a great up-tempo mix that never fails to lift my spirits and make me dance down the aisles while Christmas shopping with my family. It is not only one of my favorite Christmas songs, but one of my favorite Hip-Hop songs, period. Most people have that one song that ushers in the Christmas spirit and lingers long after the tree, milk and cookies have been put away -- this is mine.

So, as you dust off those crates of Christmas ornaments with anticipation, help your little ones write those lists and sing a timeless song of togetherness and family, consider including my ten all-time favorite Christmas songs in the rotation to sprinkle a little fun, rhythm and soul into your treasured holiday moments.

Merry Christmas to all!